Posts Tagged ‘Penn Station Women's-Only Waiting Room’

Old Penn Station’s women-only waiting room

January 4, 2021

The original Penn Station, opened in November 1910, had many things: a beautiful, spacious building, arcades for high-end stores, 21 tracks for arriving and departing trains…and separate waiting rooms for men and women.

Huh? I’d never come across this until I found this postcard of the women’s waiting room, via the NYPL Digital Collection. It sounds very strange to contemporary sensibilities, but apparently single-sex options for travelers existed.

“In addition to the main waiting room, there were separate waiting rooms for ladies and gentlemen, and a smoking room off the men’s,” stated Jay Maeder in his 1999 book, Big Town, Big Time: A New York Epic 1898-1998.

This diagram of the original station shows the upper part of each single-sex waiting room. No word on when these were phased out, if ever, before the old station was torn down in 1963.

Interestingly, the city considered something similar around the same time as Penn Station opened: single-sex subway cars, so women didn’t have to be subjected to “brutes,” as this 1909 New York Times article about the possibility of female-only subway cars called them. That idea was ultimately abandoned.

[Top image: NYPL; second image: Wikipedia]