Friday, July 29, 2011

Moonshadow Lounge

Moonshadow Lounge
Moonshadow Lounge (a/k/a Moonshadow Night Club)

Location: 10437 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California, USA

Opened: Around 2002?

Closed: 2011

Here's how Curve described Moonshadow back in October 2009:

Owners Sharon Pfeiffer and Cindy Heberling acquired this dreamily atmospheric lounge about seven years ago and since have turned into a choice lesbian hangout of North Hollywood. Events that include Sunday brunches, weekly karaoke and Thursday night meet and greets keep the patrons rolling in. But don’t confuse MoonShadow for a snobby “it” club. Games of beer pong and darts keep the setting down to earth and welcoming.

Going LA had a nice write-up too:

Lesbian bar in the valley.
Dreaming of an eclectic gathering spot for people to enjoy each other, Sharon & Cindy brought their desire into reality with MoonShadow. They each have interesting backgrounds in business, and as Sharon put it,wish to “bring together music of all venues, interesting people, art, and fun in a safe gathering spot that will bewitch many avenues of enjoyment for you, our clientele.

E How had some good things to say as well:

L.A. Weekly named Moon Shadow the best lesbian bar in Los Angeles. The club has dancing, pool tables, outdoor seating and exhibitions of local artwork. Appropriate to its name, Moon Shadow has a comfortable, cool environment lighted in subtle purple. A DJ spins tunes on most nights, but Tuesday nights are reserved for karaoke. Moon Shadow also hosts special events.

As always, clubfly's assessment was brief and just the facts:

 North Hollywood lesbian bar with DJ, pool tables, patio, jukebox, darts and video games..

We know that Moonshadow was still around in September 2010, because it made the list of best lesbian bars in LA. This is the first time we find out that Moonshadow actually had go-go girls (!):

Ad for Lesbian Prom, Moonshadow
This night club also packs in the patrons for Sunday Brunch and Tuesday Karaoke nights. It’s considered one of the hottest lesbian clubs in Los Angeles, and certainly the Valley’s hottest locale. Live music and go-go girls are other high points.

Rumors were that this new crazy self came with new management.

We also see evidence that Moonshadow was open as of February 2011, because Moonshadow held a lesbian prom to benefit the Trevor Project on the 13th.

But by March 2011, a bar called The Other Door was at this location.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chez Moune

Chez Moune signage

Chez Moune
Chez Moune

Location: 54 Rue Pigalle, Paris, France

Founded: 1936

Closed: Converted to a (straight) "hipster" place in 2008/2009

Here is what appears to be an older review of Chez Moune at navigaia:

Located in the attractive Pigalle area, Chez Moune is Paris' lesbian cabaret. The all female cast provide a diverse and entertaining show, including dance, comedy and song. The staff are also exclusively female, and Saturday nights are reserved exclusively for ladies. Thursday night is karaoke night, and you can be assured of a lively atmosphere. Entry is free for ladies, and drinks are reasonably priced - do you need any more convincing?

Chez Moune patrons
And this is a later review at partyearth, which just revels in Chez Moune's new (distinctly non-lesbian) "hipster" cachet:

Opened in 1936 by Madame Moune as a lesbian ladies-only club in the heart of Pigalle’s red light district, Chez Moune was converted in 2008 to a late-night dancing den for eclectic, stylish hipsters and fashionistas. An embellished Chez Moune emblem above a small doorway points patrons toward a steep staircase, at the bottom of which they pass through a set of swinging doors and into a dark and grungy space. The décor of black and mirror tiles and big gold frames is sparse and manages to convey a raw cabaret chic. This devil-may-care vibe is also embodied in the single sheet of notebook paper tacked to the wall that serves as the venue’s only drink menu. A simple bar and a wall of long couches lead to an elevated stage and DJ station and a small dance floor, where a mix of artists, hipsters, and alternative types create a youthful, whimsical, and dance-happy atmosphere. On occasion, the DJs are accompanied by theatrical and musical guests that help evoke the club’s burlesque history, making the vibe all the more intense and reminiscent of Berlin’s underground club scene.

