Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Clara Conway Institute

Clara Conway Institute
Clara Conway Institute

Location: Poplar Street (near Orleans Street), Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Opened: 1877

Closed: 1893

From a website documenting the Pioneers of Education in Memphis. Clara Conway was quite obviously a devoted feminist and very committed to the creation of women-only educational space. Note how the school came to an end because the trustees saw Conway as having "too much ambition" in terms of creating a college preparatory curriculum for her young women students:

Miss Clara Conway  ... and the Conway Institute
Clara Conway
Clara Conway was born in New Orleans on August 14, 1844.  She was educated at St. Agnes Academy, Memphis, but her main education was by her own study at home. She traveled extensively in the United States and in Europe and her special gift was to prepare girls for college – primarily Vassar and Wellesley.

Early in her career, she was principal of  the Alabama Street School and the Market Street School.  In
877 she left a prominent position in the public schools to open a high grade school for girls. 

She began with 50 pupils, one assistant, and $300 of borrowed money. In 1884-'85 a number of public-spirited citizens of Memphis came to her assistance, organized a stock company, incorporated the school incorporated, and a building erected. Miss Conway proposed to call the school the Margaret Fuller School, but instead, the trustees named it the Clara Conway Institute. From the small beginning the institute became very successful and continued until 1893. 

Her school claimed a fine reference library, a well-equipped gymnasium, a science lab, and a complete arts studio.  There were courses in voice, piano, theory, and public speaking.  Over the years she won the friendship of famous artist, musicians, authors and scientists.

Clara Conway

Clara Conway had hoped to found a school that would make women economically independent and she believed a solid education would do this.  She became one of the most prominent figures in education in the South and her school held a unique place in the region as a major preparatory school for young women.  The circumstances of the school's demise in 1893 are somewhat unclear but appear to have stemmed from conflict between Conway and her trustees.  She was determined to carry out the college-preparatory idea over the opposition of her financial backers who wrote about "too much ambition on the part of the principal"

After the closure of her school, she continued to teach for a few years on a much smaller scale, with herself as the sole teacher.  Her influence on students was deep and lasting.  Clara Conway died in 1904.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friends Bar

Friends Bar - Pittsburgh, PA
Friends Bar image from Facebook
Friends Bar

Location: 5840 Forward Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: November 9, 2012

Closed: Fall 2013

Here's how Friends announced her beginnings on Facebook:

Welcome to the Pittsburgh's newest gay bar in Squirrel Hill. We are located at 5840 Forward Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. This is a SMOKE-FREE bar.

Friends Bar is open 5 days a week, hours listed below. The bar features a pool table, darts, a jukebox, and the hottest bar tenders in PGH, perhaps the world! We also offer a full menu!

We hope to welcome a diverse LGBTQIA crowd! We realized that there weren't a lot of places for lesbians to gather and have a space that caters especially to this community. We're here to create a fun spot where you can feel safe, comfortable, and connect with a diverse crowd!
Despite the all-so-important inclusive language, Friends was largely identified by the community as a lesbian bar (note imagery above). This is also reflected in the customer reviews at Yelp:
Friends Bar
From Iliana C., November 2012:
This is the newest bar in Squirrel Hill and it's a lesbian bar!  It's connected to Frankie & Georgie's (4 Wood Grille).

I came here opening night since it's always nice supporting lesbian places.  The drink specials were great - $2 wells and $2 domestics. There was a free buffet but you can also order food from next door. This place is brand new and could use a little help with the decorating. It's currently really bare.  I'm also not a fan of the name.  It's listed as "Friends Bar" on facebook but the windows say "Friends Over the Rainbow".  Either way - it needs to be changed.  The music is from a TouchTunes machine but if no one puts any money in it then the bar goes silent.  On the plus side, you don't have to wait long to hear your music play.

There was a great crowd opening night.  I didn't have to wait too long for a drink.  They do take credit cards.  Everyone was really friendly. Plenty of seating at the glittery bar or in one of the booths.  I would come back.
But for some reason, Friends just didn't catch on. Here's a review from Rebecca G. in March 2013:
Some of my friends really like this place so we went there this past weekend. This place was D-E-A-D, dead this Friday. We were the only people there until like 9:30. The food is decent, but they don't have a great selection of liquors. Beer selection was ok though... Just not my thing.
Actually, I can vouch for the lack of people from my own experiences. My girlfriend and I met up with two women friends at Friends, and the place was virtually deserted. But the staff was very nice. Even though the kitchen was closed, they actually fetched us food from elsewhere on the street. Pretty amazing service--beyond the call of duty, really.

Sad to see that Friends had such a short life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Unnamed Lesbian Bar (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Unnamed Lesbian Bar
(now the Garage Door Saloon)
Unnamed Lesbian Bar

Location: Corner of Atwood and Sennott Streets (223 Atwood Street), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: 1990s?

Honest. I'd much rather post about a lost womyn's place where I have lots of interesting information to share.

But quite often, the herstorian tracking down lesbian bars finds erasure and disappearance more than neat anecdotes and personal reminiscences. And because [induced] amnesia is not uncommon in womyn's history, it is important to note and record the erasures as well.

