Public washrooms: Women lose their space to men

Near the end of the 1800s, many Victorian women had to regularly go into public spaces, be seen in them, and have public toilets built for them. Factories and workshops, because of the Industrial Revolution, were the reason why women had to be in public.

Women’s organizations like the Ladies Sanitary Association wrote letters and did public lectures as their effort to have the goal of public “water closets” finally built for Women. Men, for decades, already had public toilets built for only them.

The Ladies Sanitary Association started pamphleting in 1878 for women to have public toilets for them built in London. The LSA wrote a proposal to every vestry (or council) in London for women to finally have their own public toilets.

Rose Adams, the secretary for the LSA, wrote the following letter to the Bethnal Green Vestry on December 3rd, 1878:

Ladies’ Sanitary Association,
22, Berners Street, Oxford Street, W.,
London, December 3rd, 1878.

Dear Sir, — In reply to yours of the 28th November, I write to mention that the Committee have appealed to all the Metropolitan Vestries and District Boards, and that there is reason to be satisfied that the matter referred to will be seriously considered by many Vestries and Boards, particularly by St. George’s, Hanover square, St. George’s, Southwark, St. Saviour’s, Southwark, St. Martin’s- in – the – Fields, Paddington, St. Pancras, Kensington, Camberwell, St. James’s, Westminster, St. Luke’s, etc.

I do not know of any public free provision having yet been made for women, and have reason to believe none such exists in London. The difficulty of obtaining sites is one that troubles some Vestries, and has led the Committee to suggest the utilization of existing buildings over which the Vestry may have some control, viz., at park lodges, cemeteries, recreation grounds, model lodgings, hospitals, laundries, baths, dispensaries, workhouses, School Board schools, tram and omnibus stations, churches and chapels, or the opening of small shops where articles are or could be sold in which women are interested.

 

The best plan, of course, would be special erections placed in a well frequented part of the parish, not in a mews or middle of the roadway, or close to a public house. If an attendant—and the Committee think one is needful at each station—were supplied and a lavatory added, it would be quite possible to make a charge for accommodation; but a free W. C. should always exist at a paying station. The Committee simply suggest a charge where a lavatory is supplied, because it is known that supervision, etc., would be appreciated by many. The increasing number of women (working) of all classes who travel about London daily, renders such provision of serious moment.

 

The Committee earnestly hope that the Vestry of Bethnal Green may find it possible to help a class who naturally find it difficult to ask for public consideration in this matter, while experiencing grievous suffering.

 

Whichever Vestry shall first give proof of humane consideration will have earned the gratitude of all women, and set an example that cannot fail to be beneficial to health and social morality. I shall be glad to reply to any inquiry you may desire to make,

 

And remain, dear sir, sincerely yours,

ROSE ADAMS, Secretary. (St. Matthew Parish Council, 1879, pp. 49-51).

But it was in 1889 that a public washroom was finally constructed for not only Men. Women finally had a washroom built for them:

London’s local authorities finally began to take notice of women’s needs. The vestries of the West End, in particular, realised women shoppers were increasingly important to local businesses – and whilst new department stores provided some toilet facilities, the charge of ‘selfish inequality’ in existing provision was hard to deny. The West End vestries also had no wish to be bettered by the City of London. Thus, they decided to copy the much praised model of the Royal Exchange – the underground convenience – while also providing for both sexes. St James’s Westminster took the lead, opening an underground convenience at Piccadilly Circus in 1889.” (Jackson, 2014, p. 177).

Right now, I’m wondering if urinals would be put into Women’s washrooms because there are many men who gender as women who also keep their penises. Wouldn’t the “women with penises” want to be accommodated with urinals? This would be trans-progressive.

However, urinals have already been installed in the Women’s only restroom. The Barbican Centre in London had revised its Women’s restrooms to be “Gender neutral with urinals and cubicles” and “Gender neutral cubicles only”. This change benefitted men because they could use both the “gender neutral” washroom and the Men’s public washroom. BBC journalist Samira Ahmed commented on this loss for natal women by tweeting (Ahmed, 2017):

Dear @BarbicanCentre women’s loos labelled “gender neutral” [are] so full of men who ALSO have a ‘urinal’ to themselves. Totally ridiculous.”

Why do women lose our space to men?

Or just turn the gents into gender neutral loos. There’s NEVER such a queue there & you know it. Thank you.”