This review from paris.unlike is also enthusiastic about the new (basically straight) Chez Moune:

If you are searching for a club ambiance similar to the one of Polanski’s “Blue Parrot” in the movie Frantic, Chez Moune is the place to go. Founded in 1936 by the infamous Madame Moune as a “Cabaret Lesbienne” with a strict girls-only door policy, it’s now a very popular spot for fashion week soirées and other hipster parties.
The slightly faded glitz and glamour of the cabaret is also a trademark of its neighborhood, Pigalle, the red-light district in-between the 9th and the 18th arrondissement. Other local hangouts in the area sport adventurous names such as “Lorelei” or “Schätzle”—each with their own mysterious-looking mademoiselles perched in the dim lighted window displays. So if it’s girls, boys or just a good time that you are looking for… you will be sure to find it in or around Chez Moune.

We see the same sentiment at redvisitor:

Located in Paris' cutting-edge red light district just south of Pigalle, in the shadow of the Moulin Rouge and amongst the area's sex-shops and hostess bars, is the legendary nightclub, Chez Moune. Founded in 1936 by Madame Moune as the city of light's original lesbian cabaret, it was taken over in 2008 by La Clique, the team behind cult Paris nightspot, Le Baron. No longer a female-only venue, the art deco building now plays host to a hip mixed crowd who move on from the buzzing Sans Souci bar just across the street at around midnight to come and party here into the early hours. Formerly patronised by iconic songstress Edith Piaf, today the club draws in the hipsters with fashion week after parties and cutting edge music more towards the electro end of the musical spectrum. Entry is free, but have no illusions, this is still one of Paris’ trendiest clubs and the door policy is strict: only those who fit the bill are granted admission into the long narrow club space decorated with flamboyant gilt and red velvet aplenty.  

Needless to say, the jeune filles over at girlports were pretty glum about the changes to this old lesbian institution:

Chez Moune was probably the longest-running lesbian bar in the world, opened back in 1936.  But sadly, in summer, 2009 it was bought up by new owners who've decided they no longer want it to be exclusively for women.  It's been said that this will become more of a mixed venue, but we'll have to see if that means LGBT, or straight mixed with gays.


Katmandou ad

Location: 21, rue du Vieux-Colombier, Paris, France

Opened: December 1969

Closed: 1990s

The translation is a bit creaky, but this is how the opening of Katmandou was announced back in the day:

December 2, 1969 Elul Perrin will open with Aimee Mori "The Kathmandu" at 21 rue du Vieux Colombier.  From the outset, the lesbian club will stand out from other institutions for girls. First, it is exclusively women and men can, in principle, to enter. Next, Kathmandu is a fashionable club and to the ranks of the boy antique male costume of the other clubs. Here the girls are young, modern, in a miniskirt or shorts. They dance the jerk or twist the mind and more free of hippies as their mothers. Finally, if women are queens, they are not exclusively homosexual....Elul Perrine is not only a great figure of the night Paris but also a lesbian activist force.

Nadine Cattan tells us the rest of the story--in better English, thankfully!-- in her article on "Virtual networks and emphemeral centralities for lesbians in Paris:"

The recent history of lesbian places in Paris can be dated back to the opening of a women-only night-club in the early 1970s, the Katmandou, which was managed by Elula Perrin and Aimee Mori, and dominated lesbian nightlife until the 1990s. The exclusion of men, though never strictly enforced, allowed for a degree of lesbian visibility. Located on the Left Bank, close to the famous night-clubs of the 1960s such as Chez Regine and Chez Castel, it was a sophisticated place, patronized by relatively well-heeled women and celebrities, whether lesbian or not: the place was therefore quite exclusive socially. Despite spotless management, as the police itself was forced to acknowledge, the club was harassed by neighbours who found the presence of a lesbian night-club at the foot of their building unacceptable. New occupants of the building in the 1990s became even more hostile, and managed to have the place shut down by complaining of the "noise" (according to Elula Perrin, these new neighbours were close to political spheres of power). "Parents can now let their little darlings walk past the 21 rue du Vieux-Colombier, it has become a luxury leather goods shop. Middle class, sleep soundly (Perrin, 2000, p. 193).

Advertisement for Katmandou

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


1959 wedding at Jimmy White's


Location: Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida, USA

Opened: early 1970s?

Closed: late 1970s?

Mcfilmfest is a is a great site for reminiscing about lost gay and lesbian bars in central Florida. 

According to Mcfilmfest, Jimmy White's, a gay bar, originally started at what later became Cucojo's location in the late 1950s. After Cucojo's reign as a lesbian bar, the space became The Old Plantation and then The Village Station. The Village Station apparently died sometime in the 1980s.

