BRYAN COUNTY HISTORY : The ladies restroom

By Bryan County Genealogy Library
A women's restroom

“When a woman rides to town, a trip of anywhere from five to ten miles, she is generally tired and dusty. A place where she could tidy up would be appreciated. After her trading, it is a wearisome job to tramp the streets waiting for her husband to get ready to go home, especially is this so if she has one or more little children to care for.” Bryan County Democrat, September 11, 1913 

The idea of providing a public place for out-of-town ladies to rest had been proposed in 1911, but was finally given serious consideration in the spring of 1913 when the Durant Chamber of Commerce, four women’s clubs, and the Durant Retailers’ Association met to make plans. Pledges of 25 cents to $2.50 were solicited from every business in town to finance the project. “Second Avenue, just south of Stone-Kimbriel Drug” was later chosen as the location. Sam Leach, a city carpenter, remodeled the existing building free of charge.  Mrs. Crenshaw was chosen as matron and Miss Ruth Stinson was collector. The project soon gained all the support it required: 

Saturday Morning Advertiser 

April 25, 1914 

Rest Room Will Open Saturday 

“The rest room committees from the various federated women’s clubs of the city met Wednesday afternoon at the rest room. There were present Mesdames Hamilton and Criswell, of the Perry Music Club, Hunter and Riddle, of the Southern Literary Club, and Hayes, Williams and Hickman, of the Mothers Club.  

York Furniture Co. is furnishing the use of the furniture free.  Chamber of Commerce and Retailer’s Association will provide stationery; D. Crosby, the Baldwin Piano agent, has furnished a piano for the use of the rest room free of charge. The city will furnish free water and sewerage. Mrs. W. J.  

Weathered furnished flowers and plants. A reading table will be provided which will be well stocked with magazines and other current periodicals. The Daily Democrat will deliver free each day a copy of their paper. The Durant Weekly News will deliver free each week five copies of The News and The Saturday Morning Advertiser will deliver five copies of the Advertiser.  

Large invitation cards are being printed for the windows of subscribers giving the street address.  

A small classified business directory containing the name, street, and telephone number of each firm or subscriber to the maintenance of the rest room, will be placed on the wall for the convenience of the visitors. This is not advertising, but is free and will be done in appreciation for the support of the patrons.” 

Free refreshments were served the visitors by the Bee Hive and all who cared for amusement were given a free ticket to the Opera House for the afternoon performance. 

By fall the rest room was quite popular. In November it had 188 visitors.  

In 1915 financial difficulties challenged the club ladies and an item in the October paper suggested that the room would be closed “unless assistance is found at once”. The 25 Expansion Club, a group of businessmen organized for the “betterment of Durant” became their sponsors. In November the matron registered 429 visitors.   

During the years the ladies’ rest room existed, businesses all over the county began to cater more carefully to the needs of women. Rest rooms and bathrooms were added to a variety of businesses. Toilets were mentioned in 1916. It appears that the room on Second Avenue may have closed about 1917-18. In 1919 the City of Durant accepted bids for a brick building to be constructed on Market Square as a “rest room and general headquarters” for those doing business.  

Many of the services and conveniences we now take for granted began as ideas proposed by a group of women. The ladies’ room was certainly a good one.  

Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.