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In Honor of Women



International Women’s Day – which is today – celebrates not only our gender but the long and suppressed road that women have journeyed over many centuries. In this blog I wanted to bring to light an 'under the radar' topic that has greatly impacted women; one which women have had to either fight for or wait for and perhaps one which you would be interested to know.


Can you imagine a world where there are no public women's restrooms? For centuries this was the case. Women did not have the option to stay out of their homes for a long period of time, due to needing to use the toilet and not having access to one in public. This was known as a “urinary leash” according to the BBC News article, "100 Women: How the 'urinary leash' keeps women at home".


There became an unofficial invention, known as the “urinette”, which women would carry with them when out and about. They would use this to relieve themselves and find somewhere to dispose of the contents. The alternative: Not to eat or drink anything hours before leaving the house. An article published in The Week, "A brief history of the ladies' bathroom", describes that it was not until the creation of “monkey closets”, the first flushing toilets, on display as the newest invention at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Millions of people attended the newly built Crystal Palace at Hyde Park, London. It was during this event when onlookers become enamored by the problem-solving contraption. Although, there were several issues to sort out, but by 1895 the toilet itself was officially invented.


Enter women’s movements. An article written by Claudia Elphick called "The History of Women's Public Toilets in Britain" provides an overview of the 19th century in the UK and how women fought, by forming the Women’s Sanitary Association, to have restrooms available to them in the workplace. This fight continued in the UK for years and was officially made a regulation in 1992. Yes, you heard correctly.


The USA was further ahead, with Massachusetts being the first state to pass a law requiring separate gender binary restrooms within businesses in 1887. According to the 2016 Time article, "Why Do We Have Men's and Women's Bathrooms Anyway?", this change created a domino effect throughout the country. However, many lawmakers believed that women were still 'weak' and could not deal with such harsh realities of the world. It’s amazing how the advancement of ladies public restrooms and access to them at the workplace directly correlate with the advancement of women’s rights in society throughout time.


WHAT ELSE?


Around the world there are societies that still hold women to a very low standard. For this reason millions of women currently do not have access to education; are not allowed to drive a car; have no sexual & maternal health rights; can not enjoy any freedom of speech; are not entitled to equal pay; are not recognized to have land ownership; may not be seen in public without a man escorting her; and have no marriage rights. As you can see, there’s much more to be aware of, and if you're in a position to help take action on.


When you are next taking a walk down the street, driving your car, or dining out with women friends, take a moment to be grateful that not only can you use the ladies room but that there were women who fought a real battle – and continue to do so – to make it happen.


Here are some recommended women-focused charities for you to learn about, which support women’s causes in the US and globally:


Global Fund for Women

Futures Without Violence

National Women’s Law Center

Girls Not Brides USA

Begin to Dream Again

Women for Women

Dress for Success Worldwide


Happy International Women's Day!



Above: Governor Emmett D. Boyle of Nevada is signing the resolution of women's voting rights for ratification of the 19th amendment to Constitution of USA, as a group of suffragists watch. Dated February 7th, 1920.


By Janika LeMaitre

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