Take this particular Unnamed Lesbian Bar. The reason we know there was once a lesbian bar at this site is because a longish article on this particular site tells us so. But only is passing.

Most of the article is devoted to The Decade, a (dudely) rock & roll joint that existed at this site from 1973 to the mid 1990s:

Appearing at the Decade early in their careers were the Police, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Ramones, David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter).The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, The Romantics and others. Another regular to bless the stage of the Decade was blues man and comedian the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz.

And so on and so forth for several paragraphs. All dudes, with the notable exception of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Not surprising.

But the article doesn't limit the discussion to just The Decade. We're also told that this place was a hotel in the early 1900s and later a restaurant called Atwoods Garden. It was a place called the Pizza Pub in the early 70s. If you want more information on any of these places, feel free to check out the link above, but I won't bore you with the details here.

And then at the very end, we're told the following:

It has since been a deli, a lesbian bar, a produce store, and a bar named Cumpie’s.  It is currently the Garage Door Saloon.

So no information on the lesbian bar. No list of performers, bands, musicians, and so forth that played there. No recollections from patrons. Not even a name. Just a random throwaway reference.

Welcome to the world of lesbian history.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Marie's Between Us Lounge

Marie's Between Us Lounge
Bridge over canal on East Riviera Drive, Copiaque, NY

Location: Copiaque, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s/Early 1980s

The only references to Marie's I have found are in two yahoo group discussions on the history of Long Island gay and lesbian bars. They both appear to be from 2005 and say the same thing. Unfortunately, the write-up is not especially well-written and the details are sketchy.

Marie's Between Us Lounge (later Dockside Lounge, Copiague) - Lesbian Bar,
the side door that faced the canal, rumor was one night someone staggered out the door and accidently fell in the canal, and they use to have a singer appearing there in the late 70's or early 1980. Owner was named Marie. She also owned M&M's/Misters/Club 608 for a time and worked/owned? Forevergreen.

Forevergreen (or Forevergreens), as it turns out, was yet another Long Island lesbian bar:

Forevergreens (later Evergreens), Lindenhurst - Lesbian Bar. Located on
North Broome St. Right after the Pizza Hut and Bedroom Source. Closed briefly in 2003 and reopened as a womans community center. reopened later that year as
a bar again. Owner is Camille. Hosts the annual Breast Cancer benefit, has raised over 100,000 towards research and support.

The only other bar explicitly identified in this discussion as lesbian was Shi Bar, which we have posted on before.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ladies Restaurant at Sage's

Terre Haute, Indiana --Wabash Avenue looking west
Ladies Restaurant at Sage's

Location: 425 Main Street, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA

Opened: November 1889

Closed: ???

We haven't posted on an old-fashioned ladies restaurant in a while, and I miss 'em. So climb into your time machine, ladies, as we're taking our luncheon at Sage's today. Don't forget your hat and gloves!

From the Brazil [Indiana] Register, November 28, 1889:

A Beautiful Dining Hall.

The new ladies' restaurant at Sage's was opened to the public Saturday, as the Gazette of Friday said it would be. The room was greatly admired and was visited by a large number [illegible word] the evening. The stairway is very handsomely carpeted and there is an air of elegance about the whole establishment. The menu and the table and waiting service are all excellent. This restaurant is not designed for men; in fact, no men unaccompanied by ladies will be admitted up stairs. It is distinctively a ladies' restaurant added to Sage's down stairs restaurant and lunch counter for men, in response to repeated requests from ladies, chiefly those who visit Terre Haute from the surrounding towns. There are also many ladies in the city who will find it convenient. It will be a popular resort, also, for after theatre parties of gentlemen accompanied by ladies. 425 Main St.
--Terre Haute Gazette

A few common themes here. The ladies restaurant was an afterthought as the gentleman-only space already existed. It was located on the second floor, which is typically considered inferior space from a real estate point of view. Nevertheless, this was a very common location for a ladies restaurant. Men are not excluded per se, but a lady presumably must accompany them. (In practice, however, this "rule" seems to have been violated frequently, based on the complaints of lady diners elsewhere.) And notice that the ladies (apparently) did not demand that the down stairs restaurant and lunch counter for men be integrated. They wanted their own space away from the drunks and the boors.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tin Angel

Tin Angel (Late 1950s)
Tin Angel

Location: 981 Embarcadero, San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1953


From a longer piece by Dick Boyd on the history of North Beach:

The Tin Angel, 981 Embarcadero, Restaurant/Night Club (Lesbian),
1953 to c. 1962.
Originally opened and owned by artist/poet/raconteur/entrepreneur Peggy Tolk-Watkins, the Tin Angel was located about where Greenwich hits the Embarcadero opposite Pier 23. The Angel was situated in a hand-decorated converted warehouse that resembled a museum of Tolk-Watkins’ worldwide collectibles. For entertainment it featured Jazz. Entertainers such as folk singer Odetta and the “Creole Songbird” Lizzie Miles appeared there along with local favorites such as Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey and his Frisco Jazz Band. When Peggy bailed from the Angel it was taken over by Jazz legend Kid Ory who cleaned out Peggy’s furniture, painted its walls with an antiseptic white and destroyed its campy atmosphere in the process. Savvy bar/club owners have a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (Later Guy Ferri at the Washington Square Bar & Grill learned this the hard way) It never recovered its original ambiance and in 1962 succumbed to the Embarcadero Freeway.

