Fainting room


A fainting room was a private room, common in the Victorian era, which typically contained fainting couches. Such couches or sofas typically had an arm on one side only to permit easy access to a reclining position, similar to its cousin the Chaise longue, although the sofa style most typically featured a back at one end (usually the side with the arm) so that the resulting position was not purely supine.

A fainting couch and a low table in Villa di Poggio in Caiano.

There are also accounts that mention fainting rooms in eighteenth-century America.[1] These rooms, which were also referred to as bedrooms (bedrooms were called chambers), were located in the ground floor and contained a day bed that allowed occupants to rest for brief periods during the day.[1]

Theories for prevalenceEdit

One theory for the predominance of fainting couches is that women were actually fainting because their corsets were laced too tightly, thus restricting blood flow.[2][3] By preventing movement of the ribs, corsets restricted airflow to the lungs and,[citation needed] as a result, if the wearer exerted themselves to the point of needing large quantities of oxygen and was unable to fully inflate the lungs, this could lead to fainting. Hyperventilation for any reason could also potentially result in brief loss of consciousness.

Another theory for the predominance of fainting couches is home treatment of female hysteria through manual pelvic massage by home visiting doctors and midwives.[4] As a "disease" that needed constant, recurring (usually weekly) in-home treatment with a procedure that through manual massage could sometimes take hours, creating specialized furniture for maximum comfort during the extended procedure seems plausible, as does the later creation of fainting rooms for privacy during the intimate massage procedure.[citation needed]

Victorian fainting rooms are associated with a doubtful claim that they are part of the legacy of female containment where such rooms served as a deeply female space meant to force women to remain indoors and inactive under the guise of ensuring privacy, class, and interiority.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Tometczak, Judith (2017). Haunted Crown Point, Indiana. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 79. ISBN 9781467136914.
  2. ^ Stockdale, Brenda (2009). You Can Beat the Odds: Surprising Factors Behind Chronic Illness and Cancer. Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications. p. 60. ISBN 9781591810797.
  3. ^ Caiola, Sammy (2015-11-02). "Get skinny in a cinch? Corsets make a comeback, along with health issues". The Sacramento Bee. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  4. ^ Rachel P. Maines (1999). The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria", the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6646-4.
  5. ^ Harris, Adrienne; Kalb, Margery; Klebanoff, Susan (2016). Ghosts in the Consulting Room: Echoes of Trauma in Psychoanalysis. Oxon: Routledge. p. 165. ISBN 9780415728676.
  • Greene, Bob (1998-12-12). "Let's all retire to the Fainting Room". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  • Kibbel, Bill. "The Little Room Upstairs". OldHouseWeb. Retrieved 2011-09-03.