Location: New York, New York, USA
Back in January, riese posted an absolutely marvelous piece at Autostraddle called "10 Great Places to Meet Lesbians If You Have a Time Machine." There is so much great material here, that I urge you to read the piece in its entirety. Meanwhile, I'm going to borrow just this section on rent parties:
Private parties were still the safest places to meet other ladies during The Harlem Renaissance and "rent parties" were the most popular kind of private parties in which to do so. Rent Parties were huge in Harlem at the time, and some were very gay. The hosts provided bootleg liquor, dancing and jazz and charged admission (to help the resident pay their rent, which was astronomical at the time -- many white landlords charged black tenants double what their white counterparts would pay). Fear-mongering local papers described lesbian-attended Rent Parties as "dangerous to the health of all concerned" because of their "combination of bad gin, jealous women and a carving knife." (a.k.a. "dyke drama")
Actually, I've read that rent parties (or house parties) were an established institution outside of New York City as well, especially in the African-American gay and lesbian community. In particular, I've seen mention of them in places like Buffalo and Detroit.