'The ladies ought to have
at least three nights in the week':
women and Victorian Turkish baths

    

                           

This is a single frame, printer-friendly page taken from

one of the linked parts of an article published on Malcolm Shifrin's website

Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

        

Original illustrated page with notes and links

                           

 

          
5: Entrance charges and attendants' wages

Only rarely have I found that women and men were charged differently, even though few women had any disposable income of their own. Before 1881, the lowest charges most frequently found were 6d and 1/-; afterwards, 1/- was the most common. This was usually for the second or third class Turkish baths, but the class difference frequently meant different times of the day rather than inferior facilities or, sometimes, that the bather had to bring her own towels.

Wealthier women were able to take Turkish baths in hotels or fashionable hydros. We know that many women visited such establishments on their own because Dr Barter’s hydro had been served by its own St Anne’s railway station on the Cork and Muskerry Light Railway since 1888 and, five years later, it was found necessary to add a Ladies’ Waiting Room to meet their needs.

But personal cleanliness was almost impossible for those who were too poor to afford even 6d for a Turkish bath. During most of the nineteenth century, few people had their own toilets (indoors or out) and few had easily accessible running cold water, let alone hot. Additionally, there was still a tax on soap of 3d per lb which was not repealed until 1853. But the recent cholera epidemics, and the reports of Chadwick and others, were beginning to focus attention on the problems of sanitation and personal cleanliness. 

It was in this context that the Ladies’ National Association for the Diffusion of Sanitary Knowledge (later the Ladies’ Sanitary Association) was founded in the Autumn of 1857 for ‘the diffusion of sanitary knowledge and the promotion of physical education among the female sex.’

It published, and widely distributed, a series of penny tracts on, for example, The worth of fresh air, The power of soap and water, and Hints to working people about personal cleanliness.

But in the mid 1860s, realising that leaflets and free bars of soap were not enough, the Cardiff Branch negotiated a deal with the local bath company whereby Turkish bath tickets issued by the association to deserving cases for a token sum, would be accepted at the Guildhall Street Baths. But it is not known how long this scheme lasted, or whether other branches copied it.

Average  entrance charges of 6d and 1/- take on a different perspective when compared with the wages of those who worked in the baths. For example, in 1891, Gloucester Corporation charged 2/- for a first-class Turkish bath, and this included a private dressing box, plunge bath, shampooing, and use of the lounge.

In the same year, at the same baths, a young woman was appointed at 12/- per week to issue tickets, and a Mrs Turner was engaged as a female shampooer,

she to attend when required and to be paid 4/- for each day she attends.

She was still there in 1921 and the Corporation presented her with a ‘purse and contents as a token of appreciation’, though we are not told the value of the contents.

In 1896, as part of Charles Booth’s Inquiry into the Life and labour of the people in London, George Duckworth interviewed James Forder Nevill about his shampooers. At that time there were around 40 Turkish baths in London and Nevill suggested that between them they employed around 100 male, and 20 female, shampooers.

The standard wage of a shampooer was 20/- (one pound) per week; Nevill’s paid 22/- simply to be able to say that ‘Nevills pays more than anyone else’.

But the 'standard' rate of pay did not apply to all his employees; women shampooers were paid only 14/- per week.

6: Attitudes to privacy, nudity, and exercise


                                  

 
 


The original page includes thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.

Smedleys Hydropathic: main building, 1920s

Smedley's Hydropathic Establishment: Ladies cooling-room in 1920s

Massage in York Hall in the 1920s

Top of the page
   
                  

 

All complete pages,
with images, footnotes,
glossary & bibliography,
can be reached from the

Printer-friendly single frame
versions of all text pages
(and from them, all images)
can be reached from the

You can bookmark this page

Home Page

You can print this page

Site map

Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

Comments and queries are most welcome and can be sent to:

malcolm@victorianturkishbath.org

The right of Malcolm Shifrin to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988