Sunday 25 August 2013

A Woman's Complaint

An 1890s woman speaks out against poor provision of public toilets on the railway, and elsewhere:


Sir,—The writer of " A Woman's Complaint" deserves the thanks of hundreds of thousands of men and women for drawing attention to out of the greatest evils which disgrace our pseudo-civilization. Savage races which have no false delicacy would never allow such absurdities. It is not too much to say that in England men and women are daily tortured because the subject is tabooed, though vice may be openly discussed, and not only directors but shareholders and many others are to blame because when there is cause for complaint no one will speak out and focus public attention. Whether travelling on distant journeys or merely round London evidence is constantly forthcoming of the absence of the proper accessories of civilization. Several times have I seen women try in vain to open the door of a ladies' room when returning at night from theatres, &c., by train; and even at an exhibition under Royal patronage I have seen the same thing occur, though a cloak-room should obviously be open just before closing time as much as the drinking bars which were then open. Some day a husband or a brother will burst a door open, regardless of concentrating the attention of idlers, and a jury will justify him, it all English spirit has not been drilled out of us by then. I have heard that a passenger can require a train to be detained in case of necessity. Perhaps some lawyer will enlighten us on this point. It might be awkward for the railway companies, but they will have themselves to thank. More is required, however. Proper accommodation and attendance after arrival at a terminus, and also sometimes refreshments at a terminus. We want a few women as well as men invested with autocratic power as Government inspectors, not to attend to the higher politics of railways, but to supervise the minor details which make the real comfort of life to the thousands. The County Council in London has intended to set an example, but is most unfortunate in its methods. The accommodation it provides and labels "Ladies" is practically useless, because it is usually in such a situation, in the middle of a street and often opposite a cab-rank, that respectable women cannot go near the entrance. Who building a house would put the  accommodation for his female servants, to say nothing of visitors, in the middle of a stable yard? The result is that constables are still specially employed to watch the retired streets,and interfere, though with no right to do so, when they are preferred. The subject may not be a select one for public discussion, but there is a crying evil which must be cured sooner or later, and as the subject has been mooted I hope you will allow it to be ventilated - I enclose my card, but beg to subscribe myself
Your obedient servant,

No comments:

Post a Comment