January 19, 2019

Why Are Women's Restrooms So Much Nicer than Men's?

“At the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, thousands of people lined up to see one of the event’s most talked-about attractions. For a penny, visitors could not only see this modern marvel up close, but they also had the opportunity to test it out, pulling chains that demonstrated how the new technology worked. It was a mahogany-seated flushing toilet in a women’s restroom.

The Great Exhibition was one of the first major recorded events that featured public restrooms. Millions of people visited the Crystal Palace during the months it was open, and the organizers knew that people would be coming for the entire day and would need a place to relieve themselves. And for women, this included a parlor attached to a room of toilet stalls.

“The Victorians … valued privacy and modesty, and we see that translated into the public restrooms, especially these lounge spaces attached to women’s rooms,” said design historian Alessandra Wood. “If you think about Victorian garments, they were very big—hard to get in and out of—and you’d actually need a space to get undressed to go to the bathroom, and then get dressed again.””

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