Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe

Uniontown Morning Herald,
April 21, 1910
Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: 1910

Closed: ?

One hundred years ago, it was not unusual for businessmen to create spaces for women as something of an afterthought. As a result, the resulting women's space was not only marginalized physically in relation to any existing men's space, but it was typically regarded as far less important or valuable in other ways.

The Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe perfectly illustrates this concept. Check out this ad from 1910, which I have reproduced in part below:

Mr. [Walter] Herrington has remodeled the Griswold. A ladies' cafe on the second floor is a new feature. On May 2 the Griwold will open a Gents' Cafe on the ground floor and this is sure to be well stocked with the best wines and liquors, seven-year-old pure rye whiskey is served over few bars, but the Griswold serves it. Moreland's Beer is always on tap. When you go to Pittsburg stop at the Griswold.

Forbes Field (1910)
Hmm. Do the ladies who hiked up the steps to the second floor also get the best wines and liquors? Or seven-year-old pure rye whiskey? How about that Moreland's Beer? It's not clear to me that they do. Maybe just iced tea and lemonade? It's obvious that Mr. Herrington really doesn't much care, as he can't be bothered to tell us anything about the ladies' cafe, except that it's upstairs from the ground floor Gents' Cafe.

Well, hopefully the ladies that patronized the ladies' cafe enjoyed the baseball game...and the time away from their drunken husbands downstairs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grace Dodge Hotel

Grace Dodge Hotel (1920s)
Grace Dodge Hotel

Location: North Capital and E Streets, Washington, DC, USA

Opened: October 1921

Closed: Hotel began admitting men as guests around 1924. Hotel demolished in 1972.

The Grace Dodge Hotel was built as a women-only hotel by the National Board of Young Women's Christian Associations. The intention was to create housing for women workers who had flocked to Washington, DC during World War I. But as it turned out, the hotel was not completed until after the war was over. 

The hotel was named after Grace Hoadley Dodge (1856-1914), who was elected as the first president of the Board in 1906. The 8-story, 376-room hotel finally opened in October 1921 under the leadership of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948). 

(As something of a side note, it turns out that Abby Rockefeller was a great booster of womyn's space. As the New York Times reported in 1922, "She hopes to live to see the day when every big city has a woman's hotel." She informed the Times that "If women can go down the corridor in their kimonos knowing they will not meet a man, it will add to their sense of freedom and comfort.")

John DeFerrari has written one of the more extensive descriptions of the Grace Dodge Hotel:

 WCTU members tour the Grace Dodge Hotel
(March 1922)
Designed by New York architect Duncan Candler (1873-1949), the Grace Dodge was stately and elegant but restrained in décor. It was finished in tan brick with limestone trim and featured an enormous three-story tall entrance-way with a neoclassical pediment broken by third-story windows.   In contrast withor perhaps to complementits other facilities that aimed to help disadvantaged young women, the Grace Dodge Hotel was conceived from the start as a for-profit enterprise, intended to be managed and operated by an entirely female staff.   It offered professional women traveling alone to the Capital a top-notch hotel experience, free from the harassment by men that they would undoubtedly suffer anywhere else. As summarized in The Washington Post,
The Grace Dodge Hotel, as it is to be called in honor of the woman who did so much for her sex, will have all the useful and attractive features that any hotel has, excepting men, and the housing committee of the "Y," of which Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is chairman, guarantees that the staff and working force of women will be every bit as efficient and courteous as the best masculine staff could be. And the hotel has some conveniences that no other public stopping-place has offered to date.

Ad for Grace Dodge Hotel (1923)
There are special suites for mothers, with heaters for baby's milk, and cribs constructed on sanitary principles. There will be a nurse on call, to be paid for by the hour. There are valeting rooms where the woman who wants her tumbled blouse laundered in a hurry can slip in and do it herself, at the cost of a small sum for the use of the tubs and electric iron. There are shampoo basins, and the guest may wash her own hair. There are vanity parlors for those who care about their complexions, and there is to be an information service where the visitor can find out what debate is on in the House of Representatives and what the Senate is doing about that bill she is interested in....
Nevertheless, as we have often seen with women's hotels, the restaurant and lounge on the first floor were open to men. In fact, it is reported that these facilities were reserved at least as often by organized groups of men as by women (though Washington men certainly didn't lack for facilities of their own).

