The Hobble Skirt

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The variety of cards that can be gathered into a collection that illustrates Fashion & Suffragettes is startling. Along with those amazing numbers it was also surprising to find how many cards there are that find humor in the suggested difficulty a woman wearing a hobble skirt or harem pants would encounter when wishing to use a toilet.

The artist or illustrators who have tackled this topic seem to assume that the maneuvers for men in such situations were never any more complicated than a button fly or long johns with a back-flap. That same assumption cannot be true for women.

The color and artwork of this postcard image are at the highest level, and it is unfortunate that the illustrator has not been given credit. The detail of the toilet is exactly how people of a certain age remember toilets from the early years of the 20th century – a ceramic bowl topped by a wooden seat and the overhead tank or cistern that was activated by a pull-chain. The only thing missing is the sensation of the extremely low temperature of an unheated bathroom.

The card was sent by “Pip Pip” from Shipley, England, on August 15, 1911. The only message was seven ‘kisses’ which were directed to Miss P. Broskom who was holidaying in the seaside resort of Morecambe at the time.

Broskom is an uncommon surname although there were six women using it living  in Shipley in 1911. One of these was 19-year-old Phoebe Alice Broskom – and the only one with the initial ‘P.’  There is a fair chance that it was Phoebe who was the addressee. In 1911 she was a weaver and the only child of William and Sarah Broskom.

In 1915 Phoebe married Harry Horsfall, a carter (an old English occupational term for a person who makes deliveries using a two-wheeled cart). Phoebe lived until 1974. Additional biographical information is currently unavailable.

A fair assumption would be that a nickname such as Pip Pip would not be used by someone named Harry, so it may be that the card was sent by a female friend.

The suggestion that the card was mailed to Miss Broskom by a female friend is a solid one. If that is the case a lady-friend would, far and away, recognize the humor since they know that their gender has a much keener ability to overcome the difficulties they encounter in life.


Finally, when this piece first appeared, the color of the bathroom tissue seemed to be a matter of some amusement. Beige, tan, or yellow – call it the color you may – it is certainly unusual, unless of course you have traveled extensively in underdeveloped countries where “recycled gray” is common.

One quite memorable comment concerned a survey taken in America by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation that was concerned about how their Cottonelle brand of toilet paper was most commonly used.

It was discovered that the installation of a roll of toilet paper in a household bathroom was a concern shared among millions – far more than expected. The terminology used is vague, but it is doubtful that any reader will be confused: the terms (there are only two) are “over” and “under.”

When the data was compiled, it proved the 70% of those using Cottonelle preferred the “over” installation and that 74% of the “overs” were more likely to be annoyed by an incorrect installation in a friend’s home. 24% even confessed to flipping the direction when an “under” installation was discovered.

There were several good reasons why “over” is better, i.e., the exposed end is less visible to toddlers and pets. But, the “under” crowd countered every argument with equally good reasons.

Then, of course, there are those who don’t and couldn’t care. One such individual commented that he preferred a nail with an old newspaper. Naturally this was agreed to by a similar thinking individual, but only if the crossword had not been done.

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Whilst I will happily take credit for ownship of the card and for compiling a Facebook post on the subject / card, I take no resposibility for any wording relating to the thorny subject of how a toilet roll should be hung. Jonathan Swift wrote on how a similarly controvesial topic (at which end an egg should be cut) led to war and – perhaps with an appropriate metaphor – I wash my hands on this section of the article. (-:

Very enjoyable article. I am very impressed with the research done to find the probable recipient of the card, not sure why but it makes the card much more valuable as a historical document rather than a post card.

Very enjoyable.

I’m an “over” man myself, and confess to having corrected the orientation of the roll a time or two.

Thank you Bob for doing so much research on this postcard. I really enjoyed reading it and laughed often. As a female, I remember my younger years and the challenge of being in a tight dress with spanx underneath. People always wonder why girls go to the bathroom in pairs. One reason is so someone can hold the bathroom door while the other struggles to undress and use the restroom. Part of the humor in this postcard (for me) is the possibility of two teenage girls reflecting on an inside joke about trying use the bathroom in those dresses. It… Read more »

Thank you. For me, the image is fantastic although I do find it amusing that male artists appear to think that a woman won’t have thought through the ‘mechanics’ of the situation. I try and post a fresh card and story each day on my group pages as I enjoy the history and fun.

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