We take single-sex public toilets for granted today. It is hard to believe that when public conveniences were first constructed, the vast majority of these toilets were just for men.
In Victorian Britain, most public toilets were designed for men. Of course, this affected women’s ability to leave the home, as women who wished to travel had to plan their route to include areas where they could relieve themselves. Thus, women never travelled much further than where family and friends resided. This is often called the ‘urinary leash’, as women could only go so far as their bladders would allow them.
This lack of access to toilets impeded women’s access to public spaces as there were no women’s toilets in the work place or anywhere else in public. This led to the formation of the Ladies Sanitary Association, organised shortly after the creation of the first public flushing toilet. The Association campaigned from the 1850s onwards, through lectures and the distribution of pamphlets on the subject. They succeeded somewhat, as a few women’s toilets opened in Britain.