Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Woman's Coffeehouse

Woman's Coffeehouse

Location: 1900 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Opened: 1975

Closed: September 1989

This is reproduced from outhistory. I am not including the original footnotes or links here, so if you are interested in addtional documentation, check out the source. Besides, you'll find lots of other interesting stuff to read at outhistory anyway, so go visit the website when you have a few hours to spare.

Begun in 1975 at the Lesbian Resource Center, the collectively-owned venue was an apparent first—it offered a chemically free late-night venue for queer women that did not enjoy the bar scene at Ladies Night, Foxy's Bar, or The Town House Bar.

Toni McNaron, a respected University of Minnesota professor, was among the queer-indentified feminists who comprised a majority at A Woman’s Coffeehouse. After moving to basement space at the Plymouth Congregational Church, the Coffehouse women gathered in semi-privacy.

At the time, many women were frightened of entering “known” lesbian spaces; the FBI kept tabs on women’s gatherings at the time. Many women were simply afraid of losing their occupations, including respected University of Minnesota professor Toni McNaron and future State Representative Karen Clark.

Typically open on the weekends, the coffeehouse was a performance space and a venue for lively (if sometimes heated) discussions about lesbian issues. These gatherings were largely constructive; the coffeehouse reached out to women of color after some patrons accused the establishment of exclusively catering to white women.

In a 1985 flyer, the collective announced “some of our main goals are to bridge the cultural gaps between white women and women of color and break down the walls of alienation that have been built up over the years.” That same year, approximately half of the patrons were people of color, and the same balance existed on stage.

The coffeehouse predated the 1980s lesbian bar scene in St. Paul, and eventually the business model proved ineffective. Women who abstained from alcohol grew tired of the venue, and began going to lesbian-friendly bars to dance with other women. Membership dwindled, and the organization closed in September of 1989.

University of Wisonsin-Madison professor Anne Enke wrote extensively of A Woman’s Coffehouse in her book: Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism. Information for this page is the result of her extensive study.

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