Pat the Plumber, also at Mcfilmfest, recalls the following:

When I moved to Tampa from Cleveland in 1975, Jimmy White’s had become “Cucojo’s” It was quite large with an accommodating dance floor and stage, complemented by paintings and posters on the walls of intriguing, cavernous hallways.

After drumming and before plumbing, my first job in Tampa was as a barmaid at the Sheraton Inn downtown. When I got off work at 1:00 a.m., Cucojo’s was my oasis after a night of artificial heterosexual hyperbolic conversation. Week nights were quiet and thus became my “safe place” where I met Zelda D., who worked at the Springs Movie Theatre until 1:00 a.m. also. Zelda would read and write poetry right there at the bar. It was through my friendship with Zelda that I met Diana Estorino who published Network News, a Tampa lesbian newsletter in the 80’s, and who produced wonderful New Year’s Eve parties for us at the Armory.

Week night regulars at Cucojo’s were literally the salt of the earth - working class gay people with socially prohibitive evenings because of their work hours, finding friendship and acceptance at this bar owned by Mama Dee. Mama Dee celebrated holidays and special occasions with memorable galas. Her partner, Mama Pat, went all out on St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish feast and personally pouring a shot of Irish whiskey for everyone and bestowing a kiss from a “real Irish Mother.” Mama Pat continued that personal touch when she operated the Carousel Lounge.

We were greeted at the door at Cucojo’s by “Big Lu,” the quintessential butch of her time, and served our respective libation by Dolly, who tended that long, long, bar with her scooting stool, and compensated her height with a beaming smile.

Lost lesbian bars of Florida

As I was rummaging around on the Internet, I found little bits and pieces about various lesbian bars that had once existed in the state of Florida. So far, I haven't come up wth enough information on any of these to warrant a full write up. But here are the nuggets I have located thus far:

Another End
Location: Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida
1986 - ?
According to Pat the Plumber, former editor of Womyn's Words: It was there in July of that year we got to see Melissa Etheridge for $5.00! A full-page ad with her picture was in that month's issue of Womyn's Words.

Location: Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: BJ was the mother of all lesbians! Judy B. Goode came out there one night. BJ also owner of the “Oasis.” Anybody know where she is today? Darlen said that she saw her & she is doing good.

Location: Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida
From Mcfilmfest: A women's bar open for about a year in the early to late 80s

Cherokee Club
Location: 1320 East 9th Avenue, Tampa, Florida (Ybor City neighborhood)
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: It was an upscale New Orleans style women’s club. Managed for 7 years by Darlen.

Location: 14095 North Nebraska, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: lesbian club

Foolish Beat
Location: Park Avenue, Seminole, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: A women’s bar with live entertainment

Location: Grand Central, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
Not much is said about this bar at Mcfilmfest, but they do include a photo of what sure looks like a very cute butch-femme couple (see above).

Key Largo
Location: Highway 441, Lockhart, Florida
1988 - ?
From the Central Florida GLBT Timeline: Key Largo opened in the former location of Margo's, a redneck country and western bar on Highway 441 in Lockhart. At the time, it was believed to be the largest lesbian entertainment complex in the United States with over 15,000 square feet of space on 2 and 1/2 acres.

Kim's Club
Location: Kennedy Avenue, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: A women’s Magic club. Owned by Kim Magic. Was formerly the Annex, a gay bar that closed in 1997.

Location: Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: A women’s club managed by Sharon Romero, who now lives in New Orleans.

Location: Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa Florida
? - 1997
From Mcfilmfest: A "ladies bar" owned by BJ.

The Other End:
Location: Madeira Beach, Florida
? - ?
From Rand Hall at Mcfilmfest: A cozy women’s beer, wine and juke joint on Maderia Beach that was popular for many years. Bartenders included Yancy and D.J. Local women’s bands, Buffalo Shoes, Silk Heat and others, as well as out-of-town performers, often played there. It was torn down in the
80’s and replaced by a marine supply store.

From Pat the Plumber, also at Mcfilmfest: Stopping for a cold beer at The Other End after a day of installing drain pipes (working with all men from 7:30 am - 4:00 pm) was something to look forward to.

