Monday, June 4, 2012

Garage for Women Only (Paris 1926)

Woman and Car (1926)
Garage for Women Only

Location: Paris, France

Opened/Closed: 1926

Note that this Parisian woman-only garage predates its London counterpart by a good three years. Although to be perfectly fair, this article only states that this garage is "being constructed," so it was obviously not yet complete and ready for business.

From the Rochester Evening Herald, July 17, 1926:

Garage for Women Only Is Proposed In Paris

By International News Service

PARIS, July 19--A garage for women only is being constructed in one of the most aristocratic quarters in Paris. The growing number of women who drive their own cars has brought about the necessity of such a building.

The ladies say they prefer to park their cars where there are no men. The mechanicians [sic], cleaners, etc. will be of the fair sex, but very likely wearing men's clothing.

Of course the comforts will include manicures, and a very modern hair-dressing parlor where Madame may "make over" her beauty when she returns from the promenade.

The London garage projects an almost earnest quaintness by comparison with its "solemn" dedication ceremony and Victorian amenities (i.e. ladies' writing room). By contrast, the Parisian garage comes across as aggressively chic and modern, and oozing all the glamor trappings of the New Woman (i.e. manicures, hair-dressing parlor). In some ways, it's almost TOO over the top. The Parisian garage seems less like a sisterly business endeavor than an erotically charged encounter between a high maintenance femme customer base and a score of overall-clad butch "mechanicians" (the London garage accounts totally play down this aspect of its operations).

If we pick up this vibe, we're not necessarily imagining it. By the 1920s, Paris already boasted a well-developed lesbian subculture. In addition, these were the years when Le Monocle, one of the oldest lesbian nightclubs, opened for business. And Le Monocle was defintely a butch-femme kind of place. So it certainly appears that this garage may have been one of the many lesbian-oriented "specialized same-sex establishments" that opened in Paris during those years.

And how many newspaper readers in Rochester, New York picked up on all this over their morning coffee?

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