A women’s restroom once existed downtown a century ago

Special to the HeraldNovember 27, 2013 

In “Puyallup, a Pioneer Paradise” (Arcadia, 2002), Lori Price and Ruth Anderson chronicle the desire of women to establish a private place to rest in the downtown area as follows:

“In May 1912, the 200 members of the Puyallup Women’s Club declared their intent to the city council to locate and furnish a downtown restroom.”

I went back to the original news accounts and found that the women were unfazed by the initial refusal of the city or the Commercial Club to fund their request, and they took many individuals up on their offer to contribute privately.

The Tribune of June 1, 1912, reported that the women had secured a room at a rent of $10 per month, that furniture was to be furnished by the YWCA, but they were still canvassing for funds to pay for maintenance and an attendant. They were hoping for the room to be open in time for the state meeting of grangers, but it was not to be. On June 29, the room was reported to have opened and was complete except for a phone and a range, which was expected to be donated.

It was interesting that this account was front-page news, alongside a report that there were 5,000 berry pickers in the valley gathering crops.

A few weeks ago, as we looked at the records of the library’s first year, Deborah Larkin of the Puyallup Public Library and I noticed a small hand-written piece of paper tucked into the report. Carefully saved for a century was the first report of the restroom’s finances.

The label reads: Receipts to establishing and maintaining Women’s Public Rest-Room from June 1, 1912, to May 10, 1913. Among the receipted items, totaling $393.26, were the following: Citizens (apparently contributions of cash) $195.95; food sales $37.57; Commercial Club lunches $55.90; packing lunch boxes $17.50; voluntary contributions $4.08; musical club (rent) $2; and sewing circle $11.56.

Disbursements included: Rent $110; salary $169.32; Charles Hood $45 (a hardware store owner, not further explained); wood (from two sources) $24.40; telephone $13.95; power company, $7.90; and gas $9.15.

The total outlay was $392.27, leaving them with a surplus balance of $0.99.

The library at that time was located in the Stevenson block, the building where U.S. Bank now stands, at the southwest corner of Meridian and Pioneer, erected after the Park Hotel was removed. The restroom was next door in the same building. No known photo exists of the interior of either facility, although the Puyallup Historical Society does have a photo in which a barely visible sign on the street reads Puyallup Library.

It is clear from these meager records that the facility was a lot more than what we would consider a restroom today, and that it took a lot of effort to support it.

Upcoming events

Christmas at the Mansion will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily from Friday through Dec. 22. A presentation and book signing for Ruth Anderson’s “Legendary Locals of the Puyallup Valley” will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at the South Hill branch of the Pierce County Library System.

Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion and can be reached through the Mansion at 253-848-1770.

The Puyallup Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service