What did EdwardianVictorian women do when they had to use the bathroom

Dec 4, 2000
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For those with a historical bent...in Kohler, Wisconsin there is a toilet museum. It is part of the Kohler Company's display of bathroom fixtures over the years. All of the various items are displayed on a wall at one end of the building...known, of course, as "the great wall of china."

No, I am not kidding.

--David G. Brown
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Oh Dear Friends we are on a "roll" now! Actually the history of plumbing is dear to my heart- and our Phil has a secret penchant too but don't tell him I told you. The chamberpot or potty chair has been around for ages-often looking like a comfty chair. Commodes (from the French for "handy" or "convenient"-hence accomodating, commodius, -see I have been having lessons with Noel J.)were usually backless and were more like square wooden stools with a compartment for the pot. Sometimes they were called "close stools" for obvious reasons! The Edwardian Era saw nearly hourly improvements in watercloset evolution- 1900-1906 alone saw over 350 patents from the flushometer valve to the backflow preventer. Am glad to say Thomas Crapper Limited is back in business today. Crapper was a term the soldiers brought back from Blighty after WWI. Americans were actually on their own in toilet development on this side of The Pond. Here are some mesmerizing links to while away the hours- and also a photo of -ta da! - zee pottie chaise.
216.104.183.29 historytoilet.html
www plumbingworld.com toilethistoryindia.com/
 
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John Meeks

Guest
Oh yes, Shelley!

How wonderful to get back to the more interesting stuff, after battling with Noel!

Actually, my grandparents owned a 'commode' - as a small boy, when sick, I reallydid use it!

My family used to call it "the thunderbox".

This is wonderful 'relief' from 'that other thread'...!

Regards

John M


(...why am I telling you all this...?)
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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In the British army, thunderboxes were lavatories, portable, officers for the use of.

While on the subject, for a small fee, I WON'T post the words of "They're Moving Grandpa's Grave to Build a Sewer". It's a fine old song from Edwardian or Victorian times.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Thinking back a good many years ago to a conversation with Marjorie Newell Robb- we discussed the very issue of what well-bred ladies did about the "call of nature"- and I remember her saying in that deep resonant voice- "We had remarkable control in those days my Dear." One never mentioned bodily functons, medications or illnesses in genteel company. And she also spoke of being able to sit straight in a hard wooden chair, perfectly upright for limitless time-with back not touching the back of the chair, ankles demurely crossed at the ankles-and in a corset. What a lazy, fidgety bunch we have become. And now a word about that great man, Mr. Crapper- to read excerpts from his biography, Flushed With Pride or Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper, here are links to the new T.Crapper Ltd. and the T.C. Quarterly. Have a lovely weekend- I am off to Newport to admire Mrs. Vanderbilt's marble tub- more on Edwardian tubs Monday....
www thomas-crapper.com/Contents.htm
www crappersquarterly.com/tc.htm
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Why was it important for the back not to touch the chair? What purpose did that serve?

"Holding it" for an excessive amount of time is quite bad for the kidneys....perhaps this was a small contributing factor to why people didn't live so long in those days. I can remember the doctor telling my mother that one should try to find a bathroom as soon as possible after feeling the need to go.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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In days before "conveniences" at every corner and quick modes of travel between thither and yon I imagine one did develop certain expanded capacities and endurance- and quite right- such practices are very ill-advised by doctors today. As to rigid posture, corsets hardly allowed slumping, and wanton lounging was thought unladylike. Also it would be constrewed as disinterest in one's companion if one flopped about in casual and indifferent attitude. One more Marjorie story- we were at a long and tedious slide program, sitting in the dark. After about 45 minutes of this, she, who loved lights, people and chatter, leaned over and whispered, "I SIMPLY cannot stand this another minute Dear- take me away!"-so off we toddled to bed. But our exit was executed in such a graceful and unobtrusive way- what a charmer she was!
 
May 3, 2002
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I think someone mentioned Toilet soap!
This reminded me of one of the opening scenes in that excellent classic ANTR where Lightoller is going by train to join the ship and shares his compartment with a man and his wife. The man takes offence when CL pokes fun at the soap ad, thinking he is sharing his compartment with a bolshie radical who is belittling the latest and greatest in British engineering... until CL sets him right, that is.
that's my five bob bit.

cheers

Martin
 

Kris Muhvic

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Sep 26, 2008
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Martin-

I think the ad was for "Vinola-Otto Toilet Soap", which is still sold!