After just three years, the women-only policy was abandoned. When the hotel was sold in the mid-1940s, it was renamed the Dodge Hotel, which of course just further stripped it of its female origins.

It's interesting that when the hotel was still owned by the YWCA and managed by Mary A. Lindsley (1876-1949), the hotel paid much higher wages than comparable hotels in the area. Lindsley was apparently able to pull this off by running a tight ship with "efficient, by-the-book, economical operations." She ardently believed that no employees (i.e. management) should have special privileges.

But after the hotel fell into the hands of "a group of private investors," with a (male?) former manager from the Waldorf-Astoria hired to run the place," hotel service and food workers voted to strike over poor wages and working conditions, a predicament that surely would never have arisen under Mary Lindsley and the YWCA."

This isn't to say that the Grace Dodge Hotel was progressive in every way. Racial discrimination at the hotel is discussed in The Women and the Warriors (1995) by Carrie A. Foster. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scenes in a Boston Ladies Restaurant (1889)

Boston ladies (1890s)
Scenes in a Boston Ladies Restaurant (1899)

As regular Lost readers are aware, womyn's spaces have a complex and often contradictory history in terms of how gender/sexual boundaries are understood and enforced. And what I'm finding is that this ambivalence has been a consistent theme for at least the past hundred years or more. 

Today, you can find many lesbian bars, dyke marches, and other so-called "womyn's spaces" that are pretty much dominated by men. Women may feel vaguely uncomfortable about the situation, but many seem hapless or paralyzed by guilt when it comes to doing anything about it. 

You can also find many examples of women who are intent on preserving a particular womyn's space, along with women who are willing to aggressively regulate the presence of men to the extent that the law and/or custom will allow. These spaces can be as different as a 1950s lesbian bar in Detroit or Buffalo, a 1970s women's music festival, or a current women's passenger train car in India. 

Up until now, though, the evidence I have seen suggests that while some women may have been unhappy about the numbers of men that insisted on barging into the ladies' cafes and restaurants of 80 - 130 years ago (while the same men still insisted that the gentlemen's clubs, bars, and grills be strictly that), the women's objections were largely muffled, ineffective, and limited to the private sphere. (By way of exception, see this 1885 complaint of a New York City woman, which was published in the New York Times.

But just recently I found an article that shows that Boston women were not afraid of policing their ladies' restaurants. They didn't shy away from the old "fish eye" when it came to the dudes marching in--unlike many of their supposedly more liberated and assertive great, great-granddaughters.

Back on December 22, 1889, the Boston Daily Globe published a piece called "Scenes in a Ladies Restaurant." As you would expect, the descriptions of the women and their conversations are quite patronizing. And yet for all the condescending language and dismissive treatment of these women, we still see that these women were quite capable of taking care of business. In addition, we see the origins of a narrative that is still pretty common: the poor naif of a man who (accidentally!) wanders into a lesbian bar, only to be treated cruelly by the mean evil butches:

It is a rare thing to see a man in a ladies' restaurant. Few men possess the courage to venture in such a place. However a man gets in sometimes, but not intentionally always. When one does come in, no matter under what circumstances, he wishes before he has been there five minutes he had selected some other place in which to get his lunch. He looks about in a helpless and distressed way for a seat. His evil genius leads him to take the one beside the prim and proper spinster. She looks up to see who it is that dares to share a table with her, and then gives a little shudder, as if to say, "Oh, good gracious! It's a man!" And she turns slightly in her chair in order to present him with the cheerless north side of a very cold shoulder.

The unhappy recipient of these delicate attentions casts an appealing glance at the women opposite, and is rewarded with a look of cold contempt, whose mercurial registration would be about 20 below zero. The poor unfortunate young man is at once depressed by the frigidity of the surrounding atmosphere. He bends his downcast eyes, rings the bell and orders "chicken salad" in a supulchral tone, without raising his eyes. Many long and painful minutes elapse before his order is filled, during which time he devotes himself to the literary merits of the bill of fare, with an ardor of attention that is really pathetic. At last his order comes and he makes remarkably good time in getting through it. He apparently does not care for any dessert, except that he has an inward desire to desert this place of torture. He pays his bill and departs a wiser and a sadder man.

