It’s unheard of today for Post Offices to have special service windows for women customers.
But from the 1830s through the early 1900s — before home mail delivery — these windows were common in Post Offices in urban areas, a newly published USPS historical report notes.
The windows came from the belief that women picking up their mail in the city needed protection from interacting with unsavory characters.
Some praised the women-only windows.
An 1867 article in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine noted that women enjoyed the privilege of picking up their mail “where no profane male can intrude.”
Others condemned them for encouraging women to use the mail for immoral acts.
President Grover Cleveland’s sister, Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, reportedly wrote to Postmaster General William Vilas in 1887 to complain that ladies delivery windows were used to circumvent parental authority and encourage improper relationships.
As free mail delivery was introduced in cities, letter delivery at gender-segregated Post Office windows gradually ended, but not without leaving a mark.
Historian David Henkin said that the gender separation gave some women a new freedom because for many, “the mail box was inside the coat pockets of men.”