High Points in Bathroom History

While we may use them every day and not think very much of them - unless they are not clean - bathrooms have quite a history.  Furthermore, bathrooms tend to reflect the evolution of mankind, socially and politically.


To better understand, here are some highlights in bathroom history:

Second Century B.C.:  Rome's public latrines were totally unsegregated. Men, women, and children all sat side by side and used them at the same time.

1739.  A Paris restaurant was the first public facility to install separate restrooms for men and women.

1866. The first urinals, looking in many ways as they do today, was patented on March 27, 1866 by Andrew Rankin.

1887.  Massachusetts was the first state in the U.S. to mandate separate restrooms for women.  By 1920, 43 states had this requirement.

1890s.  Jim Crow laws came into existence, mandating "white only" and "colored only" public restrooms.

1941.  President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order eliminating restrooms based on race.

1957.  CBS pulled an episode of Leave It to Beaver because it included Wally and Beaver talking in the bathroom.  The problem was not the bathroom.  The problem was that you could see the toilet. Apparently, showing a bathroom toilet on television in 1957 was forbidden.

1969.  A California Assemblywoman smashed a toilet on the steps of the state capitol to protest pay toilets in public restrooms.

1973.  One of the ways used to counter the woman's movement of the 1970s was to spread rumors that the real goal of the movement was to eliminate separate restrooms for men and women.  "Do you want the sexes fully integrated like the races?" said one flyer.

1973.  A first on TV.  The first time the sound of a toilet being flushed was ever heard on TV was on an episode of All in the Family.  The toilet was not shown, just the sound was heard.

1981.  The University of Massachusetts was going to require the installation of coed bathrooms.  Because of an uproar against the plan by both male and female students as well their parents, however, the idea was tabled.

1990.  Pottygate went on trial.  In 1990, a 30-year-old woman was tired of waiting to use the ladies restroom at a Texas concert.  She used the men's room instead and was arrested for doing so.  She never went to jail but she was fined.  Apparently, hundreds of women offered to pay the fine in protest.


1991.  Waterless Co, Inc., began manufacturing waterless urinals for home and commercial use in the U.S.

1993.  Believe it or not, this was the year female U.S. Senators finally got their own bathroom in the Capital building.  It was not until 2011 that female Congresswomen got their own public restroom.

1998.  A scene in the comedy show, Ally McBeal, tactfully showed a co-ed bathroom in use.  USA Today wrote it was "the most talked-about bathroom on TV."  However, the sponsor of the show did not like it and stopped their sponsorship.

2007.  An Idaho senator who was vehemently anti-gay was arrested in an airport bathroom.  He was soliciting a man for sex. 

2013.  The "Occupy Men's Toilets" campaign starts in China.  The campaign protested the fact that women, unlike men, must wait in long lines to use public restrooms.

2018.  A law was passed in North Carolina requiring people to use the restroom based on the sex of their birth certificate.  The Obama administration advised against it.  U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, "State-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight."

Wow.  What a history.