Just to show that nothing is new under the proverbial sun, read a contemporary retelling of this story here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Breathe Fitness for Women

Breathe Fitness for Women (2010)
Breathe Fitness for Women

Location: 13864 Poway Road, Poway, California, USA

Opened: 2008

Closed: April 1, 2011

Here's how she described herself at yelp:

Breathe Fitness for Women is Poway's premier health club. You don't have to look beyond the front doors to see The Breathe Difference, but the amazing decor is only the beginning. Our staff is courteous and professional, our members are friendly and warm and our programs safe and fun.

What you will find at Breathe Fitness:
-Les Mills Group Exercise Classes: Body Flow, Body Combat, Body Pump and RPM
-Zumba and Yoga
-Our spa featuring facials and massages to relax and rejuvinate
-State-of-the-art Cardio machines, each with personal televisions
-Juice bar with 100% fruit based smoothies and healthy snacks
-Free support on the weight room floor
-Outstanding personal training services
-Complete satisfaction every time you visit

Breathe Fitness for Women interior (2010)
Customer reviews were enthusiastic without exception: 

Some snippets from 2009:

I had never really belonged to a gym before, and actually wanted to go there on a regular basis!

It's clean, people are friendly, so I definitely recommend joining this gym for women only!

And 2010: 

I utterly love this gym and the people who work there.  

From the moment I walked in as a charter member just weeks after it opened they made me feel like family.

And finally, from 2011:

This WAS a fantastic gym for women.  Unfortunately, it closed as of April 1, 2011.

No reasons are given for why this place was shut down. Yet another short-lived womyn's space....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lindseys Bed and Breakfast for Women

Lindseys Bed and Breakfast
Lindseys Bed and Breakfast for Women

Location: 3974 Avenue Laval, Montreal, Canada

Opened: 1984

Closed: 2010

The Lindseys website announces the sad news of her departure:

We will miss meeting so many warm and interesting women from all over the world. We are leaving up our web site for the time being if any of you wish to contact us.

So what was Lindseys? Here's the basic description:

Lesbian-owned bed and breakfast in a restored Victorian brownstone in the heart of the "Plateau" restaurant district. Three guest rooms, for women only.

According to the website, Lindseys was run by two women: Lindsey and Augusta. Judging by the mouth-watering photos, the breakfasts were totally scrumptious. And what a gorgeous home! The website also has an area where various newspaper articles about the history of the place are scanned in, if you want more detail. Like, just how does a classically trained bass player end up becoming a B&B operator anyway? But I'm going to let you look up the answer yourself.

The "Victorian Bathroom" at Lindseys
Here's what gay pink pages had to say:

Lindsey's Bed and Breakfast offers a warm, friendly atmosphere for women traveling to Montréal. We're located in an 1887 renovated Victorian townhouse on a quiet residential street. Within a few blocks you'll find cafes, restaurants and terrific shopping on rue St. Dennis and Boulevard St. Laurent. There is also lots of nightlife nearby. Choose from private studio with bath and kitchenette or from one or two upstairs bedrooms that share a Victorian bathroom.

One of the bedroms at Lindseys
Judging by the reviews at tripadvisor, guests uniformly adored this place. Five stars across the board.

Why Lindseys closed is not really not explained. We only know that this womyn's space is no longer with us.

Very sad right now, as this would have been a lovely place to visit some day...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Peninsular Hotel Ladies Cafe

South Boston, City Point (around 1910)
Peninsular Hotel Ladies Cafe

Location: City Point, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Opened/Closed: 1890s

I have not had a lot of luck determining where the Peninsular Hotel was, or even finding a postcard showing its appearance. But I do have a newspaper ad that mentions the hotel's ladies cafe.

Boston Daily Globe,
July 19, 1897

We've mentioned more than once that men's space and women's space are (sometimes) separate, but very seldom equal. Notice that the ladies cafe was squished onto the second floor--which is nearly always considered more marginal space from a commercial standpoint. A second floor (or basement) location was pretty much standard procedure for the ladies cafes. 

Not only that, but in this case, the Gentlemen's Cafe even commands a larger font! So if you somehow didn't realize that the men had priority, the very layout of the ad spells it out for you. 