Peggy Tolk-Watkins (1950s)
Then there's this snippet from another piece on North Beach's gay past by Michael Flanagan:

Peggy Tolk-Watkins (another Black Mountain alum) opened the Tin Angel at 981 Embarcadero with financial backing from Sally Stanford in 1953. Tolk-Watkins was easy to spot when she approached the club. She drove a 1932 Ford sedan with pink and blue polka dots painted on it. The Tin Angel featured musicians such as Odetta and went on to become On The Levee which lasted till 1961.

Nan Alamilla Boyd also mentions the Tin Angel in Wide-Opened Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965, specifically in the chapter on Lesbian Space, Lesbian Territory.

What I find fascinating, is that none of these historians seem to use their eyes. The interior shot above is apparently mostly men, and yet no one seems to notice this in the slightest, much less comment upon it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Furies Collective

Furies basement, 221 11th Street SE (1972)
The Furies Collective

Location: 221 11th Street Southeast, Washington, DC, USA--and two other locations (see below)

Opened: Spring 1971

Closed: Late spring 1972/Summer 1972

From the Rainbow History Project:

The Furies collective, one of whose main sites was at 221 11th St SE, was, along with the Gay Liberation House and the Skyline Collective, among Washington, DC's best known communal living groups in the early Seventies.  The twelve women meeting on 11th Street SE constituted an important experiment in lesbians of diverse social and economic backgrounds living together and working to make their political and social beliefs a day-to-day reality.  Most of the members of the collective wrote for the newspaper.

From January 1972 until mid-1973, the collective published its groundbreaking newspaper, The Furies, and distributed it nationally.  The Rainbow History Project has an incomplete collection of original copies of the newspaper.  Many of the articles from the newspaper were reprinted in Women Remembered, Class and Feminism, and Lesbianism and the Women's Movement.  (The last two books are in the collection of the Rainbow History Project).  When the collective disbanded in late spring 1972, "the core of the newspaper staff decided to continue the paper as a project separate from the collective."

There is a lot more fascinating material at the Rainbow History Project link above, so make sure you visit.

According to Julie R. Enszer, the "work and words" of the Furies had a "profound effect on lesbian-feminism," even though the "publication and as a political formation lasted only two years."

Here is a selection from her essay:

In the spring of 1971, amid the excitement of the growing Women’s Liberation Movement in the United States and the energies of gay liberation, a group of women in Washington, DC formed a collective called The Furies. Twelve women initiated the collective and over two-dozen women were involved in the collective while it was active between the spring of 1971 and the summer of 1973. Furies members included Charlotte Bunch, Sharon Deevey, Rita Mae Brown, Nancy Myron, Jennifer Woodul, Joan Biren, Helaine Harris, Susan Hathaway, and Ginny Berson. Three locations in Washington, DC were the site of many of the meetings of The Furies: 1861 California NW, 217 12th St SE and 221 11th St SE.

The Furies also published a newspaper, titled The Furies: Lesbian/Feminist Monthly. The first issue of the newspaper, dated January 1972, outlined their commitment to “the growing movement to destroy sexism” and to “building an ideology which is the basis of action.” It described the collective as “lesbians in revolt” and recounted the genesis of their name from the ancient Greeks. Also included in this first issue were articles highlighting feminist organizing in other locations around the country and an article about Queen Christina of Sweden as an example of the feminist and lesbian power the group wanted to mobilize. These types of articles—ideological pieces, feminist histories, and political and social analyses—appear throughout the newspapers.

There is a fair amount of research and political critique on the Furies, both pro and con. I'm not going to begin to try to summarize all that here, but I encourage you to do your own searching if interested.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Philadelphia lesbian feminist
newspaper Wicce, featuring
Rusty Parisi (1974)

Location: Corner of Quince and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: 1963

Closed: Early 1970s

We get our introduction to Rusty's from the Timeline of Lesbian/Queer History in Philly:

1963:     Rusty’s, the first lesbian bar in Philadelphia located behind where Moriarty’s Irish Pub now resides, begins to gain in popularity. The bar was named after Rusty Parisi, who was one of the first lesbian bar owners in the city.

We're also informed from the same source of the following:

On March 8, 1968, Rusty’s gets raided, and many women were verbally abused by officers.

But more about that raid later.
Here's a quite detailed history of Rusty's from the Philadelphia Gayborhood Guru:

About 1963, the bar [known as the Star Lite Café] became known as Barone’s Variety Room. The main entrance to the restaurant and bar was on Walnut Street, but if you went around to the Quince St. side of the building, through the side door and up the stairs, you were in Rusty’s.

