Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lesbian Marriage in Columbus, Kansas (1935)

Cherokee County Courthouse - Columbus, Kansas (1930s)
Lesbian Marriage in Columbus, Kansas (1935)

Location: Cherokee County, Kansas--15 miles south of Pittsburg in southeast Kansas

Opened/Closed: July 15 - July 25, 1935

Columbus, Kansas is not an all-woman town--not then, not now. It never included any noteworthy women-only college, school, bar, club, business, or farm that I am aware of. (Although I did find a very fine portrait of the wives of the Farm Labor Union, also from the 1930s. See below.)

However, it does appear that the very first lesbian wedding ever performed in the state of Kansas was performed in Columbus--and that was back in 1935!

And for that, we are honoring Columbus, Kansas as a lost womyn's space. Even though Columbus, Kansas officials (along with their brethren across the border in Picher, Oklahoma) weren't terribly kind to this couple. As a matter of fact, they pretty much treated them like dirt--but what the hell. We're gonna celebrate this marriage and the role that Columbus, Kansas played in it anyway. (Unfortunately, their contemporary counterparts at the Cherokee County Courthouse wouldn't be any better. Same-sex marriages and civil unions were banned in Brownbackistan, er, Kansas, by constitutional amendment back in 2009.)

Alice/George (left) and Margaret (right)
In July of 1935, there were just scads of newspaper articles concerning this ten-day marriage between Alice Delores (George) Hayes and Margaret La Vernia Fowler; I think this story must have run in at least 70 to 80 U.S. newspapers.  [Here's a sampling:  Berkeley Daily Gazette (July 25, 1935), Evening Independent (July 25, 1935), Owosso Argus-Press (July 25, 1935), Gettysburg Times (July 26, 1935),  Evening Independent, (July 26, 1935), Reading Eagle (July 26, 1935), and Lawrence Journal-World (July 27, 1935).] Admittedly, most of these are reproductions of the same story, or reproductions with slight variations. But there are still quite a few articles that report the story quite differently with somewhat contradictory "facts."  

Let's start with the Berkeley Daily Gazette story.

Notice how it is reported that Margaret was just 14 years of age (Alice/George was 21), and how the "bride" was purportedly surprised to find out that the "groom" was "no gentleman." Though Margaret "refused to say" when the "discovery" was made, she insisted that she entered into the marriage in "good faith," which implies--without actually saying so--that she was ignorant of Alice/George's sex before she took her vows.

For her part, Alice/George (allegedly) claimed the marriage was "all a prank." 

Therefore it's no surprise that the anullment was (presumably) a mutual decision, freely chosen, and that there never was--and apparently never had been--any genuine commitment between them. At least that's the implication.

Alice/George and Margaret (1935)


In addition, it is strongly suggested that Alice/George not only "passed" as a man both at work and in her personal life, but was something of a cad. Charming, good looking, a snappy dresser--but a cad. A cad who played the field, toyed with the hearts of many girls, and who had dumped the girlfriend she had been dating for the past year to take up with a girl who was barely into her teens.

It is also stated that Margaret had kept the marriage a secret from her parents, and didn't reveal it to them until she uncovered the truth about Alice/George's sex.

We will be revisiting all these points as we go along.

"Bride" Finds She's Married To a Woman

By United Press

Picher, Okla., July 25.--George Hayes, who was considered a very handsome young man and a very acceptable "date" by numerous Picher girls, today turned out to be a woman, much to the surprise of her "bride" of ten days.

George, real name Alice Delores Hayes, is 21, dark and given to male attire. The "bride" is Margaret Lavernia Fowler, 14, of Galena, Kan. They were married by Walter Largent, probate judge at Columbus, Kans., July 15. Now they want the "marriage" annulled.

Miss Hayes said it was all a prank. Margaret, who kept the "marriage" secret from her parents, revealed it yesterday, telling them she had discovered the bridegroom was no gentleman. She refused to say when the discovery was made, but indicated she entered the marriage contract in good faith.

Baxter Springs, Kansas - where Alice/George and
Margaret met at a dance
Miss Hayes, attired in her best two-piece summer suit of coat and trousers, met Miss Fowler at a dance at Baxter Springs, Kans., six weeks ago. She was with a Picher girl friend she had been dating for a year, and through the girl was introduced to Miss Fowler. A whirlwind courtship and the trip to the judge's office followed.

Miss Hayes was absent from Picher today. When the chief of police heard the story he ordered her to don female attire or leave town. She was employed as a clerk in a shoe store, but she gave up the job, kept her trousers and left town with Miss Fowler, who had come here to consult her.

Her only explanation of the masquerade was that as a child she played with boys, wore boys' attire and developed masculine ideas of dress and manners.

Now let's turn to the first of the two articles from the Evening Independent.

The ages of the two women are now reported in this account as 14 and 20.

But notice that Alice/George is treated in a far more sympathetic fashion. Why did she wear men's clothes? Because she had been a "sickly child." Doesn't make a lot of sense as an explanation to me, but it's hard to believe a Depression-era audience wouldn't have felt some pity for Alice/George as a result.

In addition, the vague references to the Picher chief of police's actions? The ones we saw above? (See the Berkeley article.) Now we find out more, and the police chief comes across as a full-fledged petty tyrant who's bullying a poor, formerly "sick child." Not only that, he's engaged in what's basically a personal vendetta (i.e. threatening to jail Alice/George if she shows up in Picher wearing trousers or "men's apparel")--with no existent law or ordinance to back him up in any way, shape, or form. Given that Alice/George's job was in Picher--"Miss Hayes is employed as a shoe store clerk at $6 a week"--it's comparatively easy to frame her as very brave and heroic for giving up a job out of principle (during the Depression no less).

Demonstration of the Unemployed
Columbus, Kansas (May 1936)

Back in the 1930s, the economy of the Cherokee County, Kansas and Ottawa County, Oklahoma region was based on mining and agriculture, and there was a strong working-class, pro-union tradition. These were the dust bowl years, and basic survival for most people was an intense struggle. Working people already tended to be suspicious of the local political authorities, who typically worked in cohoots with the economic elites. By giving up the job and refusing to kowtow to the local chief of police, Alice/George certainly could have provided the local citizenry with a genuine working-class hero--should they have they have decided to embrace her (whether they did so or not, whether they could have overlooked the "gender transgression," is hard to say). It is noteworthy, though, that both women had fathers who worked in the mines.

