Selfish Inequality: The Long Wait For The Ladies' Room

November 24, 2014 1:33 PM

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Selfish Inequality: The Long Wait For The Ladies' Room

At the start of Victoria's reign, options were limited. Some pubs had primitive outdoor "urinals" -- no more than a vertical slab of stone -- but men largely resorted to the nearest alley. Residents living near to much-frequented spots regularly wrote letters of complaint to local authorities. Signs were erected, bearing the legend "Commit No Nuisance." Property owners installed "barricados" of wrought iron on befouled walls, angled strips of grooved metal, designed to deflect the noxious liquid onto the wrongdoer's shoes. The problem was, however, endemic. The fountains of newly built Trafalgar Square were "polluted by brutes in human shape" within days of their opening.

Women were expected to be more "decent" in their behavior; but the dire conditions of the capital's slums meant that their inhabitants, both male and female, frequently had recourse to neglected back-streets. Along the river at Bermondsey, ramshackle privies were constructed on decking over the Tham...

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