In the absence of any photos, I'd like to think that the Ladies Cafe had plenty of windows. At least we're promised that "all the rooms give a magnificent view of the bay with its hundreds of yachts." It's even possible that there might have better views of the bay from the second floor than the first floor. But then, the men were NOT excluded from the second floor view, as ladies cafes were set up for unescorted women and women in the company of men. While the boys had the stag party all to themselves downstairs. 

Those who don't understand history will sometimes claim (erroneously) that men have no spaces just for themselves, while women still do. Actually, the evidence has always been clear on this. Women's bars, guesthouses, cafes, restaurants, etc. are nearly always "open" to all with few exceptions. And if not, they're under constant social and economic pressure to be "open" to all. By contrast, men's bars, clubs, baths, guesthouses, etc. are seldom under the same pressures of reciprocity. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hayden Hotel

Ad for Hayden Hotel
Phoenix Arizona Republican, August 4, 1895
Hayden Hotel

Location: Tempe, Arizona, USA

Opened/Closed: Around 1895

Most of the ladies hotels I have identified have been located in the eastern United States, especially in New York City.

This appears to be one of the exceptions. Note the above ad from an 1895 Arizona newspaper:

MRS. M. E. SPOONER, proprietress of the Hayden Hotel has a most delightful home for ladies stopping in Tempe as well as gentlemen. The only ladies hotel in Tempe.

And though I have done a little digging, I can't uncover much more than that. I did find out that Hayden is a prominent name in Tempe history--Charles Hayden is generally credited with founding the town, and the Hayden family has continued to play a leading role politically and economically since then. And though I have found references to all things Hayden, I have not found any reference to a hotel as such. Nor have I figured out who (Mrs.) M. E. Spooner might have been.

However, the old Charles Trumbull Hayden house, which was built in 1873, still stands. And it is said that for a time it functioned as a boarding house. Could this have been the old Hayden Hotel as advertised in 1895?
Hayden House today

La Casa Vieja (the old house in Spanish) was built in 1873. The original structure was a residence for Charles Trumbull Hayden and his family. The original house was a single-story row house constructed of adobe in the Sonoran style by Hayden and his Mexican American workers. Prior to 1883, the house consisted of 13 rooms located in an “L” shaped plan. The house spanned a distance of 80 feet along the Mill Avenue frontage and 120 feet along First Street. During the period of 1876-1883, a second story of adobe was built over the room at the north end of the house. In this same period, three rooms were built to create the west wing.
The Hayden Family moved from the adobe house in 1889 at which time the house began 35 years of use as a boarding house. In 1893, a frame second story was added to the west wing.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mrs. Kemp's boarding house and ladies-only dining room

Winnipeg Free Press,
November 13, 1914
Mrs. Kemp's boarding house and ladies-only dining room

Location: 277 Donald Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Opened/Closed: Around 1914

We've reported on several women-only boarding houses, at least one of which has been documented as a lesbian space (see Edith Mary Chapman's Boarding House in Salt Lake City).

Donald Street - Winnipeg (1910)
Mrs. Kemp's boarding house is interesting in that it explicitly advertises its ladies dining room as ladies only:

Also Mrs. Kemp has opened a ladies' dining room in connection, and would be pleased to see old friends and new ones looking for a select dining room for ladies only.

This is more unusual than you might think. Typically, ladies dining rooms were designed for "unescorted" women and women in the company of men, as women were typically not admitted into "regular" (male-only) eating and drinking establishments.

Lady bicyclists in Winnipeg (1900)
The result, as we have seen in many cases, were so-called ladies restaurants and cafes that were--paradoxically--dominated by men. (See this 1885 complaint from a woman in New York City.)  

In addition, the dining areas, parlors, and other semi-public rooms in most women's hotels, dormitories, and the like were usually considered "co-ed" spaces where women might entertain a beau. It seems, however, that Mrs. Kemp had no interest in any (male) suitors or "friends" mucking about her establishment.

Though Mrs. Kemp doesn't explicitly say that her boarding house is women-only, I think it is safe to assume that it was, given that men were explicitly not invited to any meals in her dining room.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ladies Cafe at Exchange Station

Exchange Station - Liverpool, England (1892)
Ladies Cafe at Exchange Station

Location: Liverpool, England

Opened: 1889

Closed: ?

