Dakota Datebook

Women’s Rest Room in Bismarck

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

 

In 1920 on this date, women of the Bismarck area were “doing their part,” as the Bismarck Tribune requested, to advertise a new women’s rest room.

A restroom can be many things, but this one was a little bit more. The space was supposed to be a place for women to relax and to get to know each other. Located in the lower floor rooms of the Masonic temple in Bismarck, the rest room was attached to a baby room, where mothers could leave their children as they ran errands. The baby room was equipped with cots, baby beds, and other furniture, and when the place opened, there was still a call for more – for rockers, pillows, tables, writing and reading material, music, and more.

The room was described as “cozy as can be — warm, airy, and inviting….a boon to women who wish to rest a little while on the tiresome business of shopping or running errands about town.”

A hostess was scheduled for the space for every day over the next month, and soon thereafter, a council of administration was formally organized to continue careful watch and management of the space. It was considered an obvious benefit to women, especially for out-of-towners and mothers.

Shortly after the room opened, the Bismarck Tribune reported, “There were many women in the rest room during the day, several children were cared for while the mothers did errands; Miss Weisenborn, who was in charge of the room on Saturday, reports five babies at the same hour asleep in the baby room, and a very busy day all through.”

After the council of administration was established, they decided to set up a Saturday Shopping Day, where they hoped women would feel comfortable shopping while their children were cared for. The chairman of the council, Mrs. Moses, noted the importance of the rest room as an institution in Bismarck, saying:

“Bismarck must come to be noted for three things: the pride of its women in the better things of life, the worthwhile activities of its women, and its hospitality, all of which can be worked out through the expedient of standing together and working together for the civic rest room.”

And, of course, it was great for businesses, too!

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Bismarck Tribune, December 6, 1920, p5

Bismarck Tribune, November 23, 1920, p5

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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