So Transgender Politics brings an end to specifically the Women’s public washroom because of gender dysphoric men colonizing these public toilets. The urinal is now in the Women’s washroom, which is a loss for natal women and a gain for men with or without gender dysphoria. Men can now use urinals in either the “Gender neutral” washroom or the Men’s washroom. The hard work of Victorian women has been erased and revised to be “gender neutral“. Women are back to facing public toilets primarily existing for Men because of urinals being present in what was the Women’s public washroom.

References:

St. Matthew (Bethnal Green, London, England) Parish Council. (1879). Report on the sanitary condition and vital statistics of the parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green during the year 1878. In Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Bethnal Green (pp. 49-51). Forsaith Brothers Printers, London, England. Retrieved from https://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b19952715

Jackson, L. (2014). Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=FWY3BQAAQBAJ&pg=PA177

Samira, A. (2017, April 4). Dear @BarbicanCentre women’s loos labelled “gender neutral” [are] so full of men who ALSO have a ‘urinal’ to themselves. Totally ridiculous [Twitter]. Retrieved from https://mobile.twitter.com/SamiraAhmedUK/status/849338626202886144

Public washrooms for Women

The public toilets in Victorian London were built for only Men.

The British Victorians believed that women shouldn’t “stop off” to pee and poop in a public space. Privacy and safety, which was modesty, for Victorian women meant they couldn’t be seen by loitering men IF they attempted to find a place in the public forum to pee and poop. Just being viewed by men was invasive of their privacy. However, I understand this anxiety because I also wouldn’t want to be starred at by one guy or by a group of them.

The Victorians didn’t do any practical education for loitering men to not stare at women when they were in public spaces. Instead both men and women believed that women should stay in their houses to maintain their privacy, and they were strongly expected to spend scant time in public. Public spaces were meant for only Men.

Also, before the Victorian construction of Men’s public toilets, men could only pee in an alley and against a building’s wall. It was common for men of any profession in London to use a building’s back alley as their toilet. Lawyers had to pee on the street.

So this is very interesting from the Museum of London: A toilet roll.

The toilet roll has been created by the First 100 Years project, a campaign to celebrate the history of women in the legal profession since 1919, when the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act made it illegal to ban people from jobs based on their sex. However, many businesses used excuses to avoid hiring women, notably that they couldn’t adapt their workplaces to accommodate them.” (Collinson, 2017).

Near the end of the 19th century, Victorian women started to view themselves as “The New Woman“. This idea was that women should regularly go into public spaces, be seen in them, and also have public toilets. Industry, because of the Industrial Revolution, was mostly the reason why women had to be in public.

Specifically the Ladies Sanitary Association, which was founded in 1857, had started pamphleting in 1878 for both middle and working class women to have public toilets in London. The LSA had support from the Women’s Gazette and wrote a proposal to every vestry and district in London for women to finally have their own public toilets.

Rose Adams, the secretary for the LSA, wrote to the Bethnal Green Vestry on December 3rd, 1878, that:

The increasing number of women (working) of all classes who travel about London daily renders such provision of serious moment.” (Jackson, 2014, p. 173).

But it was in 1889 that a public washroom was constructed for only Women:

“[A] magnificently appointed municipal woman’s underground convenience was opened in Piccadilly Circus. The location was significant — this was the heart of the West End, the burgeoning shopping district, whose department stores were attracting increasing numbers of prosperous middle-class women into the heart of the metropolis. Their business was valuable; money talked.” (Jackson, 2017).

Right now, I’m wondering if urinals would be put into Women’s washrooms because there are many men who gender as women who also keep their penises. Wouldn’t the “women with penises” want to be accommodated with urinals? This would be trans-progressive.

I’m envisioning an end to specifically the Women’s public washroom because of body dysphoric men politically transforming these public toilets. The hard work of natal women to have public toilets for themselves are being revised to be “gender neutral” while the Men’s public toilets still remain for only Men. Women are back to facing public toilets primarily existing for Men. Women may soon no longer have the option of a public toilet built for them. Women will only have the “gender neutral” public toilets as washrooms for both them and the men who are gender dysphoric.

References:

Collinson, A. (2017, September 6). Women’s right to sit comfortably. Retrieved from https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/womens-right-work-toilet-bathroom-victorian-london-wwi-factory-protest

Jackson, L. (2014). Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=FWY3BQAAQBAJ&pg=PA173

Jackson, L. (2017, December 6). Selfish Inequality: The Long Wait For The Ladies’ Room. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lee-jackson/selfish-inequality-the-lo_b_6202108.html