Exchange Station was the former railroad station in Liverpool. The original station structure dated back to 1850, and after an extensive renovation and expansion it was renamed the Liverpool Exchange in 1888.

Although the Ladies Cafe opened about a year later, notice that it was still an afterthought following the "very extensive premises" constructed for the men. Nevertheless, this sounds like this was a very pleasant combination of a ladies cafe and ladies reading/writing salon. Even though no women--at least that we know of--were involved in the planning, creation, or management of this space. But hey, too often that's still the case over 100 years later.

The Exchange Station was closed in 1977, and mostly demolished shortly thereafter. However, I seriously doubt the ladies cafe survived that long.

As is often the case, I can find no reference to the ladies cafe in any of the standard histories of the Exchange Station.

From the Temperance Carrier, November 2, 1889:


Liverpool is well catered for. What with private venture, the Clerks' Cafe Company, and last, but not least the British Workman's Public House Company, which has no less than sixty-two houses, no town in England is better provided for. Not content to let "well" alone, Mr. Peskett, the energetic secretary of the British Workman Public House Company, is ever on the alert for "fresh fields," so far as Liverpool in concerned. The new venture is a ladies cafe, in connection with the very extensive premises occupied by the company in the Exchange Station. This will prove an immense boon to ladies coming into town to shop, either by rail or from the Cheshire side of the Mersey. The new cafe is fitted up with every requisite, and is furnished in luxuriant style. Writing materials may be obtained, and every accommodation is found for those desiring to write letters or other communications. This is a very great convenience, and one which would be acceptable in many cafes and coffee taverns patronised by the sterner sex.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baird College

Baird College
Baird College

Location: Clinton, Missouri, USA

Opened: 1885

Closed: 1898

Baird College was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Homer T. Baird in 1885 as a nonsectarian college for women. Classes began in 1890. The school was established on the scholarship plan, and the building was considered one of the best of its kind in the State of Missouri. For twelve years Baird College was regarded as one of the leading schools for young ladies in the West, the average enrollment being about 150. For reasons that are not identified, Baird College closed in 1898.

The school reopened in 1902 as the Clinton College for Young Ladies. But this school only lasted for a few years too. With the end of Clinton College came the end of this location as a womyn's space. The buildings were soon acquired by the Seventh Day Adventists, who set up the Clinton Theological Seminary (German Seminary). This existed from 1910 to 1925.

Despite the credit given to Mr. Baird in the official histories, Mrs. Baird was apparently the real moving force behind this school. In a 1904 obituary which does not provide her first name, we learn a bit about her life and the network of girl's schools and women's colleges that sustained her. We also learn that this woman was very experienced and accomplished as a professional educator and administrator. She was not a mere wife tagging along after a "Great Man." These are themes we've often seen here at Lost Womyn's Space.

She was a lifelong teacher of young women....Kentucky was her native state. The most famous school for young women in Kentucky when Mrs. Baird was a girl was that of Mrs. Tevis, at Shelbyville. In this school, she was educated. Missouri became her home. During the civil war she conducted a school at Springfield, Ill. After her return to adopted state she served four years as principal of Clay seminary, at Liberty. For six years she was president of Ingleside college, at Palmyra, and for a like period of time she served Hardin college, Mexico, Mo, as its chief executive officer. Baird College, Clinton, Mo, is so called in honor of this great woman.

Read more about Hardin College, another lost women's college, here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lava Bar

Lava Bar

Location: Howard Johnson Hotel in Kenmore Square, 577 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Opened: January 1999

Closed: June 2001

Back in January 1999, there was the following announcement in the "Grrrl Talk" column of the Boston Phoenix:

The new spot this month is Melinda Ancillo's "Lava Bar," which is housed in the penthouse suite of HoJo's in Kenmore Square. Opening night was set for Sunday, January 17, after One in Ten went to press, so I can't say whether or not she did. In the meantime, die-hard club kids will remember Ancillo from Chaps, where she worked security for a few years. Although "Lava Bar" is Ancillo's gig, it's definitely a collaborative effort. For one, not only will U-Turn's Debi Saltzberg be mixing cocktails behind the bar, but Denise Russo from Upstairs at the Hideaway will help out, too. Plus, Ancillo booked DJ Kris Kono, who spent the summer spinning at Vixen's in P-town and still plays those Connecticut monthly parties, "Club Lucy."