The Other End was on Madeira Beach, run by none other than “Butch” the bartender, a legend in her own time. After Butch came “Captain Jack” a woman ahead of her time and recognition; and then operated by Pat and Mary who also owned The Well of Happiness Bookstore next door.

The Other End was a gathering place for memorable women - including Mullet Mary, Rhonda, and Judy the Elvis impersonator. I remember seeing the Fallopian Tubes there for the first time - decked out in nun’s habits - and one of the first local bands called Buffalo Shoes.

I remember dancing with Kim to You Need Me by Anne Murray, I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again by Dionne Warwick, and Blue Bayou by Linda Ronstadt.

The Rainbow Club
Location: The Harbor house on the river in Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: Was a Black Lesbian Club. Later became “Tampa Eagle #3″

Location: 4643 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: Was also known as Backside Club. Today it’s a liquor store. A famous woman’s club.

Sports Page
Location: 13344 66 Street, North Largo, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest:  a lesbian bar that is now the home of Christopher Street, a men's bar

Uncle Charlie's
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
? - ?
From Mcfilmfest: Located in downtown St. Pete in the early 80’s. A women’s bar with pool tables.


Sue Hannah of Faces

Location: 4910 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, Florida, USA

Opened: 1983

Closed: 2007

This piece by Deanna Sheffield is the most comprehensive account I have seen on Faces. It was written as a tribute to Faces owner Sue Hannah, who died from cancer in 2007.

Sue Hannah was no slacker. Hannah spent nearly 50 years quietly carving out a name for herself as the owner of Faces, the city’s only lesbian bar; as a leader in the gay community (though she shied away from publicity); and as a devout supporter of the down and out.

Her favorite cause was aiding lesbians with cancer, making her death in February of cancer at 63 somewhat grimly ironic. In mid-January, Hannah learned she had lung cancer that had spread to her liver. Two weeks later, on Feb. 4, she died.

But the community hasn’t forgotten Hannah, who was outspoken in her beliefs back when it wasn’t considered safe to be “out.” She was a pioneer at a time when gay gatherings happened at someone’s house or took place secretly in local clubs. Those who knew her best called her the “chairman of the broads.”

“She was just really a down-to-earth gal. She was plain-spoken and honest and always said yes,” says Debbie Simmons, who met Hannah more than 25 years ago. “She was certainly noteworthy. She was one of the pillars here for us.”

Hannah was born in a small Georgia town and moved to Orlando in 1958, where she worked for a catering company. In 1969, Hannah began working as a bartender at Palace, the future home of Faces. She worked there through the early 1980s. For a while she and her late partner, Angie Spruill, operated games and arcades at a midway and traveling carnivals. She also managed the first local women’s bottle club (pay $7 and get free liquor, provided you buy setups), called Sapphos. She later owned the clubs Cheeks and Key Largo.

By 1983, Hannah had saved enough money to allow her and Spruill to buy a bar on Edgewater Drive called the Odds and Ends. Hannah dubbed the bar Faces, and it opened that same year, quickly becoming a haven for the gay community, predominantly lesbians. The bar held a special place in her heart and consumed much of her time.

“I’ve seen her break up fistfights, take care of people and make sure people didn’t drive while intoxicated,” Simmons says, noting that the bar “was Sue’s life.”

She wasn’t stingy with her bar proceeds, dumping much of it into causes ranging from AIDS and cancer to the Humane Society, heart disease and mental illness. Assisting women who had cancer always remained her favorite cause. Just two weeks before she was diagnosed with cancer, she helped a cancer survivor who underwent a radical mastectomy raise more than $10,000.

Hannah lost her mother and several family members to cancer. Spruill and Spruill’s sister and mother also died of cancer. Spruill died shortly after the couple bought Faces.

Ten days before she died, Hannah was chosen to receive a humanitarian award for her efforts in assisting lesbians fighting cancer. A representative from the Juno Foundation informed Hannah of her recognition as she lay in the hospital; she received the Xena Award posthumously.

Hannah enjoyed helping out the individuals-turned-friends who patronized her business, frequently holding fund-raisers at the bar. It wasn’t unusual for her to have someone going through hard times staying at her house. She also bought meals for the homeless at area restaurants, says Wanda Waldrop, Hannah’s sister-in-law.

“She’d help anyone in trouble. She had so much compassion for people,” Waldrop says. “She helped everyone; that’s the reason she was so popular.”

