Fire has always been a hazard for people everywhere. But when you live in a multistory building it can be especially difficult to escape the flames. This was the situation in London, England in the 1890s. They decided to make use of an escape chute.
An early fire department escape chute was fabric attached to a ladder and the person being rescued was put in the chute for a quick descent down to the street. At first the users had a problem. If going down the chute head first they just might end up hitting the head on the pavement, resulting in concussion. Solution? Use a canvas sheet suspended at the bottom to help exit with the head a bit elevated so it didn't wind up with a large pain.
It didn't take long for the firemen to learn to control their descent by pushing arms and legs against the fabric to help slow their progress as they sped to safety. A man could go into the chute either head or feet first with the fireman behind hanging on to the victim's arms or legs.
However, it was not quite so easy with a lady. She would be put in the chute head first. The fireman would go in behind her, holding her skirt tightly around her ankles so her legs would not be exposed when she exited from the chute.
Now I'm all for a little public decency. In fact, there are times in today's world when a little bit more of it might be a major force in achieving a more civil society. But I must admit, in case of a fire, decency would not be my first thought. I'd be yelling and screaming, "Get me out of here." The last thing on my mind would be the exposure of my ankles.
But then, I didn't live in the 1890's. And to that, I can only say, "Thank you, God."