Abercrombie Week 2019: No Women’s Room?

We return to Abercrombie Week with a classic Rice tangent: a couple of folks in the comments and a few more in my email asked about the story that Abercrombie was built without any women’s bathrooms. I’ve actually heard this one myself more than once. It resembles the story about the steps into the Chemistry Building being intentionally high enough to keep the early women students out, as they could not make it up the step without raising their skirts above their ankles. It turned out, though, that Chemistry had been built with a large, comfortable women’s room, throwing cold water on the anti-woman theory.

There is not now, though, and there never was any similarly palatial women’s room in Abercrombie. But there always was one. Click on this  original Staub and Rather drawing of the original second floor layout. (I’ll come back to this document later, by the way. Trying to figure out the history of a building that’s been repurposed as much as this one would be impossible without the great architectural drawings that have survived.) Immediately to the left of the large drafting room we find a small women’s toilet and a larger men’s room:

A lot has changed in Abercrombie since 1947 but that bathroom is still there. It’s tiny and not very nice but there is no question that it exists:

Bonus: Fashion advice courtesy of the Undergraduate Lab.

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6 Responses to Abercrombie Week 2019: No Women’s Room?

  1. almadenmike says:

    Does the pictured women’s room door have a different orientation/placement from that on the original drawing?

  2. When I was a student around 1980, the first floor women’s bathroom had obviously been carved out of a much larger men’s room. The bathroom was tiny, the sink even tinier. I am sure it was not ADA compliant – I had a hard time turning around in there on my two feet. I never knew there was a women’s bathroom on the second floor.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, that’s exactly right. There were two rooms on the first floor that were originally large men’s locker rooms, meant for faculty rather than students. At some point they were converted into men’s and women’s toilets.

  3. Karen Shelton says:

    Most people are unaware of the second floor women’s restroom. Did you venture in? There is a small red sofa under the window that was put into that room by Jackie Shanks when she was an Assistant Professor here many years ago, because she found the women’s restroom appalling. Nothing is ADA compliant – and one of the many amusing observations in that regard is that there is signage indicating that a handicap facility can be found on the first floor. No handicapped person has seen this sign, to my knowledge, as there isn’t a way for them to reach the second floor in the first place. The men’s room is handicap accessible, as long as you can navigate the stairs to get there.
    BTW, the Undergraduate Lab is relocating to Keck 108 (Chemistry Building) this month. Come check it out on August 21 – open house from 1:30-3:00.

  4. Bill Hudspeth says:

    Hanks older brother was in the Class of 1932. Emmett followed, them Hank and finally his youngest brother, Ruel Hudspeth.

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