In November of 1967, Philadelphia Magazine published an article by Nancy Love called “The Invisible Sorority,” a semi-lurid exposé on Philadelphia’s lesbian community. The article opened with a visit to Rusty’s:

Matchbook covers from Barone's (Rusty's)
A small sign over the door on Quince Street, a little alley next the Forrest Theatre, says “Variety Room.” It’s very quiet as you go up the old wooden steps to the second floor and down the long corridor. You don’t hear the juke box until you’re actually in the room. You pay the $2 minimum to a woman in a white button-down shirt and slacks who looks a little like a gym teacher you once had, and she gives you a strip of tickets for drinks. It’s a smallish panelled room with a bar at one side and lots of tables clustered around a dance floor. At first, the relaxed atmosphere and informal dress and young girls make you think of a girls college hangout in a small town.
The woman at the door in the button-down shirt might have been Rusty Parisi, owner of the bar. She is the woman in glasses on the cover of the Philadelphia lesbian feminist newspaper Wicce, above.  This issue, published in 1974, featured an interview with Rusty and a nostalgic look back at lesbian life in the ’60s. Rusty was one of the first bar owners in Philadelphia who was gay herself. She discussed butch and femme roles, police harrassment and her own experiences. When asked how she felt about men in general, she replied bluntly, “I’ve never been with one and I’d never want to be. So that’s what I think of men in general. Not much.”

The matches, above left, are from the cigarette machine in Rusty’s. With their 1960s pin-up girls and phallic rockets, (the one on the right  is limp!), they are two of my favorite objects in the William Way Community Center’s archival collections.

And from the same source we learn more about that raid:

Hanckel & Bello
Ada Bello and Frances Hanckel
On the night of March 8, 1968, a year after “The Invisible Sorority” appeared, women out for a drink at Rusty’s suddenly found the jukebox unplugged and the house lights brought up. It was a police raid. Under Police Comissioner [Frank] Rizzo, raids on gay and lesbian bars were an all too common occurence in 1960s Philly.  Many of the women were verbally abused; police accused them of being drunk and disorderly. Some were booked and held overnight. They were brought before a magistrate the next day, but all charges were dropped. It was a clear-cut case of  police harassment.

Rusty Pilice RiadThe local chapter of D.O.B. editorialized against the raid. D.O.B., the “Daughters of Bilitis,” was a national lesbian social and support organization with a policy of political non-involvement. The Philadelphia chapter was one of the exceptions. A few nights later, after another raid on Rusty’s, local activists Ada Bello, above, on the left, seated next to Frances Hanckel, right.  Lourdes Barbara Gittings were present. When Police asked Gittings for her I.D., Barbara flashed her ACLU card. The police moved on.

Rustys Door 2010
Entrance to the former Rusty's,
now Moriarty's Irish Pub

In May, the D.O.B. arranged a meeting with the Philadelphia Police Inspector and they brought along an ACLU observer. The D.O.B. let the Inspector know that they represented the community and that they were were not afraid to protest violations. The police issued a statement that “homosexuals have been, are now, and will be treated equally with heterosexuals.” Because of their active support in the incident, membership in the Philadelphia D.O.B. increased dramatically. A year before the Stonewall riots, the raid on Rusty’s and the reaction of local lesbians was a success story for gay rights.
Moriarty's Irish Pub

The Box Turtle Bulletin also had an excellent description of this raid. Do check it out.

There is also a passing reference to Rusty's at the University of Michigan Lesbian History site:

Barone’s,” also known as “Rusty’s” developed into a definitely lesbian, sub-cultural space.  Crossing the threshold into Rusty’s, you entered the “inside” world.  Inside Rusty’s, lesbians were able to define themselves through community and public space.  Lesbians called each other “Brothers,” and protected each other from police and straight male harassment.  There was a tendency not to welcome men into lesbian bars, but a few gay men would attend.

According to this account, it wasn't just a case that men weren't "welcome" in Philadelphia's lesbian bars. In fact, it is claimed that there were out-and-out turf wars, with "diesel dykes" beating up men (even gay men) who were perceived as territorial invaders. Such a contrast to today, when lesbians have (apparently) become such marshmallows:
Rusty's back in the day

 In the 1950's and 60's, Camac Street and its environs, especially around the area of Spruce Street, were sometimes the scene of conflicts between gay men and lesbians. The gay men would be walking up Spruce Street at night (for decades considered the area where most of Philadelphia's Center City gays and lesbians could be found), and sometimes were mistaken for straight or gay men invading "lesbian turf." While I was conducting research for Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia, local personality Henri David told me that some "strong looking diesel dykes" would occasionally beat up gay men who wandered into certain areas thought to be lesbian territory. This didn't happen often, David assured me, but it did occur. Many of the gay men were from the city but many more were from the suburbs--and may have taken the same train that [Christopher] Isherwood took to spend a night at the Camac Baths.

Lesbians came in from different parts of the city as well, although women traveling late at night often had to go to unusual lengths to protect themselves against predatory men. Marge McCann, a Germantown resident who ran unsuccessfully against Clark Polak for the presidency of the Janus Society, an early homosexual rights group, recalled taking the Broad Street subway at night disguised as a boy. McCann would slouch down in the subway seat and adopt a tough pose: this was her ticket back and forth to the city's only lesbian bar at the time, Rusty's.

