Monday, April 16, 2012

Women-only sections at the moving picture show

The Perils of Pauline (1914)
Women-only sections at the moving picture show

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: Proposed February 1914

We recently discussed the 1914 proposal to create "manless saloons" within the City of Pittsburgh, so as to prevent wanton females from getting looped in the company of strange men. (Obviously, their virture would be left intact, ahem, if only in the company of other women.)

Turns out that this was just one of the City's ladies-only proposals from that year. The Mayor decreed that even the movies were to be subject to sex segregation:

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 19--Mayor Joseph G. Armstrong has sent to Charles S. Hubbard, director of public safety, an order that will separate men and women in moving picture shows throughout the city. The mayor's plan is to have all such audience rooms divided into three sections, one for men, one for women and one for women accompanied by men.

The order followed many complaints of annoyances to which women and girls have been subjected while the lights were out.

Apparently Pittsburgh women were not afraid to speak up and register complaints about male sexual harassment. But did they specifically request their own theater section as a remedy? Or was a women-only theater section created and conceived by municipal government officials? Again, we'll have to follow up on this in the archives to find out for sure.

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