Farm Labor Union wives - Galena, Kansas (1936)

Another issue: was this marriage really "all a prank"? Here we see it emphasized that Alice/George "paid ardent court" to Margaret before their marriage. That certainly sounds more like serious devotion than than a prank.

Not only that, it doesn't appear in this account that Margaret was all that "surprised" or alarmed by any sudden "discovery" of Alice/George's sex.

Most surprising of all, it is implied that Margaret's parents weren't all that alarmed either! If they had been, why would they have allowed Alice/George to spend the night in their home with their daughter after Alice/George had been unmasked and essentially exiled from Picher, Oklahoma by the local chief of police?

In addition, Margaret was hardly playing the role of the outraged maiden in a very convincing fashion. If she had been all that shocked, why would she have continued their relationship and presumably allowed Alice/George to sleep with her as her "husband"? (Frankly, I suspect that she knew perfectly well that Alice/George was a woman all along.)

As for the annulment. There is no sense here that these parties were annuling the marriage because it had been a sham or a "prank" that they were glad to put behind them. On the contrary, it's the county attorney who had "counseled" them to get the anullment for "their own protection." That's an entirely different reason for doing so.

Bridegroom at Wedding Is Woman and Kansas Authorities Wonder What They Are to Do About It

Columbus, Kan., July 25.--AP--Complications of Columbus' manless marriage grew more bizarre today as the girl who wore the male attire in the wedding ceremony faced an edict to abandon her trousers or go to jail.

Galena, Kansas - Margaret Fowler's hometown
She, Alice Delores (George) Hayes spent the night in the Galena, Kan., home of her "bride," 14-year-old Margaret La Vernia Fowler, and pondered the problems of the masquerade.

The order to resume girl's clothing--abandoned 17 years ago when she was a sickly child came from Police Chief Al Manes of Picher, Okla., where Miss Hayes is employed as a shoe store clerk at $6 a week.

County authorities there said Manes probably could not make the order "stick" for lack of laws governing the wearing of men's apparel by women.

County Attorney C. E. Shouse counseled an annulment "for their protection," and said the Fowler girl "wouldn't want the marriage in the record," although he pointed out a woman may not wed another woman legally in Kansas and the two in fact were not married.

The ceremony was performed July 15 by Probate Judge Walter Largent. "George" had been dating girls in this vicinity for many months, and had paid ardent court to Miss Fowler, a high school freshman, for several weeks. 

The Awosso Argus-Press version of this story, which was entitled "Manless Wedding May Put 'Groom" in a Kansas Jail," is pretty tightly patterned after the Evening Independent one above. For the most part, only the last three paragraphs differ in any substantial way, so that is all we will quote here.

But these are some pretty provocative differences. Now we are told that Margaret's parents were reportedly "amazed" at the "disclosure." But they still allowed Alice/George to spend the night under their roof after the "disclosure." So how "amazed" were they really?

Also notice that Alice/George also seems to deny (at least in this account) that she ever tried to pass as a man; on the contrary, she insists that "everyone" knew she was a girl. Was Alice/George telling the truth here? If so, her employers really couldn't have been all that "amazed" either.

Parents of the "bride" and the employers of the "groom" were amazed at the disclosure. "George" had been dating girls in this vicinity for many months, and had paid ardent court to Miss Fowler, a high school freshman, for several weeks.

"Why make such a fuss about all this?" queried Miss Hayes as she left with Miss Fowler after Manes' ultimatum. "Everyone knows I'm a girl."

"My lawyer will talk for me," was the "bride's" only comment.

Now we move up a day to the Gettysburg Times story.  

Suddenly Margaret has aged three years (she is now 17?) while Alice/George is still 21.

Sadly, we now hear that Alice/George has capitulated to the demands of the Picher, Oklahoma Chief of Police. She has "shed her trousers in favor of women's attire"--partly on the "advice" of her employer. (So she didn't quit her job as previously reported? Or she got the job back? Or is the former employer "advising" her out of personal concern? ) However, notice that Alice/George "refused" to say that the change was permanent. Good for you, sister. Rock on.

We also see more evidence here that this was a real commitment, not a sham. Otherwise, why would these women leave court "hand in hand" and head back to Margaret's hometown together?

Also observe how Margaret is waffling in a very legalistic way. She "wasn't absolutely sure" that Alice/George was a woman at the time of the wedding? Sounds like your basic bull to me, since she apparently slept with Alice/George at her parents' house after the "disclosure," went to "a dance" with her, and (as noted above) left court after the annulment holding hands with her before heading back to her hometown with her. No doubt her attorney had advised her to phrase it in that convoluted way.

Girl "Husband" Sheds Trousers for Dress as Marriage is Voided

Columbus, Kansas., July 26 (AP). Pretty red-haired Margaret Fowler, 17, legally shed her feminine "husband" Thursday and the one-time "groom," Alice Delores Hayes, 21, shed her trousers in favor of women's attire.

An annulment by Judge V. J. Bowersock sniped [sic] the matrimonial bonds tied ten days ago.

The police chief's ultimatum, her employer's advice and a shopping trip took Miss Hayes out of trousers and put her in skirts. Whether she would stay put was another matter.


Picher, Oklahoma - Home of Alice/George Hayes...and
a very nasty chief of police
At Picher, Okla., where she worked in a men's clothing store as George Hayes and dated several girls, Miss Hayes refused to say whether she would continue wearing skirts--or go back to male attire.

"Been too much said now," she murmured, in a low-pitched voice.

She wore a dress in Picher last night when she accompanied the "bride" to a dance. Thursday she made her first purchase of a dress in years.

Chatting in friendly fashion, the girls left court after the annulment hand in hand. They did not divulge their plans as they left for Miss Fowler's home in Galena, Kan.

Miss Fowler testified she "wasn't absolutely sure" Miss Hayes was a girl at the time of the wedding. A few days later they decided to seek the annulment.

It was an edict of Al Manes, Picher police chief, that caused "George" Hayes to don skirts. He threatened to arrest the girl--who said she grew to like boys' clothes and habits in playing outdoors for her health--if she appeared in trousers again.