Jimi Sue, who worked with Hannah for decades, noted during her memorial that she also had a special knack for remembering everyone she met.

“One of her true talents was that she never forgot a name with a face. If you walked into her club 25 years ago, she still would know your name today, who you dated, what you were doing from the last time you met and what you drank,” Sue says.

In July 2009, a new lesbian club, R Bar, opened at Faces' old location:

A pillar of Orlando’s gay bar scene is opening tabs again. R Bar – formerly Faces – is up and running at 4910 Edgewater Drive, with a fresh coat of paint, some new furniture, and some familiar faces, including manager Gayle Lewis, who has worked with the bar for nearly a decade.
Ad for R Bar
“It’s still a women’s bar. All are welcome, but we’re catering toward a lesbian crowd,” said Lewis.

The bar has gone through some ups and downs over the years. Sue Hannah was the original owner, but when she passed away a couple of years ago, Faces shut down. It reopened under new ownership but Lewis said they went from full liquor to beer and wine and it was never the same, so it shut down again toward the end of last year.

Backed by an investor, Lewis opened it again in June, and said the new name came from Hannah.

“She used to say, ‘It’s not your bar, it’s not my bar, it’s our [R] bar,’” said Lewis. “A lot of bars have certain nights for women, but nowhere else in Orlando is this one home.”

Lewis said it was “hard to see it sitting there for months with a For Rent sign,” but they’ve been open for about a month, are getting some good crowds, and have some excellent entertainment coming up.

But within a year, R Bar was reportedly gone as well....

Co-ed Prom

Co-ed Prom, University of Pittsburgh
Co-ed Prom

Location: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Founded: 1915

Closed: 1938

When the first trickle of women entered the University of Pittsburgh at the turn of the century, they were relatively well received. But as their numbers grew--especially with the opening of the School of Education--male hostility increased. By the time of the first World War, women students were petitioning for a Dean of Women to help look after their interests. The first hire was Thyrsa Wealhtheow Amos, who served from 1919 to 1941. Amos strongly encouraged activities "for women only" as she believed these activities would help women students develop leadership skills and confidence.

Co-ed Prom, University of Pittsburgh
One of the results was the Co-ed Prom, which was the Women's Athletic Association's big social event of the year. (Though strictly speaking, Co-ed Prom actually started three years before Amos's tenure.) Note that in this context, co-ed does not mean that it involved both sexes. It means involving just "co-eds" as in just women. Senior women, we're told, "in their brothers' Hickey Freemans, escorted their beribboned little sisters, the freshmen." Amazingly, given increasing Freudian anxiety about homosexuality during the 1920s and 30s, these dances lasted till 1938. They were then promptly replaced with the "Bal Mystique," a dance for both men and women. Not till many decades later would all those baby butches have a chance to don a tuxedo again....

Postscript: Here's a short article on what was apparently the last prom:  Pittsburgh Press (March 27, 1938)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Synodical College

Synodical College (1914)
Synodical College

Location: Fulton, Missouri, USA

Founded: 1842

Closed: 1928

Synodical College was a Presbyterian school for women that operated from 1842-1928.  It was initially an academy and later began to offer college-level programs. 
Synodical College yearbook (1927)
It was known as the Fulton Female Academy when it was founded by Rev. William W. Robertson. It came after the official auspices of  the Presbyterian Church after 1871, and became a college in 1873.

Synodical College was recognized by the University of Missouri as a standard junior college after 1916. Then in 1925 the Synod of Missouri approved a resolution at a meeting in St. Joseph, Missouri to enhance the curriculum with the goal of providing a four year collegiate program. The initial steps toward the goal included an affiliation agreement with Westminster College (then an all-male school)  for sharing of some faculty and courses. Synodical College then closed in 1928.

Photos: Synodical College, around 1914. 1927 yearbook at Synodical College.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Katherine Hepburn in "Sylvia Scarlett" (1935)

Location: 1320 Chancellor Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: ?

Closed: Late 1995

In her book Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire (2003), author Amy Villarejo relates the following tale:

In college and the years just after, I frequented a lesbian bar called Hepburn's. Named obviously after Katherine, the bar was decorated with production-still enlargements of Hepburn's face. Teeny pads of lavender paper, with a discrete Hepburn's across the top, sat in old-fashioned glasses alongside miniature pencils, ready for the exchange of phone numbers and note-taking. (On reflection it appears that I did more of the latter than the former.) On one of those pads, about ten years ago, I wrote "Sylvia Scarlett. Why lesbian?"