Rusty's was near Philadelphia's infamous TROC burlesque theater, near 10th and Race Streets, and had the paranoid atmosphere of a 1920's speakeasy.

Patrons who went to Rusty's had to peer into a peephole in order to be admitted. Joan C. Meyers, an art student and photographer living in Center City at the time, recalls that she was turned away from Rusty's because she was not dressed in a "lesbian uniform," that being short hair with no make-up.

Meyers said that her flowing Joan Baez locks caused Bee, a staff person at Rusty's, to say: "We are tired of straight women like you coming around bothering our girls."


According to the book Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia (2002), Rusty's went out of business in the early 1970s, "when patrons tired of sneaking through back alleys to request permission through a peephole."

Another thought: Notice how Rusty's was located on the second floor. This is a surprisingly common spatial pattern among women's spaces. In fact, it was a pattern that was typical among the old "ladies restaurants" and "ladies dining rooms" of the 19th century. That's one reason I think there is a lot of overlap between these seemingly distinct and different places.

Mama Dot's

233 Westlake Avenue North today
Mama Dot's

Location: 233 Westlake Avenue North, Seattle, Washington, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s

The only reference I have found to Mama Dot's is in a publication called "Claiming Space: Seattle's Lesbian and Gay Historical Geography" (2004). Notice that on the map reproduced below (and here) that Mama Dot's is the only specifically lesbian eating/drinking establishment identified--though we're assured that Cascade Community Clinic was known for its "lesbian friendly health care." Needless to say, the rest of the places are associated with the gay dudes. This is rather typical of the way gay men dominate "gay" space and the subsequent efforts by historians to document the use of that space.

Map Sample
"Claiming Space" Historic Map of Seattle

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


2559 North Southport today

Location: 2559 North Southport, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened/Closed: Mid to late 1970s

So far, all I'm finding are random references to Petunia's.

St. Sukie de la Croix's Gay Chicago Timeline for June 1978 mentions that Petunia's was a lesbian bar that was holding a cookout to benefit Gay and Lesbian Pride Week.

Two years earlier, in 1976, it was also reported that Petunia's  was the "site of a benefit for the choir of Good Shepherd Parish, MCC. The funds raised will send Chicago's "voice" to the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Church's annual general conference in Washington D.C."

So it is clear that Petunia's was community-minded--like a lot of the old-time lesbian bars of that  period.

In a Chicago Gay History interview/survey with Paula Walowitz, she identifies the following as a "defining moment" in her life:

Going to my first lesbian bar (Petunia’s circa 1976) with another bi-curious friend and just standing against the wall all night, trembling and watching women.

There is also this random memory from Out & Proud in Chicago:

I went to northeastern, I think in the summer of '79, there was four of us, four women. I don't know how we got onto it, but we began to think about gay stuff, and had heard about these lesbian bars. I remember walking in-- it was petunia's on southport-- and I couldn't believe how many there were, that I knew, from school.

Mary York dead at 52. Notes from a 2007 interview
Mary York
And finally, in a 2007 interview with lesbian attorney Mary York, we see the following reminiscences:

'I'm sorry to say, I spent so much time in the bars, as far back as 1977, 1976 when I was in college … we used to come down to Chicago and we'd go to Petunia's, Marilynn's, Lost & Found, Augies, CK's. … [ There ] were a lot of women's bars at that time and that was the community. The stereotypes, the roles, the gender roles were much more defined. Then, women were either butch or femme. … Because I was younger I really didn't get involved in it too much and I wasn't a part of it but I certainly recognized it and saw it.'

(By the way, all of the other lesbian bars mentioned above have posts here at Lost Womyn's Space.)

Monday, November 4, 2013


Binghamton, New York

Location: Binghamton, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s, 1980s

This is an excerpt from a 2007 article by Bonnie Morris called " Burnout Revisited: Women's Cultural Spaces."

During the latter part of that era [i.e. the 1970s, 1980s] I belonged to a private lesbian club called Herizon in Binghamton, New York, a community with a large lesbian population and a stellar Ph.D. program in women’s history at the state university, where I was completing my doctorate. The lively mix of academic and bar-dyke ambiance in Herizon’s membership kept us unusually self-aware that what we were doing was important in the historical moment; there were endless discussions about who we were and how to do outreach, with carefully scheduled Board meetings and elections (required in part to keep renewing our license as a private establishment permitted to exclude men). Herizon’s dues-paying membership included, at one point, over 300 women from a radius of 200 miles; we had a rock band, a theatre company, a restaurant, a campout, an annual New Year’s cabaret, and a radical Passover seder that drew dozens of non-Jewish participants—but the everyday tasks of bartending, repair, newsletter preparation, and planning key events fell to a small number of regular volunteers. Not surprisingly, burnout resulted.