Said Chief Manes:

"I have a right to say whether girls wear men's attire on the streets here."

Finally, we have this second article from the Evening Independent. In this version, it is reported that whether Margaret "knew in advance" that Alice/George was a woman was dodged entirely during the annulment process.

Manless Marriage is Annuled

Columbus, Kas., July 25.--AP--An annulment granted in district court today ended the "manless marriage" between Alice Delores (George) Hayes, 20, of Picher, Okla., and 14-year-old Margaret La Vernia Fowler, Galena, Kas., high school girl.

Accompanied by her mother and her attorney, John W. Hamilton, the "bride" appeared in court.

Her petition alleged that as both parties were women there was no legal marriage. It said nothing as to whether the bride knew in advance that "George" Hayes was a woman and not a man.

Miss Hayes, in feminine attire, accompanied Margaret to Columbus but was not in court. She went shopping today to purchase her first dress in many years, in view of the police chief's edict she must dress as a woman or leave town.

The action today ended the farce ceremony of July 15 when the two girls appeared before Probate Judge Walter Largent and were "married."

A story about Margaret and Alice/George in the Lawrence Journal-World reports that after the annulment, the two women "remained the best of friends."

And contrary to everything we were initially told about Alice regarding the marriage as "all a prank," the Reading Eagle reports that Alice had actually been trying to find a legal action that would make the "marriage stick." Of course she was unsuccessful in this endeavor, but it's awe inspiring that she even tried. Her efforts also show that while she may have played around in the past, she was entirely sincere in her love for Margaret and wanted to make a life with her. That revelation makes this story a true tragedy. These women were just too far ahead of their times.

So far, I have been unable to uncover much evidence as to what happened to Alice/George and Margaret afterwards.

Complicating all this is the fact that neither woman used a consistent name throughout her lifetime.

As a child, Margaret was listed in the 1925 state and 1930 federal censuses as Lavenia M. Fowler. It seems she was an only child, born around 1921. Her parents were Harry C. and Florence Fowler. Margaret appears in the Galena High School yearbook for 1936--she was in the Girls' Pep Club--so she apparently completed her sophomore year. Her father, who worked as a lead smelter, died in December of 1938 at the age of 45. He is buried in Galena. Margaret seems to utterly disappear from the public record after that, either as Margaret, Lavenia, Lavernia, La Vernia, or some combination thereof. However, something is sure to show up with more digging.

The happy couple on the left, two pictures
of Alice/George on the right (1935)
With Alice/George, the name complications are even worse as she was apparently in the habit of using many different names or aliases over the course of her lifetime. In addition to the name Alice Delores Hayes, I have found her listed in various places as Alice Deloris Hayes, Alice Lou Hayes, Alice L. Hayes, Tiny Hayes, and Tiney Hayes. Nevertheless, there is far more information on Alice/George than Margaret. Alice was born in Miami, Oklahoma on May 10, 1914--just two years after fellow Oklahoman Woody Guthrie. She was the daughter of Frank "Pink" Hayes and Georgia Ann Wyrick Hayes (perhaps Alice borrowed the name "George" from her mother or her maternal grandfather, George Wyrick). There were also two sisters, a brother, and a half brother in the family. In 1920, her father was working as a teamster, by 1930 he was working in the zinc mines (he died at the age of 57). By that time (1930), the family had moved to Quapaw, Oklahoma. Alice, who would have been around 15, was apparently calling herself Tiny or Tiney by then (she was listed as such in the 1930 Census). When her brother Lonnie was murdered in Picher in 1936, his obituary lists one of his surviving sisters as "Alice Delores Hayes" who was living in Hockerville, Oklahoma. But when Alice's father died in 1942, she was identified in the funeral notice as "Tiny Hayes of Picher." Her social security death entry is recorded under "Tiny Hayes." She died on March 21, 1991, either in Picher or Miami, Oklahoma (reports differ).

But here's one thing that's rather revealing. Picher, Oklahoma is now a ghost town, officially closed down and evacuated by the Environmental Protection Agency because of cave-in risks and severe toxic metal contamination from the long years of lead and zinc mining.

Karma can be a bitch.... 

Update 11/14: In the pages section, I have posted a more detailed and up-to-date research piece on the lives of Tiny and Margaret. This post from 2012 is really just a rough draft. So check it out in the upper left hand corner under "Tiny and Margaret: Same-Sex Marriage in the American Dustbowl."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monticello College

Monticello Ladies Seminary (Monticello College) (1890)
Monticello College

Location: Godfrey, Illinois, USA

Founded: 1838

Closed: Last Monticello class graduated in 1971; first coed Lewis and Clark Community College class began in 1970, the same year the Monticello campus was purchased

Monticello College was a two-year college for women. It was founded by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, a native New Englander, who arrived in the southern Illinois area in 1832. Captain Godfrey, the father of eight daughters, was an advocate of higher education for women and made a large donation of funds and land for the college. (I imagine that Mrs. Godfrey was far too burdened by pregnancy and childcare to take much of an interest either way.) Monticello Female Seminary, later renamed Monticello College, was established in 1838.  

Not surprisingly, a man (The Reverend Theron Baldwin of Yale) was selected as the first headmaster. But two women, Philomena Fobes and and Harriet Haskell, are credited as the ones who were "influential in establishing the fine reputation enjoyed by the school."

Here is a description of the early campus:

The 110-by-44-foot seminary building was five stories high, including the basement. The basement was divided into a dining room and recitation rooms. The second story was divided into a library, recitation, and family rooms. The next two floors contained forty rooms. Each one of these rooms was made for two young ladies to live in them. The fifth story was divided into painting and music rooms. The 45-by-70-foot south wing contained two large halls and twenty-two rooms that were centrally heated and illuminated by gas. Also located on the thirty-acre campus was a cottage near the seminary, designed as a boarding house for mothers who wished to be with their daughters. The cottage also served as a place for guests to stay.

In 1888, these original buildings were destroyed by fire.