Most of the photographs in that bar featured Hepburn in her famous cross-dressing role in the 1935 film Sylvia Scarlett, directed by the gay and extraordinary George Cukor. With hair slicked back and shirt collar framing her young patrician face, Hepburn's image as a dashing boy clearly excited a lesbian reading, set lesbian somehow reverberating. Hepburn's--the bar--borrowed the image and also those excitations, that indeterminate allure, for its own.

Unfortunately, Kim Brittingham's recollections of her first experience at Hepburn's are far less nostalgic:

In my early 20s, I went to a lesbian nightclub called Hepburn's in Philadelphia with some gay friends. Despite growing up in a house full of self-righteous bigots, I retained a socially liberal core. Like pancakes in a Teflon pan, my parents' lessons had a tendency to smack the surface and slide right off again. So it wasn't that strange to find me in a gay club. I rather enjoyed looking. And to my utter fascination, there were quite a few women there who didn't look like lumberjacks. How could my mother have missed this?

A female ambled over to us. She was what you'd call "butch." She thrust her face close into mine, scowling. "Are you gay?" she demanded.

I immediately felt foolish. The fact is, I didn't know what I was. I dated guys because it was easier, but I felt like I could potentially be ... well, anything. I was flesh and nerves and thoughts and emotions and electrical impulses. And in that moment, all of it was caught off-guard.

"I ... I don't know," I stammered.
Sisters exterior
She shook her head and cackled.

She looked at my lesbian companion and said: "Certain people just have no business being here, ya know what I mean?"

To my dismay, my lesbian friend nodded.

After Hepburn's closed in late 1995, Sisters (another lesbian bar) opened at Hepburn's former location in June 1996. Apparently Sisters is still in business--and Philadelphia's only lesbian bar.  

However, even as late as 2007, Hepburn's still conjured up fond memories by former patrons. As Nicole R. mused, "Back in the day, Sisters used to be Hepburn's.  I really liked that name a lot better.  It lent it this air of class, of old movies and glamor."

Other former lesbian bars in Philadelphia (from the 1970s to the 90s) include Sneakers, Rusty's, Upstairs, PBL, and Rainbow's.

Photo: Katherine Hepburn in "Sylvia Scarlett" (1935). Exterior of Sisters.

All Women Mission to Mars?

"Optical Illusion" of woman on Mars
All Women Mission to Mars?

Location: Fourth planet from the sun

Founded/Ended: Between 2000 and 2004--and then only in the imagination?

NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle program ended last week.

Which got me thinking about space travel and its relationship to gendered "space" in space. Though NASA hosted many all-male missions going all the way back to the beginnings of the Mercury program, they never launched an all-female mission. In fact, it was a huge struggle to get women included in the space program at all.

As space historians will readily recall, the first man in space was Yuri Gugarin in 1961. The first woman was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, just two years later. But opportunities for women in space flight went rapidly downhill from there. Four other women were admitted into the USSR's female cosmonaut corp at the same time as Tereshkova, but none of them was ever granted the chance to fly--especially after the pioneering female cosmonaut group was dissolved in 1969. The second Soviet woman to go into space was 19 years after Tereshkova. That was Svetlana Savitskaya, who flew aboard Soyuz T-7 in 1982. In 1984, while on the Salyut 7 space station, Savitskaya became the first woman to do a space walk. Of the 57 Soviet/Russian spacewalkers, Savitskaya was the only woman. All together, only 6 women cosmonauts ever flew in the Soviet/Russian space program. 

We see a similar theme in the United States. Sally Ride, as we all know, was the first American woman in space. But that didn't happen till 1983--twenty years after Tereshkova. 

Three women join the International Space Station (2010)
As of April 2011, a total of 54 women had flown in space. This is out of total of nearly 530 persons--so you do the math. Of all the space shuttle missions, only 32 had included more than one woman. The highest number of women to ever be in space together? Four. That was in 2010, at the International Space Station. But even then, men outnumbered women at the Station by more than two to one.

