The Women’s Room, 1926

Last week a very alert commenter pointed out the “Girl’s Toilet” in this drawing of the first floor of the Chemistry Building, correctly noting that it was palatial:

New WWW Chemistry first floor plan

Here’s a shot of the inside of that room nicely finished with the things girls were supposed to need, including magazines (Oh, how I wish I could see what they are!) and a comfortable place to lie down:

New Chem womens rest room

What really interests me about this is that it seems to argue fairly firmly against a not entirely implausible story I’ve heard from several people: that in order to discourage women from taking chemistry classes the bottom step at the entrance to the building was left out, requiring women to lift their skirts to get in. This room, though, looks like a pretty welcoming place and given the short supply of places where female students could gather I’ll bet it was heavily used.

Bonus: Another image of the same tree I posted yesterday. It lacks the attractive background but gives a better sense of scale.


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14 Responses to The Women’s Room, 1926

  1. grungy1973 says:

    International Studio Magazine, January 1925

  2. marmer01 says:

    I thought that it was reasonably common to have a “Ladies Lounge” attached to the actual restroom area, with couches, nice chairs, etc. Generally found in public buildings that had some pretense to being nice, such as department stores, theaters, and presumably chemistry buildings. I’ll just bet you can explain the reason for that.

    • My summer job while at Rice was working as an installer/repairman for SW Bell Telephone. I installed a couple of courtesy phones in the palatial “Ladies Lounge” at Sakowitz on Westheimer. It was a quite large space with couches, and dressing tables with mirrors, and such, and had a nice sign on the door. The men’s room was decorated in mid 20th century fashion typical of any bus or gas station.

  3. Mark Williamson says:

    Now that we can see the trunk and branch structure, I withdraw my suggestion that it might be an oleander. It matches online photos of Desert Willow trees much better.

  4. Keith Cooper says:

    I think that I first heard the story about the bottom step of Chemistry from Bud Morehead, in a lecture that he gave in the Sid Rich commons, sometime around 1977.

    It does contrast, strongly, with the reality of the women’s room.

  5. mjthannisch says:

    As I recall the ladies rooms at Foley’s, Sakowitz and Joske’s downtown were all gussied up..

    I heard the story of the bottom step in my Freshman year (74-75) from Jon Cook or Ray Pentecost.

  6. Karen Shelton says:

    The story I heard was that Abercrombie did not originally have facilities for women, and after the ribbon cutting Miss Josephine had occasion to learn this the hard way. True or not – I couldn’t say, but it would not surprise me. There are some facilities for the ladies now, but they are woefully inadequate. I’d be curious to see the original blueprints if you have them.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett BSEE Hanszen 1982 says:

      In my time at Rice (1976-1982) the women’s restroom on the first floor of Abercrombie had clearly been carved out of the much larger men’s room next door. It was in no way handicap accessible, because it was much too tiny.

  7. marmer01 says:

    This certainly begs the question: are/were there similar “Ladies Lounges” in the Administration Building or Physics? My guess is no, although the admin building would reasonably have some degree of public access, right?

  8. Pingback: Abercrombie Week 2019: No Women’s Room? | Rice History Corner

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