Though sometimes dismissed as a "finishing school," Monticello offered coursework in advanced mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, logic, and political economy--as well as the the obligatory offerings in art, music, and needlework. Monticello enjoyed tremendous alumnae loyalty. But by the 1960s, the rising popularity of coeducation, combined with low enrollment, lead to Monticello's demise. As Kristen Brueckner has reported,

In 1965 young women came here from thirty-six states and three foreign countries to make the annual enrollment of 392. Many girls who enrolled followed their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers to Monticello. In the 1960s enrollment dropped due to a waning interest in separate schools for boys and girls, and the seminary was forced to close in 1975.

Elsewhere it is reported that the campus was sold to Lewis and Clark Community College in 1970, with coed classes beginning that year. The last Monticello class graduated in 1971.

No doubt it would be tempting to write-off Monticelllo's graduates as little more than decorative young ladies, but that would be wrong. As we have seen before, even the most conservative or conventional of womyn's spaces have a way of creating strong and independent women--even if that is not their expressed intent. 

One Monticello alumna was a member of Annette Daisy's Amazons, who were intent on setting up an all-woman town in Oklahoma back in the 1890s. As the press announced at the time (and with evident alarm), "Each of the young women is armed with a rifle and a revolver, and as a whole they are fully capable of taking care of themselves." Can't get less ladylike than that!

Woman's Hotel

Woman's Hotel (1917)

Woman's Hotel

Location: 122 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA--with subsequent moves thereafter

Opened: May 1916

Closed: 1935

According to the WCA Foundation (formerly the Women's Christian Association of Minneapolis), the WCA opened their first boarding facility for women in 1874--just one year after the group's founding. They rapidly acquired other residences, and by the 1920s, more than 1,000 female boarders lived in a dozen different WCA residences.

As historian Lynn Weiner has documented, the Women's Christian Association and other organizations involved in the "boarding club movement" were created in response to a critical social need. By the turn of the century, there were over 400,000 single women working and living away from their families in America's cities. These women were effectively trapped between the desperately low "pin money" wages that were paid to them as women and high urban housing costs, especially among the "better class" boarding houses. Social reformers feared--and not without cause--that these working women would drift into prostitution or other forms of exploitation or "vice" without guidance and a structured and affordable home.

The Woman's Hotel opened in 1916--one of the first of its kind in the United States--and charged 50 cents a night to women travelers. Adult men were not permitted to cross the threshold of the Woman's Hotel. As Weiner further informs us,

More than 4,500 women and children patronized it in nine months in 1916; from 1922 through 1935, the hotel provided almost 480,000 nights of lodging to women looking for work or just passing through the city. The hotel's location changed through the years. In 1922 it moved to the eleventh floor of the St. James Hotel, 12 North Second Street, and in 1929 opened its last home at 1015 Marquette Avenue. It was discontinued in 1935.

More detail about the first Woman's Hotel (on Hennepin Avenue) is provided in this article from the Milwaukee Journal, April 21, 1919:

MINNEAPOLIS HAS HOTEL FOR WOMEN ONLY

Minneapolis is the one city in the United States west of New York that maintains a hotel for transient women. The Woman's hotel, 122 Hennepin-av, operated by the Woman's christian association, provides a room at a nominal sum. 
Matron talking to guests in lobby of Woman's Hotel (1918)

Here women come who are alone and passing through the city. Many of these do not want to go to the larger hotels. By far the greater percentage of persons staying at the "women only" hotel are those coming to the city for employment. Many are girls who come with little money and no knowledge of where they can obtain work. They are usually discovered by the traveler's aids in stations, and sent direct to the Woman's hotel. They are given a room, and are guided to employment agencies.

Women seated in the parlor of the Women's Hotel (1918)
Recently a girl seeking work went to the hotel. After two days her money was gone. She was given food and lodging. At last she confessed she had run away from a good home because she wanted to be in the city. Her family was communicated with, and her father took her home.

The Woman's hotel is one of the few hotels in the city that were judged 100 percent, according to the report of the state hotel inspection department. Each bed is in a compartment by itself. Ventilation is said to be excellent.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chueca Bar

69-04 Woodside Avenue today
Chueca Bar

Location: 69-04 Woodside Avenue, Woodside, New York, USA

Opened: Around 2005

Closed: Around 2009

Here's the venue description from Clubplanet:

Chueca float at Heritage of Pride (2005)
Chueca Bar - By definition it is anything that is not straight, whether it be crooked or winding. To the lives of many, however, Chueca means much more than that. It is a Latino Lesbian Bar in Queens, New York but it is not just a place - it is an identity, a home, a place in your heart. What started as a dream for one Latino Lesbian woman is now considered home to many.


At NYC Gay Pride (2007)
Chueca is a Spanish word meaning “not straight,” and everyone speaks that language inside this Colombian-owned Jackson Heights lesbian nightclub. The space’s scruffy interior—barely lit in blue neon and festooned with mirrors—resembles a delightfully sleazy South Beach joint. The few small tables and stiff chairs keep the dark-haired, midriff-sporting patrons on their feet, where they’d probably be anyway, writhing to salsa and reggaeton on the mis-matched tiled floor or shooting pool beneath an aptly Sapphic etching of two nudes embracing. Friday and Saturday nights are the main attractions, as the tight-knit crew of scantily dressed chicas packs in for Latin D.J.'s, body shots off the good-looking bartenders, and swills of Chueca’s namesake drink (Malibu, Bailey's, and Kahlua lit afire).




On any given Friday or Saturday night they're perched at tables or at the cushiony black-lined bar snapping drinks back like it was a little agua, as the crowd gets naughty and the bartenders take to dancing on the bar.

At Queens Pride (2009)






Latina lesbian dance bar, ask for a flaming shot.
  
Ditto for New York on Tap:

Lascivious latina lesbians prowl this Woodside nightclub.

In an 2005 article on the Latino/Latina gay community in Queens, we hear the following from Chueca's owner:

Chueca patrons "belly up"
to the bar (2005)
“I like to say we’re about 85 percent Latino and 15 percent Latino lover,” says Fernanda Mendez, owner of Queens’ only Lesbian bar, Chueca. (The name loosely translates to anything that’s not straight.) “The Latin culture in general, gay or not, is very happy and free-spirited. We like to enjoy ourselves, and the general community likes that energy. We work hard like everybody else, we reach our goals, but we like that spice-that caliente. Everyone has some of that salsa in them.”

