London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Bethnal Green 1878

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Bethnal Green]

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Whichever Vestry shall first give proof of humane consideration will
have earned the gratitude of all women, and set an example that
cannot fail to be beneficial to health and social morality.
I shall be glad to reply to any inquiry you may desire to make,
And remain, dear sir, sincerely yours,
ROSE ADAMS, Secretary.
As to the necessity for such accommodation there
can be no doubt, as at present confectioners' shops and
the waiting rooms of railway stations are the only
available places at which women from home, on
business or pleasure, can answer the calls of nature;
while, on the other hand, urinals for men are pretty
freely distributed all over London. This selfish
inequality calls for immediate readjustment, for the
misery and illness entailed upon women by it is
From a special report upon the subject by Dr.
Stevenson, the Medical Officer of Health for Paddington,
I make the following extract:—
Upon the medical aspect of the question it is not necessary to enlarge.
Of this aggregate of moving feminine humanity referred to, of all ages,
and belonging to every grade of society, it is sufficient to say that every
unit of it has, in common with men, the same physical necessities. For
the maintenance of life it is not more necessary to take food and drink
than subsequently to get rid of what the system cannot appropriate.
The one organic necessity involves the other: they are correlated. It is
a mistake to suppose that there are such differences in the female
organization, that these primal requirements of physical being can be
disregarded by women with less suffering than by men. There are periods
and conditions peculiar to the sex when latrine accommodation would be
specially convenient; and as at such times the requirements of nature
are apt to be more urgent and more frequent, women would be spared
much unnecessary mental and physical distress, were the accommodation
It is true that by the exercise of the will we can control for a time the