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.
There are also accounts that mention fainting rooms in eighteenth-century America. 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.
Theories for prevalence
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. By preventing movement of the ribs, corsets restricted airflow to the lungs and, 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. 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.
Victorian fainting rooms are also associated with the 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.
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