Now for a question that I always hesitated in asking, but I figure this is the best place...

What about the poeople in the lifeboats?

I have never heard of a reference to this quite awkward situation, but what would they have done? I imagine just "hold it", but at such a traumatic time...well, I guess those might have just made a mess, and the others- understanding, or simply not caring- would have politely ignored.

Go before you go!
Kris
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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It's Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap, "the highest standard of Toilet Luxury and comfort at sea." Provided for First Class Passengers of Titanic. I'm very pleased to have one of those metal signs like the ones my aunt had in her general store in Kentucky, in the area from which Lutie Parrish and Imanita Shelley lived at one time.

Kyrila
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Kris, I would guess that for #1, the men could just unbutton their pants and aim it out into the water, while the women discreetly turned their heads. I would think most women probably just "held it". If the need was more urgent, I would imagine that if there was any kind of cup like container on any of the lifeboats, a woman conceivably could have hiked up her skirt to go while other women shielded her and the men discreetly looked elsewhere. I don't think any of them made a mess unless they just couldn't help it. At the worst, I think they might have just let it go to the bottom of the lifeboat, rather than merely soiling themselves.

As for #2, I hope that no one was dealing with diarrhea that night, as it would seem one could not have avoided making a mess in such an instance.
 
May 3, 2002
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Yes, I remember CL asking if the soap company didn't think 3rd or 2nd class washed. I think this could easily aroused offence regarless of whether the speaker was impuning the lower classes or the Establishment on its' class chauvinism. It certainly upset his fellow passenger somewhat.

Kris, the idea of being in a crowded lifeboat and needing to "go" makes for great discomfort or embarassment however one acts.

Martin
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Vinolia toilet soap is still available- at 12$ per bar from Caswell & Massey-they also have a catalogue and do mail order sales. The box is identical to the 1912 design.
 

Dave Hudson

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Re: lifeboat urges

I'm almost certain that at some point during the sinking, SOMEONE peed thier pants. As for the people in the boats, I imagine they would have been too traumatized to to go.

If they did, why not pee your pants? What better way to fight off hypothermia?
;-)
LOL!

David
 

Kris Muhvic

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Sep 26, 2008
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Tracy-

Yes, I thought that men could more easily relieve themselves in a lifeboat, but I couldn't help but remember that there was a controversy regarding men SMOKING in the lifeboats! Now imagine if a fellow just stood up and un-buttoned...well, you get the idea! That is why I wondered about it...the most, at this time, discreet practice being at the most indiscreet time! I think most just didn't think of it and let the whole detail escape their memory! Although, I agree with you about the women and cup, heck- maybe just a simple shift in posture, a hike of the skirt (skirts could hide just about anything!) and...no one the wiser! Perhaps the steamer blankets were used for an accomodation in modesty?

Well, so much for the days of the "yellow" press!
Kris
 
Dec 4, 2000
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There is a curious twist to this thread. Note how the survivors of Titanic have been taken from a world of elegance and service (even for third class), and tossed into the new paradigm of the lifeboat where bodily functions define the human condition.

-- David G. Brown
 
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John Meeks

Guest
Tracy, I think, just about 'hit the nail on the "head" (sorry! just noticed that myself!) here.

My dad once spent a few days in a lifeboat during WWII, and I believe the normal practice was to "just let it all hang out" over the side. Of course, there were no women involved in his situation to inhibit anyone.

But his situation was different in another very important way too. When a large passenger vessel such as Titanic is in difficulties or goes down,very rarely is help that far away. Sadly it may be too far distant to save lives, but normally, I would suggest, 'relief' is usually only a matter of a few hours away at most. Consequently many of the problems mentioned would possibly never arise. (Although, personally, having found out that we were sinking, I would have had to change my pants at least twice, long before I managed to fight my way onto a lifeboat...!)

As for the cup - I have one very serious question. I believe that, long before Titanic, back in the eighteenth century, ladies used to carry a small porcelain vessel to the theatre, opera, etc. for just such a purpose. Very useful for Wagner's "Ring"! Anybody remember what the French name was for the damned thing? It's been bugging me for days!

Haven't a clue what they did with it after use though!

John M
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Watching a big cruise ship the other day, I had a horrible thought. Imagine 150 seasick landlubbers in one of those fully enclosed lifeboats. Talk about 'Heave away, me hearties!'