Victorian thinking could not be stretched so far as to think a woman might actually enjoy a dip into the ocean, romping through the waves, or, God forbid, swimming. A lady’s sensibilities may become overwrought from the wildness of the water and the penetrating stares of the public. Enter the bathing machine.
The bathing machine was an apparatus constructed in the shallows along a beach. Imagine a small wooden shack set into the water at a shallow depth, hitched to a pair of horses, and dragged out into deeper water after the delicate participant was loaded inside the shack. The floor of the shack was perforated to allow water to enter the shed and create an enclosed, sheltered bathing area for a lady.
These shacks were not well ventilated and often remained damp and fetid, percolating bacteria and disease. Unstable on their movable platforms, they were also dangerously rocked by the ocean and could potentially trap their delicate passengers inside.
But really, a lady could not be expected to take a nice dip in the ocean in public. Gah, the outrage.
Instead of a stuffy non-fiction book us historians would drool over, I’m giving you a much more riveting example of a bathing machine. If you read no other book this summer, read this one. Trust me.