 Keeping Herizon open as “our” place where a member could drop in spontaneously to find warm sisterhood and cold beer meant a great deal to everyone. Yet by the late 1980’s, rounding up sufficient volunteers to staff the space five nights out of seven became an unrealistic goal. On some cold winter nights, only one woman might show up. We were committing the same few volunteers to hours of overtime when fewer and fewer patrons were making appearances aside from big events or scheduled weekend concerts by visiting artists. So, we devoted one of our big Annual Meetings to discussing this problem.

At that meeting—which I tape recorded for posterity—the members broke into small working groups to brainstorm possible solutions. We were painfully aware of homophobia in our community, and adamant that Herizon should remain a welcome refuge for women just coming out who needed a place to talk. But clearly it was no longer feasible to stay open Wednesday through Sunday nights. In a town snowed under much of the year, heating costs alone for a Wednesday night with no customers were prohibitive. In our small groups, most long-time members admitted that as they had gradually paired off, settled down, bought homes, adopted kids, and/or elected to get sober, they simply weren’t going out as often as they had in their early twenties, nor were they spending as many dollars at the bar. Since New York had finally raised the drinking age to 21, we had also been forced to close membership to the majority of lesbian college students who would have loved to join Herizon; occasionally we held special alcohol-free event nights with the bar closed and covered. These same lifestyle changes that reduced the money spent on alcohol—Herizon’s primary cash flow intake—were the ones that had led our members to new obligations and interests instead of volunteering at the club as workers. Nothing in our bylaws required members to donate their labor.

Yet when all these facts were on the table, some women remained insistent that Herizon should be open five nights a week—though they themselves admitted they neither came by on weeknights nor were interested in working any night at all. They simply expected that women’s cultural space would continue to be available to them as consumers, without their taking a role in it as producers.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Club Pink

Club Pink
The former Club Pink (September 2011)

Location: 19910 Hoover Street, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Opened: November 2006

Closed: Around 2010?

Like so many new lesbian bars, Club Pink was greeted with great acclaim when it opened in the fall of 2006:

The turnout at Pink was so vibrant this past weekend that, although 550 people made it into the new lesbian bar in Detroit, others had to be turned away.

"We probably would have reached close to 700 people," said Alana Faulk, owner of Pink.

And unlike many queer/gay bars in recent years, there was also a recognition that gay men and lesbians (very generally speaking) were not necessarily looking for the same things in a drinking establishment. And that therefore it was quite nice to have a space that catered to lesbian interests and wishes:

Faulk, who also owns Stilettos in Inkster, was sick of Detroit bars giving lesbians one night a week and, even then, not grasping that gay men and women are polar opposites.

"Guys just want to dance and party and women are different," Faulk said. "Women want to be there with friends ... . They (other bars) don't understand that that's what women are looking for. Not an empty, open feeling."

The intimate ambience of Pink maintains the club aura of Stilettos, but allows lesbians to experience what gay men have for years at bars like Pronto in Ferndale.

"I wanted a lesbian bar for lesbians run by lesbians," Faulk said. There's one form of entertainment that's popular at Stilettos that won't be finding a home at Pink. That's drag.

"We want different forms of entertainment," Faulk said.

To achieve a unique setting, Faulk decided Pink would boost a full kitchen (including after work specials), live music (Melissa Ferrick is booked for January), special DJs, karaoke, comedians and elaborate productions.

So the building was thoroughly renovated from "top to bottom" with these priorities in mind:

The appearance of Pink drastically contrasts with Stilettos. Divided into mini sections, with little nooks (some with TVs and dart boards), Pink's more for those who would like the best of both worlds: an intimate atmosphere and the bump and grind dance floor.

"You can be part of the big party or branch off and have some quiet time," Faulk said. "Women like to talk; they like to have conversations."

The party area has an elevated caged dance floor and two smaller dancer stages with chrome poles for the go-go girls. Patrons can reserve Pink's VIP rooms with a fireplace and leather furniture. Various themes, such as Old School on Wednesday and Rumba (Latin vibe) on Thursday (which kicks off the first Saturday in December), highlight each night.

"That's something women like," Faulk said. "It's been a request from the older crowd, which we're trying to attract."

Unfortunately, I can find no interior photographs.

In July 2008, Club Pink was recognized as the “Best metro Detroit lesbian bar.” Not that there is generally a lot of competition for these things. But still, a nice honor to have.

Here's the ad from ClubFly:

Type: Lesbian Bar

In a nutshell: From the owner of Stiletto's comes Club Pink women's bar on the East Side. Wednesday through Friday is 18 & older and Saturdays 21 & Older. The bar will be serving food and will have reasonable prices, live bands and a house DJ playing salsa, top 40, old school & hip hop...

Interesting then, that a later ad in GayCities downplayed the lesbian identity a bit:

A dance club for girls (and guys) with "bootie" to brag

When it comes to attire, the club boasts a "no effort, no entry" policy, so make sure to dress to impress. For $10, 18-year-olds can come, but you have to be 21+ to swallow (drinks that is).
Pink's three parking lots are fenced, well lit and guarded heavily by security.
"It's a pretty big bar," Faulk said. "It's a lot different from Stilettos."

There are only two customer reviews at GayCities, and both are from 2009. One reviewer complained that Club Pink was "small and cramped," while the other praised it as "one of the best clubs I've been to."  

