Friday, July 17, 2009

Interesting Find: The Dedication of a Rest Room

With the summer exhibit posted, in Special Collections we've begun researching two future exhibits, one on the town of Holyoke and another on women in politics. While searching the Burrill File subject list for records of women legislators we came across the subject folder State House - Women's Rest Room. With a heading like that we had to see what was inside.

The folder contains a typed address by Thomas F. Pedrick, Chairman of the State House Commission, given upon the dedication of the Women's Rest Room in the State House. Additionally, two copies of the photograph at left are included in the folder. The photographs (circa 1918) are marked as having been taken at the dedication. The photographs and full text of the address can be viewed in the Special Collections Department, but two excerpts from the address are included below.

"When it became an assured fact that the Wings* were to be erected, I was in hopes that a suitable retiring room might be provided for the ladies employed here, and with that idea in view, I addressed a communication to the State House Building Commission in 1913, urging them to set apart the necessary space for that purpose. ... But owing partly, I presume, to the unavoidable change in the personnel of the Building Commission, and largely to the changes they had to make in plans to provide quarters for the continually growing business of the departments, the right kind of a room for this special need could not be provided."

"But since the declaration of war against Germany, every line of business has passed through a great change, and the working conditions in this building have likewise changed, owing to the great increase in the work. Massachusetts has ever been foremost in giving her all when the country needed her, and again she is in the forefront. Her young men, in large numbers, are serving in the American army across the seas, on the battle fields of Flanders, Picardy, the Marne, and in the Toul sector. Her civilians are all enlisted in the Home army for the protection of the health of her people, and the conservation of food and fuel, in order that we may back up the boys at the front. One of our patriotic duties, surely, is to see that the young women in industry and office work are properly cared for in case of sickness."

With the men away at war, the influx of women to the workforce required concrete changes in the work place. And while I'm not sold on Pedrick's "women's rest room as patriotic duty" idea, the installation of such a space signaled that the times were definitely changing.

To make this item even more intersting, Pedrick's address was given in the presence of the then-Lieutenant Governor, Calvin Coolidge. Future President Coolidge can be seen in the above picture, front row, second from left.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

* The East and West wings were erected between 1914 and 1917.