Basically, Ancillo's betting that Kono can keep us happy and relaxed. For now, Kono is holding back on her house faves and instead plans to deliver, in Ancillo's words, "some soft, sexy tunes" to enhance the lounge ambiance of the bar. In other words, expect a very relaxed and quiet atmosphere. The room holds about 300 and comes complete with red-velvet sofas and a redwood bar in an L-shaped room. Check it out every Sunday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Kenmore Square, 575 Comm Ave, Boston. Cover $5. Call (617) 267-7707.

Ah ha! I thought at first. A Boston lesbian bar I didn't know about! Then I found it was just another one of those tedious "lesbian nights." Lesbians, especially in Boston it seems, are seldom able to secure any permanent or even semi-permanent territory anymore. And this one was on a Sunday night, no less.

Here's more from "Grrrl Talk" a month later, in February 1999:

Lava Bar patrons
The Lava Bar took off last month during the long holiday weekend. Keeping up to par with most openings, this HoJo's spot was crowded its very first night. It wasn't as jammed the following week, but there were still plenty of people in attendance. In fact, after 9:30 p.m., when the music switches gears from soft to dance, it sparked a lot of grinding and all-around PDA on the dance floor. Let's just say there was a lot of lust in the air. No wonder Melinda Ancillo, who's promoting the night, deems it "a success."

But then it apparently migrated to Saturday night! (As opposed to, say, Tuesday from 6 PM to 7 PM.) This is big time! So count your blessings, girls! And smile! Lava Bar even won the best "lesbian night" award from the Boston Phoenix that year:

View from the Lava Bar
Boston hasn't had a full-time lesbian bar for a number of years now, so area girls make do with one-night-a-week hangouts like Lava Bar, situated at the top of the Howard Johnson's hotel in Kenmore Square. The accessibility of the location, the relative abundance of parking, and the diversity of the clientele have made Lava Bar the upscale Saturday-night hot spot for girls of all stripes -- from Newbury Street style mavens to the chinos-and-shirts crowd. An elevator from the street level opens into the bar; to the right is a big shiny dance floor that hops with DJ mixes. You'll have to navigate the dancers to find the small seating area, a great place to girl-watch. And if the girls aren't worth watching, the view -- from big windows around the dance floor -- always is.

It also got the same honors from the Boston Phoenix in 2000

The Lava Bar may be in the penthouse of Howard Johnson's, but that's easy to forget on a Saturday night. The club, which goes lesbian on Saturdays, has glass walls on three sides and is filled with sleek galvanized metal and lots of stylish velvet sofas. The atmosphere may be elegant, but the crowd and the music provide the necessary level of funk to keep the night fun. DJs Fran Englehardt and Thom Delahunt play an unusual blend of house, old-school soul, and Latin music. And if the music doesn't do anything for you, there are always theme nights. On one recent Saturday, women shucked their blouses and painted their breasts with liquid-latex paint (soap was not included).

Wow. That's pretty wild! At least they didn't use Magic Markers!

Here's a review from the Global Hangover Guide:

The former Lava Bar at the top of
Howard Johnson's
Lava Bar details:
Large bar, great booths

Since opening its doors this spring, Lava has remained afloat, and, surprisingly, has gained momentum, despite the city's habit of sinking lesbian-targeted clubs within their first year of existence.

Located in Kenmore Square on the top floor of the Howard Johnson's, every Saturday night you can get down with the girls to the house beat - or hang in the overstuffed booths off the floor - or chat with chicks while overlooking the city. A large bar greets all who enter, strategically located directly in front of the elevator, while a smaller bar is located beyond the dance floor toward the back of the club to satisfy the thirst of the more mellow crowd, seeking solitude in the dim lighting of the lounge area.

Lava survived the summer months, minus the co-eds to fill the floor, so this joint may be here to stay. Even though it is attached to HoJos, it has a separate entrance and elevator - so you don't feel like you are going to hotel to dance.

Unique to Lava, the elevator provides a great NYC clubby atmosphere.

As is the case with clubs, there is a $8 cover, but the elevator ride up (and maybe down, too) is worth it.