Mendez’s watering hole is crammed with caliente. On a Saturday night, about 300 women come through the doors of the small Woodside Ave. club to dance-and drink the club’s specialty cocktail, aptly named La Chueca. (It’s a combo of different liquors, set ablaze, and then sucked through a cocktail straw as gathered crowd chants, “Chuuu-ecaaa!”)

Several websites report that this venue is now closed, but no date is given. Based on the dates for the photos and customer reviews (which are uniformly enthusiastic), I would judge that this place opened around 2005 and stayed open until at least June 2009.

Cat's

8146 Greenwell Springs Road today
Cat's

Location: 8146 Greenwell Springs Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Opened/Closed: Early 2000s

I haven't found too many references to Cat's outside of undated directories to gay and lesbian bars. And those are simply listings with no additional information.

Cat's was apparently around at least as early as October 2001, as it's mentioned in the publicity around Baton Rouge's Pridefest. But nothing is said about the venue itself.

Mygayweb reports (in an undated review) that Cat's is "mostly lesbians" along with the following brief description:

An everybody knows everybody type atmosphere. Wednesday: Ladies' Pool Tournament at 7:30pm (Win $$!)
Thursday: All Request DJ, $1.75 domestic longnecks all night.
Friday and Saturday: Live DJ from 9:00pm to 2:00am
The only more-or-less substantial description of Cat's appears this article on the gay bars of Baton Rouge.

From the Daily Isureveille, April 6, 2003:

Cat's, located at 8146 Greenwell Springs Road, is one of the most gender-specific bars in town but hosts an extremely loyal and large flock. Cat's is a lesbian bar that few men enter, but most women who frequent this bar seem to enjoy the atmosphere.

The music is eclectic and fun to dance to and there are always plenty of women to dance with. Cat's customers vary in age from 18 to older than 40. It's a little bit of a drive to get to Cats, if you're coming from campus. There is no cover, and it's usually worth the drive.

At some point afterwards, the Fish Bowl, another former lesbian bar in Baton Rouge, moved to this location. But at least from what we see at Clubplanet, it was no longer billing itself as a lesbian bar.

After a fair number of other business occupants, it appears that this location is currently a pediatric clinic.

The Fish Bowl

7367 Exchange Place today
The Fish Bowl

Location: 7367 Exchange Place, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Opened/Closed: Early 2000s

Perhaps one of the earliest reviews of The Fish Bowl is this undated description from mygayweb:

The newest lesbian bar in Baton Rouge. Relax and enjoy a drink after work with our daily happy hour while you gaze into our aquariums. Beat your friends at a game of pool or darts, or just get wild and crazy on the weekend with our DJs and our weekly events like the Frozen T-Shirt Contest. Whatever you decide, you will always have a good time!
The Fish Bowl was obviously around--and apparently still fairly new--in April 2002, when she got this shout out in New Orlean's Ambush Magazine:
The Fish Bowl on Exchange Place is having a benefit drag show on Apr. 5, 2002 to raise money for assisting local players in the APA National Singles Pool Championship. With Tasha Sinclair, Erica Rodriguez, Monique Clairborne and others leading the way, this one should prove to be a good show.

In case you haven't checked out The Fish Bowl, you really need to do so soon. Jamie and Michelle are doing a great job, and I can vouch for the sincerity these two have in support of the Gay and Lesbian programs. This is a very nice place to spend some time. The drinks are great. The friendships are lasting. And the memories made here will last a lifetime.
 
Little John went with me last week to dine at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and we stopped in to see how things were going. Jennifer was there again. I had met her on my previous visit, and I find her to be so very happy and carefree, a really nice human being. She and Amie made a nice couple for my camera to present to you. I also found Sandra to be exceptionally nice. She appears so cordial and friendly that you realize immediately that you have met a very special person.
 
Make time to pay The Fish Bowl a visit. It's where the Hide-A-Way used to be located, and the new bar staff/managers want everyone to know that they would appreciate your patronage. Just because it's a girls' bar is no sign that they don't want men around. They are open to welcoming all people and all races and want you to know how pleased they will be to have you visit them. Do it soon.

The Hide-A-Way was evidently another former gay male or "mixed" bar.

This event in August 2002 is also listed:

Mark your calendars now for Aug. 10th. The Baton Rouge Krewe of Apollo is presenting a gender-bending comedy where men become women and women become men in a little ditty called "Drag-net." This is all going to take place at The Fish Bowl, 7367 Exchange Place (formerly the Hide-A-Way).

Then there's this brief mention of the Fish Bowl in an article on gay bars in Baton Route. From the Daily Isureveille, April 6, 2003:

Woman playing pool at The Fish Bowl (2003)
The Fishbowl, located at 7367 Exchange Place, is a lesbian bar whose clientele varies greatly. During the week, The Fishbowl is a low-key place, a good place to sit, have a beer, and shoot pool or play darts. These mellow nights usually are enjoyed by an older, middle-aged crowd, but the weekends are vastly different.

A Friday night at The Fishbowl is filled with many younger people dancing to rap, techno, some top 40 and requested music. While men do party at The Fishbowl, mostly women frequent this place.

That same year (2003), Fish Bowl was cited as the "sole survivor" in terms of Baton Rouge's lesbian bars:

There is one lesbian bar remaining, the Fish Bowl on Exchange Place.

And then she was gone. Seemingly with little announcement or fanfare. At least none that I can detect.

It appears that for a while, the Fish Bowl was replaced by a gay (male?) bar called Doubloons. But by February 2012, this address was identified as the Soiree Event Hall.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pandora's Box (West Village)

70 Grove Street today
Pandora's Box

Location: 70 Grove Street (West Village), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: Early 1990s

Pandora's Box was a lesbian bar that catered to a mostly Black and Hispanic clientele. It is not to be confused with the Pandora's Box in Detroit, Michigan, which also catered to a mostly Black lesbian clientele. Or with the Pandora's Box on West 26th Street in Chelsea (New York City), which is a BDSM club.

So far, the most detailed "snapshot" I have found of Pandora's Box comes from this article in the New York Times, dated September 12, 1993:

In January 1992, the people who live behind Pandora's Box, a lesbian bar on Grove Street in the West Village, began complaining about noise. When bar patrons climbed onto the building's roof and got into fights, the residents became uneasy. When a patron fired an unlicensed pistol into the bar's ceiling, they grew frightened.

