Tuesday, May 29, 2012

La Provence, Marrot Hotel

Marrot Hotel
La Provence, Marrot Hotel

Location: 2625 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Opened: In 1926 as residential hotel "for persons of distinction." La Provence, the "woman-only" bar, opened in 1953.

Closed: Hotel still open, though now doing business as Marrot Apartments. No evidence that La Provence is still open.

Here is the (condescending) notice in the Milwaukee Journal announcing the opening of La Provence on November 6, 1953:

Who Buys the Drinks in Women Only Bar?

Indianapolis, Ind. (AP) The Marrot, a fashionable hotel, announced Thursday that it would soon open a bar for women only.

Men can get into the gold and turquoise La Provence only if they are escorting a woman.

There is an added gimmick. The women may keep the fancy decanters if their order empties the bottle.

The story was also picked up by the Chicago Tribune (pay per view) and the Modesto Bee.

The comparatively late date on this story is astonishing. Had a hotel opened a "ladies only" bar some forty years earlier, nobody would have batted an eye. The "ladies-only" bar would have been seen as a more-or-less innocent complement to the men-only drinking establishments and nothing more. But by the early 1950s, it's hard to fathom that a woman-only bar could still be treated in the press as an amusing novelty, and not as something "tainted" by the possibility of lesbianism or "sexual perversion." Gay and lesbian historians have generally argued that the 1950s were the worst time for gay people, especially lesbians, who, to some extent, had been able to sail under the social radar until the Second World War or so. But by the early 1950s, neo-Freudian psychoanalysts, in cahoots with government officials, were "diagnosing" lesbianism everywhere. Women, perhaps more so than men, were being hounded out of federal and state jobs due to the witch hunts instigated by Joseph McCarthy and his political allies. McCarthy wasn't officially censured by the Senate till 1954, but the paranoid social policies he initiated lived on for many years afterwards.

So how did we come up with La Provence, an apparent throwback to another era? Your guess is as good as mine.

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