Monday, March 12, 2012

The saloons of Kansas City's "Little Italy"

Kansas City's City Market on Fifth Street (1906)
The saloons of Kansas City's Little Italy

Location: Little Italy (also known as the Columbus Park area), Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Opened/Closed: Women allowed in saloons for brief time around 1909--before police crackdown

We've noted here before that bars and saloons have been classified as "male space" by the dominant American culture. And so they were...and still are in many (mostly) unspoken ways.

But it's interesting that not all ethnic groups observed this gender restriction. In particular, the saloon owners of Kansas City's Little Italy apparently saw nothing wrong in letting women "frequent" their establishments and even act as bartenders. The authorities, however, vehemently disagreed. Hence, the police crackdown in December 1909. But for a while, women were able to carve out and claim these public spaces as their own "home"--at least to some degree:

December 30, 1909                        

         FIND WOMEN IN A SALOON.     
     Italian Promises Police Board to
 Bar Them in Future.

910 East Fifth Street today
The board of police commissioners is having a hard time impressing upon the Italians of "Little Italy" the fact that their women must not frequent saloons. In the past some Italian women have been as much at home in the saloon as in the home; in fact, many of them used to tend bar while their husbands were at meals.

Yesterday Mattaeo La Salla, who has a saloon at Missouri avenue and Cherry street, was before the board for permitting his wife and mother to frequent his saloon. It was some time before Judge Middlebrook could impress La Salla with the fact that there was a law in this state which prevents women from frequenting saloons. The Italian looked worried, puzzled, but he promised that his women folks would keep out of his saloon in the future.

Salino Defeo, 600 East Fifth street, and his bartender were seen twice, it is alleged , to serve a woman with a bucket of beer. Commissioner Marks was closing Defeo's saloon for two days, but, being Christmas week, Judge Middlebrook thought the board should be more lenient and a reprimand was given.

For having a man not in his employ in his saloon at 1:20 a. m. last Friday, John Honl, a saloonkeeper at 7306 East Fifteenth street, was ordered to close his place Friday and Saturday.

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