Sheridan Square
But when the city did nothing to address the problem, they got mad. That's when things started to change.
Repeated complaints to the Sixth Precinct's cabaret squad and community policing unit were fruitless, residents said. A petition with 108 signatures also produced no results. And according to the Department of Environmental Protection, the club owes more than $23,000 in outstanding fines for noise violations.

"Simply put, it would appear that residents of the neighborhood cannot look to the N.Y.P.D. to enforce the law, or even to answer the phone," said Susan Rosengarten, director of the board of the Sheridan Owners Corporation, in a letter to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Mayor David N. Dinkins.

Then the New York Civil Liberties Union intervened to request that the police address the situation. "The issue was that these people couldn't really get the city to listen to them, which is their right," said Norman Siegel, executive director. "That's what those elected officials are supposed to do."

On Sept. 1 dozens of city and police officials, including representatives from the Mayor's office and from the Manhattan Borough President's office, met with the apartment owners.

Lieut. Larry Gantt, head of the cabaret squad for the Sixth Precinct, said he now plans to step up patrols in the area.

The manager of the club, Cynthia Russo, said that there were several clubs in the Sheridan Square area that play loud dance music and that her club was being singled out unfairly. She said she believed that residents disliked the club because many of the patrons were lesbians and because most were black or Hispanic. "We are not a bunch of convicts here," Ms. Russo said.

RANDY KENNEDY

Shawn's

1209 Fifth Avenue today
Shawn's

Location: 1209 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1978-1979

I have found just one short description of Shawn's, and that comes from a late 70s newspaper article on Pittsburgh's gay community.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 27, 1979:

The only lesbian bar in Pittsburgh is Shawn's, at 1209 Fifth Ave. It is frequented by many lesbians, who drink, dance, socialize or play pool with each other. Men are not welcome.

A passing reference to Shawn's is found in a comment attached to a blog post about Anita Bryant. "Peg" recalled Bryant's visit to Pittsburgh, which was apparently in the spring of 1978:

In a blast from the past, your post made me recall a protest that I attended at the Civic Arena where Anita Bryant was scheduled to perform. It must have been around 1978-79. There were about 150 protesters, a little news coverage and then we went to Shawn's bar on 5th Ave, in the Lower Hill. Anyone else remember?

Seems that nobody did.

Today Shawn's former space is occupied by Consol Energy Center and Palumbo Center.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daisy Colony


Ponca City, Oklahoma-founded in 1892
after the United States opened the
Cherokee Outlet for white settlement
in the Cherokee Strip land run, the largest
land run in U.S. history 
Daisy Colony

Location: A few miles west of Ponca City, Oklahoma, USA

Founded: September 1892, though Annette (or Annetta) Daisy's homesteading efforts go back a few years before that

Closed: Unknown

This is a prime example of one random find leading to another. In other words, after tripping over Bethsheba, Oklahoma, I stumbled upon the Daisy Colony--yet another all-women community founded during the Oklahoma land runs of the 1890s. (While I am highlighting the effort of these white women to form their own communities, it is important to understand the entire context here, which was predicated on the forcible removal of the Cherokee and other native peoples from Oklahoma "Indian Territory" for European settlement.)

That said, meet the incredible Miss Annetta (or Annette) Daisy and her band of armed Amazons, who were biding their time till they could form their own town in Oklahoma.

From the New York Times, April 16, 1892:

ANNETTA DAISY'S AMAZONS
---

VENTURESOME YOUNG WOMEN IN OKLAHOMA.

---
TWELVE OF THEM ARE ENCAMPED IN A HIDING PLACE WITHIN THE BORDERS

EL RENO, Oklahoma, April 15.--The irrepressible Annetta Daisy, who has passed through two campaigns similar to this, again comes to the front in a new role--that of protector. She was shot in the rush of three years ago while "holding down" a claim which she had obtained by jumping from a running train. [Note: This apparently happened during the April 22, 1889 land rush near Edmund, Oklahoma. According to an earlier account in the New York Times, "She pluckily held her own, and, wounded as she was, secured her rifle and drove the intruder away. See link here.] On the eventful April 22 last year, she was thrown from a horse while rushing for a lot in Rocky Chandler and was nearly killed, but she secured the property she sought. [Note: The date is reported incorrectly. This latter incident actually took place in September 1891. See the New York Times story of September 30, 1891 here, which prematurely announced Daisy's death from the aforementioned horse.]

Now she heads a body of eleven female "sooners," all unmarried women, who are encamped in a deep gulch in County F, where they are awaiting the signal. They have escaped the military, so far, and will pretty surely succeed in their intentions, as their camp has been so carefully selected that the troops could pass within forty feet of it and not discover it. In the western part of that county is a series of wooden gulches, rendering the country almost impassable. In one of them, having an opening, but no outlet, and some 200 feet deep, is a little recess facing the south, so effectually concealed by the heavy cedars that not even a hundred searchers would suspect its existence. Here these venturesome young women have formed a camp, fully provisioned, where they propose to remain until they can make the runs for the tracts of land already selected, all in one body.

Each of the young women is armed with a rifle and a revolver, and as a whole they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. They have been there a week and have made for themselves shelters of cedar brush, where they are comfortable and free from all intrusion. Each woman has a horse, the grazing being excellent in the sheltered nook where they have a retreat.

Miss Daisy has been selected as Captain of this little company, her only purpose being to assist them in selecting homes in a new country. Among these women are two graduates from Smith College, cousins, and one graduate from Monticello College, Illinois.  All of them are educated and accustomed in the past to refined homes.

Miss Daisy came for provisions yesterday and departed this evening, intending to make a night's ride of fifty miles. She has with her a horse laden with necessities, with daily papers as dessert. She conversed freely with those of the newspaper correspondents with whom she became acquainted on a former occasion like this, but did not yield up the secret of her exact location. She had come in after a night's ride with a led horse, and after making all her purchases and securing a list of the allotments made to the Indians, she departed for her camp, expecting to reach it about 3 o'clock in the morning. Her company maintains military discipline, keeping an armed guard day and night. The members are not so fearful of intrusion as they are of the troops patrolling all the counties seeking for "sooners," who are ejected as soon as found. Miss Daisy said that her company was organized in Kansas City, and represents six States: Kentucky, 4; Missouri, 2; Texas, 1; Tennessee, 1; New-York, 2, and Illinois, 1. The eldest is twenty-six and the youngest twenty-four. Miss Daisy is a Kentuckian, although she has a claim and home in Oklahoma. She prides herself upon being able to outwit the troops and the army of Government officers who have been directed to exclude the speculators for the benefit of the "honest settlers," which she declares is a misnomer.