The irony in all this is that research over nearly sixty years demonstrates that, if anything, women as a group are BETTER suited to space flight than men. Back in the mid 1950s, Dr. William R. Lovelace (a physician, surgeon, and aeromedical physiologist) and General Donald Flickinger (who was then the Air Force chief of bioastronautics) suspected that women's bodies might be better suited for space travel. Their hypothesis wasn't rooted in any sort of feminist ideology, but was strictly pragmatic:

Their proposition was based purely on physiology and practicality. They recognized that women's lighter weights would reduce the amount of propulsion fuel being used by the rocket's load and that women would require less auxiliary oxygen than men. They knew that women had fewer heart attacks than men and their reproductive system was thought to be less susceptible to radiation than a male's. Finally, preliminary data suggested that women could outperform men in enduring cramped spaces and prolonged isolation.

So in 1959, Flickinger established the Women in Space Earliest (WISE) program at the Air Force Air Research and Development Command (ARDC). But WISE quickly got quashed by the top brass:

Before WISE testing could begin the Air Force announced that it would no longer pursue the program. In response, Lovelace established a privately funded effort, the Woman in Space Program, in 1959. A total of 19 women were enrolled, most of whom had been selected from flight schools.

The women underwent the identical tests that the male candidates had undergone. In the end, 68% of the women passed with "no medical reservations" compared to 56% of the men. The 13 females who passed were known as the Mercury 13. They were Bernice "Bea" Steadman, Janey Hart, Geraldine "Jerri" Sloan Truhill, Rhea Allison Woltman, Sarah Lee Gorelick Ratley, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Myrtle Cagle, Irene Leverton, Gene Nora Jessen, Jean Hixson, Wally Funk and Geraldyn "Jerrie" Cobb.

But of course, none of these women ever got the chance to fly. NASA made sure of that by making male-only space flight an official policy.

This is a roundabout way of getting to the topic of Mars. Will we ever see any mission to Mars get off the ground, given the current budget woes at NASA? Who knows. And even though space flight has a long history of being male-only, is there a chance that there might be female-only space flight this time around? (Of course, a women-only mission would be roundly denounced as "discriminatory" and "sexist" even though male-only missions are accepted without comment.) In that vein, it's interesting that such a "radical" proposal was made back in 2000:

An all-woman crew to Mars: a radical proposal

Geoffrey A. Landis
Ohio Aerospace Institute, NASA Glenn mailstop 302-1, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, OH 44135, USA


It is logical to propose that if a human mission is flown to Mars, it should be composed of an entirely female crew. On the average, women have lower mass and take less volume than males, and use proportionately less consumables. In addition, sociological research indicates that a female crew may have a preferable interpersonal dynamic, and be likely to choose non-confrontational approaches to solve interpersonal problems. 

1. Introduction

Recently, a proposal has been made that a NASA space-shuttle mission should be flown with a entirely female crew. This proposal has attracted an unexpected amount of opposition.
In this article, I would like to suggest that this opposition may in fact be counter to logic; that in fact, the American and Russian space programs made an error right from the beginning: women are more logical candidates for space missions. I suggest that the proposal should be taken seriously that a Mars mission should be flown with a entirely female crew.
The concept of a single-sex space mission is hardly new – after all, Americans have sent 27 humans to the moon, all of them male, and the vast majority of the flight experience on the Russian Mir space station is with crews that were entirely male. In fact, out of the 278 astronauts who have flown on NASA missions (as of April 1999), only 31 have been female.
It is therefore apparently not the idea of a single-sex crew, but the idea of a specifically female crew that incites opposition.
If I were to suggest that the crew of a Mars mission be entirely male, the suggestion might be considered ‘politically incorrect,’ but it would hardly be considered impossible – after all, there have been dozens, probably even hundreds, of proposals for all-male missions to Mars.
Right now, 32 of NASA's 144 active-duty astronauts are women. So why not an all woman crew for a Mars mission?