ClubFly, GayCities, and a few other sites all note that Club Pink is now closed. But no date is given.

The location is now Club 506.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Candy Bar

Candy Bar
Candy Bar

Candy Bar

Location: 4 Carlyle Street, London, England, United Kingdom

Opened: 1996

Closed: 2014

Yet ANOTHER lesbian bar goes out of business. From the Women's Blog at The Guardian:

Lesbians mourn as Soho's Candy Bar announces it will close

London's most famous lesbian bar is to shut next year, and the security and cosiness it offers gay women will be missed

"I cried a little bit," says Neus, originally from Barcelona, now behind the bar at Candy. Like a lot of London queer girls, she is sad to hear that, at the beginning of next year, the capital's most famous lesbian bar will shut its doors for ever. Since 1996, Candy Bar's buoyant, bubblegum-pink sign has lit up Soho. In 2011, the venue's regulars were the subject of a predictably voyeuristic, yet nonetheless affable, Channel 5 documentary series, Candy Bar Girls. The venue still attracts lesbian pilgrims from all over the world and was recently DJ-ed by the likes of Haim and Chvrches.

This month, owner Gary Henshaw announced that a 50% increase in rent meant Candy could no longer afford to exist. "We tried to pass it on into lesbian hands," says assistant manager Bex Smith, "but none of the lesbian investors could afford it."

Bex moved to London from Penrith, Cumbria, and Candy was her first real taste of the gay girl scene. "I came here in my first year of university," she says. "I drank at Candy permanently for a month, then got a job here."

Early on a Thursday evening, Candy is dotted with girls. I speak to some of them about the closure. Two regulars, Raven and Emma, have taken the news particularly badly. "It sucks," says Emma. "This is our spot." Another couple, Di and Enna, had their first date at Candy.

Bex and other staff are determined to keep the bar's "by girls, for girls" ethos alive. Then again, when British gays are freer than ever to be out and proud, how important are women-only venues? Very, says Bex: "What I've always prided Candy on is that it gives women somewhere to be comfortable." True - men have dominated the gay scene since Plato's day. Candy, in its creditable 17-year stand, has continually sought to challenge that. "You can't necessarily go into any straight pub and kiss your girlfriend, because you know you're going to get stares," says Bex. "Women can come here and be who they want to be."

"Lesbians are more relaxed about where they go out," says Sandra Davenport. She DJed and promoted Candy for two years, before leaving earlier this year. According to her, while weekend girls' nights thrive, lesbians aren't so bothered about where they go for a casual drink during the week. Ironically then, it is the gradual acceptance of queer women into the mainstream that has made the lesbian bar an unsustainable business model. Lesbian bars are a remnant of a sapphic subculture perhaps more relevant to Weimar Berlin than modern-day London.

Having said that, like Bex, Sandra is sure that the security and cosiness that Candy Bar offers gay women will be missed. Neus spent her first London New Year's Eve in Candy Bar, with her mum. And that's one of Candy's most wonderfully bizarre characteristics – it's a rare breed of mum-friendly gay bar. But it wasn't always so sweet. When Sandra started as the bar's promoter in 2011, she was overwhelmed by what she had taken on. "I remember looking at the bar staff – they were leaning over and snogging customers, and messing about behind the bar. I thought: 'Oh my God, I've taken over Coyote Ugly.' I was panicking, thinking: 'What have I done?' The walls were the most hideous shade of pink I'd ever seen.

"I think people were still scared of that pink for years," says Sandra. But, through Henshaw's new ownership and Sandra's promotion, Candy went from puce and underpopulated to black and bustling. Meanwhile, Channel 5's Candy Bar Girls boosted the bar's popularity. "It got people talking about Candy again, when no one had talked about it in a positive way for so, so long," says Sandra.

London lesbians certainly have a love-hate relationship with Candy. "A certain kind of girl won't come here," says Bex, "They see it as cheesy." But she and Sandra insist that its spirit will live on.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Polly's (1915)

Location: 137 MacDougal Street, New York, New York, USA from 1913 to 1915; then at 147 West 4th Street from 1915 to 1917


Closed: 1917

I first found out about Polly's in a brief history/timeline of New York's gay bars. It was published in New York Magazine back in January 2013.

1912-1919: Members of Heterodoxy, a feminist club “for unorthodox women,” meet regularly at Polly’s (137 MacDougal St.), a restaurant run by anarchist Polly Holladay. It becomes a hangout for notable lesbians, including Katherine Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Irwin.

Fortunately, Ephemeral New York tells us more about Polly's, though they don't really discuss the lesbian or feminist connection except in passing.

Polly’s MacDougal Street hangout

Looks like a jolly crowd inside Polly’s restaurant, at 137 MacDougal Street, around 1915. Polly Holladay was an anarchist who opened her eatery when Greenwich Village hit its bohemian heights in the teens.

