Friday, 29 April 2016

Feminism & Pay Toilets

In the early years of the 20th century, US-American train stations restricted access to their toilets with a key and later with coin-operated locks. As technology started spreading, corporations discovered the chance to make "big money from the littlest room". By 1970, the US had over 50.000 pay toilets at airports, bus depots and other public places. "Toilet moguls" developed to be facing grassroots campaigns to free the WC in the 1970s. Pay toilets were seen as infringements on basic human rights. And, there was a feminist aspect. In fact, when in 1973 Chicago mayor Richard Daley said he would remove pay toilets from the city's airports, he added he "did it for women's lib". Anti-pay legislation appeared in Chicago and many other states (via).

Assemblywoman March Fong breaks a porcelain potty with a sledgehammer on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, California, April 26, 1969. Photograph: Walter Zeboski/AP (description via)

"But there was a feminist case against the practice, too, and that’s the argument March Fong Eu was making. Urinals were oftentimes free, meaning the financial burden fell disproportionately on women. And as the momentum for women’s lib built, pressure grew against the practice of charging for access. NOW sometimes joined the fight. For instance, a February 1975 issue of The Cumberland News reports on hearings before the Maryland state Senate that, “‘The practice of installing and utilizing pay toilets is sexually discriminatory in that women are usually discomforted by them and men are not’."
Naomi Mestanas, National Organization for Women

"The argument against pay toilets is linked to the drive for equal rights for women. Opponents of pay toilets argue that women are unfairly handicapped by the locks on booths in public restrooms.
The publication State Government News, issued by the Council of State Governments in Lexington, Ky., reported that legislatures in 20 states were considering measures to abolish, or at least restrict, the pay toilet."
Associated Press

photographs via and via


  1. Nice find!! Cheers!

    1. I thought so too; hadn't come across this one before. Thanks, Karen!

  2. Hahaha, great! Thanks for the share!

  3. Replies
    1. Good morning & many thanks for leaving a comment, Erin!