Thesis: Sarah Lerner

Thesis Lerner

Thesis: Sarah Lerner

Sanitary Acculturation: The Social History of Progressive Era Public Bath Houses in Philadelphia

In 1895 the Public Bath Association of Philadelphia (PBA) was formed for the purpose of, “establishing and maintaining public baths and affording the poor facilities for bathing and the promotion of cleanliness.” In 1898 the PBA opened America’s first public bath house that offered both bathingand laundry facilities. This thesis will examine how the organizational structure, geographic location, architectural aesthetics, function of space and technology, and use of advertising and publicity of Philadelphia’s variant of the public bath house reflects the dissemination of a national ideology of morality, cleanliness, and the habituation of hygienic bathing. Furthermore, this work will examine how these ideologies reflect the influence of stereotypical archetypes as well as cultural narrations of race, class, and gender created by Philadelphia's White elite to categorize and acculturate those different from themselves. For it was these artificial constructs that shaped the language and actions of the reformers responsible for the establishment of public bath houses in Philadelphia.

Gaskill in 1903 and 2020
Blue print of Bath House
Women working at machines