The place was an instant hit. The artistically minded and politically active—such as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Emma Goldman—were regulars. Polly’s moved around the block in 1919, closing for good not long after, about the time when the Village’s bohemian rep made it a favorite for tourists.
The building that housed Polly’s has attracted a lot of attention lately. New York University, which owns 133-139 MacDougal, wants to demolish most of it and put a new structure inside the old facade.

That’s not sitting well with local activists, who note that such a historic building—it formed the epicenter of an artistic movement that included Eugene O’Neill’s Provincetown Playhouse, the Liberal Club, and the Heterodoxy Club (a feminist group)—should be preserved.

Notice that this Greenwich Village walking tour guide also mentions the former Polly's, but says nothing about any women there other than the owner. Unfortunately, I find this is true of a lot of walking tours--the history of women as it interwines with a particular place is typically ignored.

Here's more about the Heterodoxy Club. This selection is from a longer piece on "The New Woman."

The Heterodoxy Club

One example of this new feminism was the Heterodoxy Club of Greenwich Village, a group of 25 women coming together in 1912. The club met at regular Saturday meetings, and was a consciousness-raising group before term was invented. The members of the club were inward-looking and individualistic despite their ideology of women's social awakening and concern with social tumult around them. Their purpose was individual psychic freedom. Said Marie Jenny Howe, leader of Heterodoxy Club and a middle-aged nonpracticing minister and wife of noted Progressive municipal reformer Frederic Howe, "We intend simply to be ourselves, not just our little female selves, but our whole big human selves." Feminism stood for self-development as contrasted with self-sacrifice or submergence in family. The feminists of Heterodoxy Club were all highly educated women, with either formal education in colleges and graduate school or informal education in labor or socialist movements. They were able to assert individuality in livelihood, personal relationships, habits of dress and living.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Women & Children First

Women & Children First
Women & Children First 

Location: 5233 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: 1979

Closed: 2013

Women & Children First isn't officially lost yet, but it is certainly in danger, despite the owners' reassurances. 

From the Windy City Times

Longtime feminist bookstore for sale
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times 2013-10-07

There's a "For Sale" sign hanging at Women & Children First, the lesbian-owned bookstore that has been a Chicago fixture for about 34 years ago and in the Andersonville neighborhood since 1990.

The 3,400-square-foot store is "debt-free, and has a great staff, a committed manager, and a dedicated publicist," Women & Children First said in an ad in Bookselling This Week. The store is "in the heart of Andersonville, a thriving neighborhood of indie retailers and restaurants, just north of Wrigley Field. Great community support in a diverse neighborhood. Increased sales in the past two years."

Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon
Linda Bubon, 62, said the decision to sell the bookstore, which she co-owns with Ann Christophersen, 64, has been gradual, something they have been considering for about a year.

"For a while, we were talking with an employee who was interested in taking over the store. Her situation has changed somewhat," thus that will not materialize, Bubon said.

Their for-sale announcement was done around the Heartland Fall Forum, Bubon said. The event was held Oct. 3-5 in Chicago, and is a venue for booksellers, publishers, and all those who work in the bookselling industry to get together to strengthen and celebrate independent bookselling throughout the Greater Midwest, according to the event's website.

"We don't see this as a fast transition," Bubon said. "We really would like to sell the store to like-minded feminists who want to keep it going as a feminist and children's bookstore, appreciate what we've created, the alliances we've made … someone, or multiple owners, who will continue with fresh ideas."

There is no timetable for when a sale has to be completed, Bubon said. "There's no emergency, no crisis. Both of us are just recognizing our limitations, and it's due to nothing but age.

"Both of us still care deeply about the store, and we'd even like to continue working part-time [after selling ownership]. But we'd like to see a younger owner, or owners, so they can take the store into the future."

Bubon said the store has had "small, but significant, increases in sales the last two years."

She did not state the asking-price for the store. 

Bubon confirmed that they will not simply close the bookstore if no new owners are finalized. "I just don't think that's a possibility," she said. "The store is thriving, loved in Andersonville, in the gay community. We have already had several interested parties come forward, and we are meeting with interested parties over the next few weeks.

"I don't think there's any chance that we'd close it."

Nor will they sell to someone not interested in continuing the bookstore.

"Ann and I have talked about this at length, and we're quite on the same page: Women & Children First needs to continue as Women & Children First," Bubon said.

Lynn Mooney has been the manager at Women & Children First since last January, and her role includes training employees, part of the ordering, publicity, and more.

"There isn't a ton of money to be made in book selling, but there is a satisfaction that one has an influence over the next generation. And that satisfaction is something you cannot buy," Bubon said. "There are plenty of people who still want to read physical books [as opposed to reading on a Kindle or similar device.]"

Bubon said, in retirement, she is considering expanding her work on the local theatre scene and maybe also involved in politics, perhaps to lobby for important issues that affect free speech, she said.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Black Watch

LA Downtown Rain 1940s
Downtown Los Angeles (1940s)
The Black Watch

Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s

Almost no information is readily available on the Black Watch. The only reference I have found to it is in Martin Turnbull's Hollywood Places:

The Black Watch – downtown L.A. (lesbian bar, listed in the 1949 Gay Girl’s Guide)

But it is certainly a very cool name. Very noirish.