A May 2, 2016 story on timeline.com relied heavily on Professor Terry Kogan’s work on the legal history of gender-specific bathrooms. Kogan’s research has been in the spotlight since North Carolina became the first state to pass a law that required people to use segregated bathrooms based on the sex written on their birth certificate.
… Gender scholars call this the “separate-spheres ideology.” In early 19th century America, for example, trains included one car for women — it was always the last car so that if the train crashed, they stood the best chance at survival. When public libraries opened in the mid-1800s, women had separate reading rooms. Hotel lobbies were built to include women’s resting rooms.
But the separate-spheres ideology belied the country’s economic reality. By the 1820s plenty of women were working in factories, and owners scrambled to find a way to provide women with access to toilets, said Terry S. Kogan, a law professor at the University of Utah who’s written about the public bathroom wars. They took special measures to obscure the awkwardness of what women who visited the women’s bathroom were doing in there, even creating special routes from the factory floor to the bathroom so men wouldn’t see women venturing off for a pee.
Technical plumbing manuals written for factories turn out to be precursors for eventual building codes — and later laws — about sex-segregated public bathrooms.