4: Availability of the
baths to women
were generally smaller, or else they were the same
as the men’s second class baths, as in Cookridge Street, Leeds. These plans of Nevill’s Northumberland Avenue
baths show that the difference could be considerable.
And it seems typically Victorian that the Keighley Board of Health
decided to build separate first and second class baths—for men and
women to use on different days—instead of one bath for men, and a
second for women, both of which could be used every day.
Turkish baths open to the general public, women almost invariably
seem to be at a disadvantage compared with men. Where facilities were shared, only one, Richardshaw Lane
in Leeds, allowed women equal access. Of the fifty establishments for
which occasional figures are available, over half limited women to
the equivalent of one day per week, while the remainder divided
roughly equally between one-and-a-half days, and two.
In 1858, a
letter to the editor of a local paper about the Leeds Road establishment
in Bradford read:
know it is not orthodox for ladies to be newspaper correspondents.
This however is a subject in which our sex has equal interest with
the gentlemen… The ladies ought to have at least three nights in
the week. On the two nights of the week the rooms are inconveniently
crowded, and even sometimes during the afternoons.
were not—and still are not—unusual. Women were told their days were
not sufficiently patronised. One company chairman, apologising for the
provision of just one day per week, said they had found,
they had enquired that the ladies had not taken advantage of those
baths, and, however much they might desire to be gallant to them,
they wanted to see their funds first.
Nevill put it more bluntly, saying that they tried to open a ladies bath
in Paddington but ‘Paddington women won’t take Turkish baths.’
Josephine Butler’s supporter, Dr Baxter Langley, was closer to the
mark when he argued that,