2. Advantages of female crews

In the human species, women are on the average smaller than males: women use less oxygen, consume less consumables, produce less carbon dioxide. They have lower mass and take up less volume. The argument for an all-female crew is simple: such a crew would require considerably less support in the way of consumables, and allow a smaller spacecraft. This would produce a considerable savings in cost.
The reduction in body mass and the associated reduction in spacecraft mass and consumables is not the only argument for an all-female crew to Mars. For such an extended mission, which in many scenarios has a duration of up to three years, psychological compatibility and crew dynamics become critical issues in the crew selection.
It is difficult to quantify the interpersonal and crew-dynamic issues, and to separate out the effects of biology from culture. Statistics show that all-woman groups are far more likely to choose non-confrontational approaches to solve interpersonal problems, and most definitely are more likely to deal with a situation without resorting to violence – which could be a big problem on a Mars journey, where the crew must live in close quarters for 2–3 years. For example, in America, a male is about eight times more likely to commit a violent crime than a woman. This difference is remarkably consistent across different cultures. Statistics from three dozen human communities around the world, from Denmark to Zaïre, show that, with a single exception, the probability that a single-sex murder has been committed by a man instead of by a woman ranges from 85–100%.
Numerous sociological studies have shown that women, in general, are more cooperative, and less given to hierarchical social structures – all properties which may very well be highly desirable on a long-duration space mission. (Lest it appear that I am advocating some sort of genetic determinism, let me hasten to add that there is no evidence that the behavioral differences between groups of men and groups of women are based on intrinsic genetic differences, and not due to the different cultural expectations and training of men compared with women.)
In an article in Space Policy, Sykorá et al. also argue that women tolerate long-duration exposure to stress better, and have better patterns of coping with it. As they point out, this factor also suggests that a female crew would be preferred for a long duration mission.
The NASA experience on the Russian Mir spacecraft seems to confirm this: of all the American-born astronauts sent to Mir, the sole female astronaut, Shannon Lucid, despite having the longest stay on Mir, apparently had the least difficulty interacting with the Russian crew or adapting to the return to a gravity environment.

3. Osteoporosis

A possible counterargument to the otherwise persuasive arguments for a female crew is the supposed increased susceptibility of females to osteoporosis. Since bone calcium loss is a significant effect of microgravity, might not a male crew be preferred on these grounds alone?
Humans typically lose from 1 to 2% of their calcium (depending on the person, countermeasures, etc.) per month in space. There are indications that the rate of loss slows down with mission duration. Exercise and other countermeasures can help to decrease the loss.
Generally speaking, women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men. They are at a higher risk because by the time women achieve their peak bone mass (mid–30's) they end up having 10 to 30% less bone mass than men have at their peak bone mass. After this peak, men and women both lose bone. For a period of a few years during menopause, women lose bone at a faster rate than men; however, this difference in bone loss rate can be treated with estrogen-replacement therapy.
It is not all clear that bone calcium loss in microgravity and bone loss due to osteoporosis are similar effects, and no difference in bone loss between men and women has yet been confirmed in spaceflight data. The longest duration space flight by a woman, Shannon Lucid seems to have had, in fact, a lower bone loss than long duration flights by men. Since Lucid's total flight time of 233 days in space included a duration comparable to that required for a mission to Mars, it is very likely that differences in bone-loss rate between males and females is a non-issue.
It is also plausible to suggest that the same methods used to mitigate post-menopausal osteoporosis in women on the ground may very well be applicable to bone-loss in space; in this case, a female crew would actually be preferred, because of the considerably wider base of experience on the effects of these chemical countermeasures.
In any case, a mission to Mars is very likely to use an artificial-gravity spacecraft, such as a tether, in which case the purported problem will not be relevant. For these reasons, I suggest that the argument against an all-female crew based on the supposed hazard of osteoporosis lacks credible support.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, a Mars mission is unlikely to require raw physical strength, the one characteristic for which human males are, on the average, more highly endowed than females. The quantifiable advantages of lower body mass and decreased use of consumables alone would suggest that a female crew would be preferred to a male crew in any long duration mission; the issues of interpersonal dynamic, although difficult to quantify, at a minimum suggest that an all-female crew would in no way be worse than an all-male crew, and very likely may be better.
So: would an all-women crew be the ideal personnel for a Mars mission?

In 2004, Dr. William J. Rowe made a similar pitch for an all-female crew to Mars.

But that doesn't mean male entitlement won't raise it's ugly head again. Just last year, the Russians "banned" women from an 18-month mock mission to Mars. Their (bizarre) rationale? "Russian scientists made clear they did not want 'sexual tension' to disrupt an experiment in human endurance, and instead selected an all-male crew."

History repeats itself?

 Photos: "Optical illusion" of woman on Mars, sent from Mars explorer Spirit.
Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki will join Tracy Caldwell Dyson at the International Space Station, between them becoming the most women ever in orbit at the same time. Photograph: Gary I Rothstein/EPA