The combined capital of her company is $2,500. To prove it Miss Daisy showed her bank book. Their determination is to make homes for themselves, and in the prevailing style of Western men and women they propose to build a town, which appears to be an ambition that some time or another will be gratified. They do not want a town from which the male sex is to be excluded, but they have correspondents and friends who will join them in controlling it. When questioned regarding the "sooner" class of the law, Miss Daisy said they could conscientiously take oath, as they were not in lands upon which man can even live and they are simply camped there for self-protection.

There is no man in the camp, and if the party are accidentally discovered they will not permit any to even visit them. The known character of the Captain would prevent any man who has resided in this Territory any length of time from forcing his attentions upon them.

Given Annetta (or Annette) Daisy's easy familiarity with the press, it is not a big surprise to find out that she wrote for the newspapers herself. (This September 16, 1893 article in the New York Times on the Cherokee land run has been attributed to Daisy, though there is no byline.) 

In a December 23, 1893 article in the Star 
(in New Zealand!), the following progress report was provided on Daisy's Amazons:
A new feminine Utopia, from which man is excluded, has been established in the Cherokee Strip, U.S., and it bears the appropriate name of the Daisy Community. It was generally told in the newspapers prior to the opening of the Strip that Miss Annette Daisy, a Kentuckian of some celebrity as a boomer in previous land openings, was camped on the line with some forty spinsters and widows, and purposed [sic] leading them into the Strip to secure a section or so and establish a women's settlement. Miss Daisy and her project were lost sight of in the shuffle and scramble that followed the rush over the boarder. But the missionary found twenty-two of the Daisy Colonists settled on three-quarter sections, aggregating about 480 acres, a few miles west of Ponca. They had erected two houses and four rough shelters, and had begun to improve the land.  A horrid man secured the off quarter of the section, and they have been trying to buy him out, but he seems well pleased with his neighbours and declines to leave.

Then there was article that appeared in the Philadelphia Record on December 30, 1893:

Of the thirty-six women who, under the leadership of Miss Annette Daisy, made a run into the Cherokee Strip when it was opened last September, 22 have proved undaunted by the difficulties of their undertaking, and are busily engaged in perfecting a home with no man to make or mar. They are hauling the lumber themselves for a house of 15 rooms, which they will occupy, and are prepared to to do their own plowing, planting, etc. in the well-watered timbered section of 480 acres which they hold. They already have three teams, two cows, chickens and other stock, and neatly dressed in short skirts that come just below the knee, and are met by heavy woolen leggings that cover the legs from knee to ankle. They appear in fit condition to hold their own and carry out their plucky plan.

The same story appeared in the Daily Oklahoman, Edmond Sun-Democrat, and Cherokee Advocate (quoted here) in February 1894, and in many other papers as far away as Wanganui, New Zealand.

Ponca City (1930s)
This report, if accurate, suggests that the April 1892 homesteading effort (described in the long passage above regarding Daisy's Amazons) did not take, but that an effort commencing in September 1893 with a larger group did sustain itself--at least for a few months.

Some scholars have wondered if the Daisy Colony could have been the same settlement as Bathsheba, but since Bathsheba was reportedly long gone by 1894, that seems unlikely.

In the odd words of her premature 1891 obituary in the New York Times, Daisy was saluted as "a Kentucky girl and a Bohemian in every sense, with a spirit of gentleness in her little body that endeared her to all who came in contact with her." No doubt she was all of that and more.

Additional thoughts: Ever since I discovered Annette Daisy, I keep thinking how her life would make an amazing movie. Maybe the first-ever real lesbian Western? Not that Hollywood would touch it. But maybe some independent feminist and/or lesbian film maker?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bathsheba (or Bethsheba), Oklahoma

Garfield County, Oklahoma (1895)
Bathsheba, Oklahoma (also known as Bethsheba, Oklahoma)

Location: Said to have been located somewhere in Garfield County between Enid (Garfield County) and Perry (Noble County), Oklahoma, USA. Also described as a "three hour horse ride west of Stillwater."

Opened: September 16, 1893 or thereabouts

Closed: About 12 weeks after it started--if it ever started at all

Bathsheba (or Bethsheba) is reportedly a women's ghost town, its exact location a mystery. At least Dr. John W. Morris was unable to determine its whereabouts in his book, Ghost Towns of Oklahoma (1977). As a result, he did not include a separate entry on the town he called Bethsheba, though he did observe the following (p. 19):

Bethsheba, probably the most peculiar of all ghosts towns in Oklahoma, was not written about because its specific location between Enid and Perry is not known. (Bethsheba was settled by women and exclusively for women. No males of any species--roosters, bulls, male horses, or men--were admitted to the settlement. It is said to have had a population of thirty-three, but twelve deserted after the first week. The remaining members disappeared one night and Bethsheba became a female ghost.

A slew of AP articles also ran on Bathsheba in 1981. See these examples in the Gadsden Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In 2006, at the Cherokee Strip Museum site, it was reported that a local woman named Ronda Stucks was writing a book about the "all-woman community of Bathsheba," but I can find no evidence that this book was ever published. However, the following information about Bathsheba is dutifully conveyed:

Research at the Cherokee Strip Museum here discloses several interesting facts. The museum has copies of detailed articles about Bathsheba. One is from a 1982 edition of the Stillwater NewsPress and the other is an unattributed reproduction which appears to be from the Oklahoma Historical Society's Oklahoma Chronicles. The latter piece is signed by the late Robert E. Cunningham of Stillwater, the author of Perry, Pride of the Prairie, published in the late 1960s and now out of print. There is no byline on the newspaper article but it probably is based largely on Bob Cunningham's account.