Still, even a 1999 article in the Boston Globe on the off-campus "gay scene" more or less admitted what every lesbian already knew: that the range of entertainment venues for women was still pretty pathetic.

There isn't much as far as clubs for women. Try the Lava Bar in Kenmore Square on Saturday nights, the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain on Thursday nights, and Ryles, a jazz club in Cambridge where the upstairs is devoted to women, but not jazz, on Sunday nights.

But even the Lava Bar option was gone by June 2001. From the Boston Globe:

Last June, it was all downhill for Lava Bar, then Boston's leading dance club for the lesbian community. After 2 1/2 years of providing a space for women to dance and mingle, the club's promoter, Melinda Ancillo, was told the Kenmore Square hotel that housed Lava Bar was being converted into student housing. Pretty much the only game in town for lesbians on Saturday nights, Lava Bar's sudden departure from the nightlife scene threatened to leave a huge void.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Troisieme Lieu (Third Place)

Troisieme Lieu DJs
Troisieme Lieu (Third Place)

Location: 62 Rue Quicampoix, Paris, France

Opened: Around 2004

Closed: October 2012

Paris lost two lesbian bars last month: Troisieme Lieu (Third Place) and a neighboring bar-restaurant-club called Les Filles de Paris (The Daughters/Girls of Paris). According to this article in the French press, both were owned and managed by the same women partners (Les Ginettes Armees), who had been struggling with financial and tax delinquency issues. As a result, the authorities had been intent on liquidating these two businesses for the past year and a half. 

Very frustrating for me to get to the heart of this story, as my French is just good enough to understand that these places are closing, but too rusty to understand the details. Although you can obtain a translation, it's so garbled that it's really of no help. But fluent francophones are welcome to try. 

Troisieme Lieu (2010)
Here's what absolu living said about these places back in the day:

Les filles de Paris and the Troisième lieu are an excellent choice for a night out with your lesbian friends, and both venues double up with a lesbian bar and lesbian restaurant under the same roof. You can enjoy burlesque shows at the Les filles de Paris, while there's a simple rule at the huge Troisième lieu: eat, drink and dance!  The restaurant has large tables, which are perfect if you're with lots of friends. 

And here's the "editorial review" from BlackBook:

Rolls pre-club and party into one; you can grab a salad or tagine here before getting down to the weeklong rotation of house, techno, electro, or disco DJs. The crowd reflects the swirling mix of Beaubourg: black, white, hip, frump, chic, punk, straight and gay. Girl-loving girls love the "Happy Fucking Time" buy-one-get-one-free drink special.

The word from Time Out Paris:

Elaborate tartines, delicious desserts and strong drinks are the fare at this lesbian-run bar and restaurant. Opened by Les Ginettes Armées, organisers of renowned Sunday lesbian and mixed events, the Troisième Lieu’s music policy tends towards electro and house.  

Time Out also adds this:

Troisieme Lieu interior
Also known as ‘La Cantine des Ginettes Armées’ or the armed girls’ canteen, Le Troisième Lieu is a lesbian paradise, full of open minded girls on a mission to let themselves go. The house speciality: a pitcher of honey-flavoured Fargo beer. You can also scarf a meal here, though more to satisfy desperate hunger than to benefit from any Parisian gastronomy. In the evenings, lady DJs get going on the decks, which are set up at the back of a caravan, installed in the venue by we know not what means. The décor is kitsch, sparkly and colourful, including a table football set and G-strings hanging out to dry underneath the bar. A yellow-painted basement area serves as a dance floor – electro-house here, world music upstairs. The evenings also offer slide projections, DJ sets and concerts, and at weekends the fun goes on until the early morning, making Le Troisième Lieu a good bet for a drink after 2am. Guys and straight girls can get in, but on busy evenings the target clientele will always get served first. When things hot up it can get overheated and hard to breathe – and the bouncers aren’t always sympathetic to those heading out to gasp for air, thanks to protests of the grouchy neighbours.
Another view, Troisieme Lieu interior
And Lonely Planet:

Lonely Planet review for Le Troisième Lieu

Billing itself as la cantine des ginettes armées (canteen of armed gals), this kooky place for chic young lesbians – and, at times, for everyone else – is part bar, part club, part restaurant. There’s a large, colourful bar and big wooden tables at street level, with good-value meals available. The vaulted cellar below leaves space for dancing to DJs (house, electro) and rock/alternative music concerts. On the last Saturday of the month it opens at 2pm. Happy hour is from 6pm to 8pm.
And Cityseekr:

Le Troisième Lieu, also known as La Cantine des Ginettes Armées, is a prime hotspot for lesbian nightlife. This nightclub-cum-restaurant-cum-bar takes up two stories: the ground floor, tiled blue and white, is fitted with long picnic tables, kitsch decorations and a full bar: food and drinks are available to ginettes and their friends at all hours. The basement, dubbed the Sous Marin Jaune (yellow submarine), is a vaulted cellar-turned-dance floor that hosts, among other weekly events, the infamous "I Hate Mondays" dance party.  

In addition, the customer reviews at places like yelp and gaycities are enthusiastic with virtually no exception. 

And do check out their myspace page, which is very sharp. Clearly these "armed girls" fought very hard to survive.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Unnamed lesbian bar (Santa Maria, Mexico - 1901)

Santa Maria La Ribera, Mexico
Unnamed lesbian bar

Location: Santa Maria, Mexico

Opened/Closed: c. 1901

This is another one of those random finds that perfectly illustrates the disproportionate amount of scholarly attention and energy devoted to male spaces (in this case, a gay male space) as opposed to female spaces (in this case, a lesbian space).

In Mexican gay (male) history, the Dance of the Forty-One Maricones is considered a pivotal event. Here's one account from a chronology of Gay Mexican History:

"The Dance of the Forty-One Maricones." At three in the morning of a Sunday, 18 November 1901, the police raided a party on Calle de la Paz (today Calle Ezequiel Montes) in the central part of Mexico City. Forty two men were arrested and placed in Belen Prison. Of these 22 were reported as dressed as men and 19 as women. One person was released. The official account is that that person was a real woman, but persistent rumors speculate that number 42 was don Ignacio de la Torre, who was married to the daughter of President Porfirio Diaz. Those arrested were subjected to many humiliations in jail, and some were forced to sweep the streets in their dresses.

Los 41 (1901)
This incident even has its own Wikipedia entry here. It's also mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on LGBT History in Mexico. At least one blogger has discussed it as well, with scholarly references to boot. Check out the contemporary illustrations as well.

As for that lesbian bar I mentioned? In all these accounts, somewhere towards the end, you generally find a variation of the following throwaway sentence:

There was a less publicized raid on a lesbian bar in the suburb of Santa Maria, on December 4th.

There was a lesbian bar raid in December 1901??? Meaning there was a real-life lesbian bar in Mexico in December 1901???

Realize that in the United States, the earliest bars identified as "lesbian" as such are typically dated no earlier than the 1930s. So this 1901 lesbian bar would be quite a find! Unfortunately, the (male?) scholars assembling "LGBT history" don't even notice. As for digging up any more detail? Yawn. Not interested.

The particular quotation above is from the aforementioned chronology of Gay Mexican History. But we see a similar statement in the Wikipedia article on LGBT History in Mexico:

Although the raid on the Dance of the 41 was followed by a less-publicized raid of a lesbian bar on 4 December 1901 in Santa Maria, the regime was soon worried by more serious threats such as the political and civil unrest that eventually led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

The same sentence appears here, showing that too many scholars are lazy indeed.

But then maybe this wasn't a bar? From the Wikipedia entry on the Dance of the 41 cited above:

On 4 December 1901 there was a similar raid on a group of lesbians in Santa María, but that incident received far less attention.

But then to add to the general disarray and sloppiness, there is this entry from the GLBTQ Encyclopedia:

The raid on the dance of the 41 maricones was followed by a less-publicized raid of a lesbian party on December 4, 1901 in Santa María.

Huh. So we can't even verify whether this was a commercial establishment (a bar), a "group," or lesbian party? If this wasn't a bar, I suppose that partly explains why we can't even be bothered to report the name of the place.

If you figured our LGBT scholar/allies would establish, at minimum, what kind of lesbian space was actually raided, you would be wrong.

My backlog of scholarly projects is getting overwhelming at this point, so if somebody with decent Spanish language skills would like to tackle this story, I'd sure like to see what you come up with.