Friday, October 12, 2012

Ms. Purdy's Women's Club

Ms. Purdy's Women's Club
Ms. Purdy's Women's Club

Location: 226 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1984-1990); 272 Sherbrook Street (1990-2002)

Opened: Established 1983; opened January 1984

Closed: August 2002

When she finally shut her doors for the last time, Ms. Purdy's was Canada's oldest lesbian bar--this according to the Rainbow Resource Centre. (However, they also report--erroneously--that the bar opened in 1974, not 1984.)

Here's how Gay-MART listed her back in the day:

Ms Purdy's Women's Club 226 Main, R3C 1A8, (204) 989-2344. Lesbian-owned or operated. Lesbian clientele, Gay men welcome Friday nights. Wheelchair accessible. Dancing, Pool Table, Games.

And Roughguide:

Ms Purdy's 226 Main St 204/989-2344 Long-running women-only lesbian bar

Fortunately there is a bit more detail in this piece from 2000, that apparently appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. (I say "apparently" because it's quoted in a Google group where the men are whining about all-women spaces and whether they should be "allowed.")

Ms. Purdys
In a city with so many live venues, Ms Purdy's remains a relatively unexploited gem. That's to be expected, since this intimate downtown space only allows men inside once a week.
Nevertheless the venue that claims to be North Americas longest running women's club is trying to expand its clientele by booking live acts a few times a month. Given the location and the atmosphere, this place deserves serious consideration as a jazz Winnipeg venue.
226 Main Street - Winnipeg today
"By its nature Ms Purdy's is a very exclusive place," says manager Rachael Stone. "We want women to feel comfortable there, but we also want men to feel comfortable on certain nights- we don't want this to be a clique."
Males are allowed in for all live performances. The next one is Nov 23 when Winnipeg singer songwriter Karen Kosowski takes the stage.

Another commentator at the same site reports the following (which may or may not be true). If true, though, this certainly illustrates the precarious existence of a lesbian bar:
272 Sherbrook Street today
Integrow Multicultural Job Centre

Ms. Purdy's was in its first form a dyke bar, it closed down for a couple of years and was rented by a couple of bands as a rehearsal space - one of those bands was mine. We had big parties in there, essentially social events with tickets, cash bar and stuff - usually to pay rent for the rehearsal space.
Thankfully, no one ever busted us for holding these events without all the required paperwork.
The place was cool, it had filthy bathrooms, a walk-in beer cooler, nice bar with draught taps and a fair amount of space. But, all good things come to and end and the dyke faction collected enough money to re-open the club known as Ms. Purdy's. Landlord opted for lesbians instead of rock bands as preferred tenants. Understandably so.

We are probably on surer footing with this information from the University of Manitoba library archives:

Shortly after The Winnipeg Women’s Building closed, a lesbian venue called Ms. Purdy's opened at 266 Main Street in January of 1984 and provided space for women artists to perform. By April, the club had more than 200 members and continued to thrive as the only lesbian social space in Winnipeg. Ms. Purdy's relocated to 272 Sherbrook Street in 1990 where it remained until it closed in August of 2002.

And finally, this is how Ms. Purdy's described herself:
Established in 1983, Ms. Purdy's Women's Club is North America's oldest continuously-run women's club and the only club of its kind in Manitoba.

As a not-for-profit private club, it is owned by its membership, who elects representatives to the Board of Directors annually. As the directing force of the organization, the Board oversees the aims and undertakings of the Club and is responsible to the general membership. Members are encouraged to participate, by attending monthly Board meetings, forums and the Annual General Meeting , as well joining committees to help the Club function and succeed.

Operated by minimal staff, Ms. Purdy's relies on volunteers for everything from bartending to carpentry to fundraising to event planning. It strives to offer employment and training to as many women as possible and there are many opportunity to get involved.

Ms. Purdy's strives to maintain facilities which provide the opportunity for women to meet on a casual basis in a comfortable social atmosphere. Whether it's quiet conversation over a drink, a pool game or a night of dancing, Ms. Purdy's offers a safe and welcoming environment.

Through diverse programming, Ms. Purdy's also provides a unique and intimate space for women performers and artists to be recognized. From musical concerts to drag shows, poetry readings to film viewings, workshops to performance art, Ms. Purdy's aims to offer a wide variety of events which appeal to a broad audience.

Ms. Purdy's works to cooperate with other organizations having concerns for the interests of women and the community. It offers a free space for fundraising and other social events and works hard to serve and strengthen ties with the community, resource centres, community members and many not-for-profit organizations.

In 2001, Ms. Purdy's celebrated its 18th birthday, marking a turning point in the Club's history. Without the tireless and often-unheralded efforts of the many women who have spent much of their lives volunteering time and expertise to maintaining this Club, Ms. Purdy's would not exist. Eighteen years ago, 100 strong and dedicated women came together to build an organization that would serve the needs of the community while still offering a fun and interesting space. One can only hope that in another 18 years, Ms. Purdy's doors will still be open for all who wish to enjoy it.

Alas, she was to live for only another year....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.