Both of the above documents use the spelling "Bethsheba," not "Bathsheba," and no explanation is given. "As the name would indicate," Mr. Cunningham wrote, "it was a town of women, where male horses, male chickens and male hogs were excluded, along with the male of their own specie. This unusual town sprang up on the prairie in the Cherokee Strip a few days after the opening on September 16, 1893. Towns had a habit of appearing and disappearing on the Oklahoma prairie in those days, just like mirages, and Bethsheba lasted just about as long as mirages do.

"An early day news reporter from Kansas fixed the location of this town as midway between Perry and Enid," the article continues. "In its boom days Bethsheba had a mayor, a police chief and a city council. The principal duty of the police chief was to chase men away from the town. The village originally consisted of 33 members, but 12 of them deserted after the first week, and one was expelled when it was learned she had a razor in her possession, the reporter learned. The local court held that masculine implements were subversive to the vital principles of the community."

Visiting the town, the reporter recognized the mayor. She was a former Kansas woman who, when well beyond the bloom of youth, married a drummer, as traveling salesmen were called in those days. It later turned out that the drummer had a wife and seven children in another state. No wonder the mayor was bitter.

The reporter wrapped up his story with a flourish of rhetoric: "Let us waive the throes of blighted affection, and the pangs of a heart without an affinity, which must have driven them (the town's female settlers) to this extremity. Let us be practical. These women have renounced the opposite sex; they have banished it from their heart-stones. But hold! Is not the primal object of every community perpetuity? Can this retreat of women have a continued existence, and a value in the world, under this one-sided single sex system? In a word, can there be a cackle without a crow? We wot (know) not."

The reporter's managing editor was not satisfied with the story and ordered the uncomfortable writer to return to Bathsheba in search of names and former addresses. Bob Cunningham describes that journey like this:

"After almost three hours in the saddle, (the reporter) arrived in the general area of the town he sought, but he saw no tents, no wagons or gaunt horses searching the prairie for a nibble of dry grass. He looked around for landmarks to make certain he had traveled in the right direction, and found his navigation had been correct. Bathsheba was gone.

P. J. Lassek in Oklahoma Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff (2008) openly speculates whether Bethsheba ever existed at all:

Oklahoma's Own Sappho
Bethsheba

It's hard to know whether the settlement of Bethsheba really existed or was just a feminine figment of someone's imagination. Maybe it was a tale concocted and passed down through generations to discourage women from considering a life free of male influence and dominance. While there is no documentation that verifies it existed briefly in 1893 somewhere in Garfield County between Enid and Perry, there are a few unattributed accounts with interesting facts about the town at the Cherokee Strip Museum in Perry and a few theories floating around.

It is reported that the all-female commune barred all males--humans and animals alike. There were absolutely no men, no stallions, no boars, no bulls, no roosters, or even tomcats allowed. The settlement was supposedly formed by a group of disgruntled women that were anti-men. Because reporters at the time were male, those who attempted to write about Bethsheba were forced to do it from afar using binoculars and assumptions. Of course, in those days when land runs drew single women willing to stake land without a husband, and settlement came and went as often as the winds shifted, who would know whether Bethsheba was fact or fiction?

Abandoned house in Potter Community,
Garfield County, Oklahoma



Garfield County, Oklahoma
Regarding the accounts by the unnamed Kansas reporter, Lassek reveals that the reporter's so-called facts about the disappearance of the town were contradictory. One account stated that he returned to find abandoned equipment and empty dwellings. Another stated he returned to find nothing, no tents, wagons, or even livestock.

It is also suggested that male violence (not just feminine fears and loneliness for men) may have played a role in the settlement's demise--IF it ever existed. Lassek also offers another rather silly theory--and with no particular evidence to back it up:

The town had just disappeared. Some say the women vanished in the middle of the night and were either ambushed by a pack of men or lonely for the security of men. I'd like to think that if there was a Bethsheba its demise came because the women realized that strength and independence came from within and not necessarily at the price of isolation.

The one element in the Kansas reporter's account that makes me think this might be just one big yarn is his strange "greeting" by the denizens of Bathsheba, and their presumably "druidistic" destruction of a rooster. Maybe just a little bit over the top? Something about it just doesn't ring true for me. See here for a fuller account:

As I moved closer the woman raised the gun once more, while the remainder of the population held their hands over their ears. Some averted their faces, presumable dreading to see the death throes of another human being, even though he happened to be a man.

I heard a loud report, and a cloud of black smoke billowed out of the gun barrel. Since the gun was pointed in my general direction, obviously the shot was for me. I felt no pain, and saw no blood darkening my once white shirt. My presumption, nurtured by hope, was right. Annie Oakley did not live in the village.

The woman dropped the gun as soon as she discharged it, and all raced toward their tents and disappeared. The chief, gathering her long skirt up around her hips, outran all the rest….

Some miles further on I met a farmer. He told me the village was made up entirely of women, who abjured the masculine sex completely. In proof of this he said that some of his chickens strayed into the settlement, and among the chickens was a rooster. The women killed this unlucky fowl with druidistic rites.

"A neighbor, who had managed to chisel a dugout out of the hard ground a mile away, said the women disappeared one night because, they told his wife, they were lonely and afraid, and that dissension had blighted their expected happiness. They went back to the land of men."

One note to add here. A caller advises me that the all-female town was located south of Garber in Garfield county. Otherwise, I have nothing else to contribute.

This article by Emily Jerman in the Oklahoma Gazette (dated June 4, 2009) also provides additional detail on "Bethsheba" as well as the umarried (white) women who participated in the 1893 Northwest Oklahoma/Cherokee Outlet land run--which was made possible, by the way, because of the forced removal of the Cherokee from the land that had been promised to them.

One of the major controversies in Bathsheba scholarship is whether a woman named Annette Daisey (or Daisy) and her "Daisey Colonists" were behind "Bethsheba"--or whether they led ANOTHER effort to establish all-woman settlement a few miles west of Ponca, Oklahoma, which apparently had no name. The Daisey colonists allegedly settled on 480 acres, and eventually developed a settlement which included two houses and four shelters by December 1893. While the stories of Bethsheba and the Daisey colony are similar, we're also told that both Bethsheba and Daisey's name fail to show up in any Garfield County records of the period.

Bathsheba has inspired at least one work of fiction, a novel by Barbara D. Devault called A Gentle Breed (1997).