11 Feb: The Urinary Leash

The first women’s public toilets in London opened on Bedford St on 11th February, 1852 – attempting to capitalize on the success of George Jennings’ ‘monkey closets’, used by over 800,000 visitors to the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Unfortunately, even though the facility had been fought for by campaigning women’s sanitary organizations, middle and upper class Victorian ladies were not yet prepared to pee in public – and the toilets closed a year later.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain where the phrase ‘spending a penny’ (probably) comes from; reveal why ‘the urinary leash’ came to describe the predicament of women’s lives; and investigate why the number of 21st century public toilets continues to fall… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Pamphlets of the Ladies Sanitary Association’ (Wellcome Collection): https://wellcomecollection.org/works?query=%22Ladies+Sanitary+Association.%22

• ‘London’s long-term lav affair: A history of public toilets in the capital’ (BBC News, 2022): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-59785477

• ‘Victorian realities – how did they use the toilet??!’ (Prior Attire, 2016):

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