Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Women's Restaurants

This is a fantastic post on women's restaurants that I found at Restaurant-ing Through History, one of my favorite blogs. Reproduced with the author's permission.

Women's Restaurants


Not all restaurants have been purely, or even mainly, commercial ventures. This was particularly true of women’s suffrage eating places and those of the 1970s feminist movement.

Although the women’s restaurants of these two periods were quite different in some ways, they shared a dedication to furthering women’s causes and giving women spaces of their own in which to eat meals, hold meetings, and in the 1970s, to enjoy music and poetry by women.


In the 1910s most major U.S. cities had at least one suffrage restaurant, tea room, or lunch room sponsored by an organization such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

As was true of later feminist restaurants, those of the suffrage era tended to be small and undercapitalized. An exception was the suffrage restaurant financed by the wealthy socialite Alva Belmont in NYC. In terms of patronage, it was almost certainly the most successful women’s restaurant of either era. It reportedly served 900 meals per day from a low-priced menu on which most items were 5 or 10 cents and consisted of soup, fish cakes, baked beans, and home-made pie.

Suffrage restaurants admitted men and welcomed the opportunity to ply them with leaflets and home-made soups, salads, and fritters that would incline them to support the cause. An aged Philadelphia activist recalled in 1988, “I worked at a suffrage tea room. We lured men in, for a good, cheap business lunch. Then you could hand them literature and talk.” In the NYC restaurant operated by NAWSA in 1911, it was impossible to ignore the suffrage issue since every dish, glass, and napkin bore script saying Votes for Women.


Though dedicated to women’s causes, women’s restaurants were not free of conflict. Many suffragists objected to how Alva Belmont ruled with an iron fist, brusquely ordering servers around until they walked out on strike, followed by the dishwashers. Belmont was ridiculed when she brought in her butler and footman to fill the gap. Her footman quit too. Some feminist restaurants experienced discord over cooperative management and, especially, whether or not to serve men.

The first feminist restaurant, NYC’s Mother Courage, was founded in April of 1972. (Its co-founder Dolores Alexander discussed it in 2004-2005 interviews.) Others established in the 1970s included Susan B. Restaurant, Chicago; Bread & Roses, Cambridge MA; The Brick Hut, Berkeley CA; Los Angeles Women’s Saloon and Parlor, Hollywood CA; and Bloodroot, Bridgeport CT). Undoubtedly there were more, especially in college towns. In the 1980s a number of women’s coffeehouses appeared, but they were performance spaces more than eating places.


As part of the counterculture, 1970s feminist restaurants typically aimed at a broad set of goals. Women’s equal position in society was paramount but it was embedded in a project of establishing a more peaceful and egalitarian world. Feminist restaurants rotated jobs and paid everyone the same wages. They raised capital by small donations from friends. Staffs were entirely female and women also did most of the renovating. Their decor was spare, with exposed brick walls, mismatched furniture, and chalkboard menus. They served simple peasant-style food, usually prepared from scratch. Some served wine and beer. More often than not menus were vegetarian, or at least beef-less. The L. A. Women’s Saloon and Parlor supported farm workers and would not serve grapes or lettuce. The Brick Hut boycotted Florida orange juice during the anti-gay campaign of spokesperson Anita Bryant. The Women’s Saloon avoided diet plates and sodas, deeming them insulting to large-sized women.

Many proponents of feminist restaurants felt that women were often treated poorly in restaurants, many of which regarded men as their prime customers. Feminist restaurants made a point of presenting women dining with men with the check and wine to sample. But for many women patrons, perhaps especially lesbians, the enjoyment of a non-hostile space was more significant.

At some point each feminist restaurant confronted the touchy question of whether they would serve men. Considerable acrimony erupted around this question at the Susan B. Restaurant in Chicago and Bread & Roses in Cambridge, resulting in the former restaurant’s closure after only a few months. At Bread & Roses a co-founder exercised non-consensus managerial power and fired a server who made men and some heterosexual women feel unwelcome, setting off rounds of group meetings. The restaurant, opened in 1974, was put up for sale and in 1978 became the short-lived “women only” Amaranth restaurant and performance space.

Today Bloodroot may be the sole survivor of the feminist restaurant era.

© Jan Whitaker, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hellmuth Ladies' College

Hellmuth Ladies' College (c. 1895)

Hellmuth Ladies' College 

Location: Richmond Street North, London, Ontario, Canada

Opened: September 23, 1869

Closed: 1899

Hellmuth Ladies' College (aka Hellmuth College for Young Ladies) was a private college for women in London, Ontario. The college, founded by Reverend Isaac Hellmuth, was devoted to the study of arts and sciences. The college was complemented with Hellmuth College (for young men, founded 1865), also of London, Ontario. The ladies college closed in 1899, was purchased by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and transformed into Mount St. Joseph Orphanage. By the 1950s, it had become the Mount St. Joseph Academy for girls. The building was demolished in 1976.
Closing Exercises at
Hellmuth Ladies College (1886)

According to a short piece in the Scholastic Register (1869), classes were conducted in French though the school was run on "sound Protestant Christian principles." And while there were classes in the arts and sciences, all this had to be watered down with traditional training in femininity:

All the useful branches of female learning and "accomplishment" are provided, with the promise of special attention being given to moral and religious training. The old saying about national character being influenced by the education of the mothers applies more in a new than in an old country. 

Few names come up in the official accounts other than Reverend Hellmuth's. However, we are informed that the teachers would be headed by "Mrs. Mills, lately Lady Principal of Queen's College, London." (Queen's College, London--which opened in 1853--was England's first girls' school to be granted a Royal Charter for the furtherance of women's education. It still exists.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rights of Women Statement 7 June 2013



by rubyfruit2

On Friday 7 June 2013, a group of radical feminist activists went into the heart of London to reclaim our right to meet as females. On the eve of the first openly held women’s liberation conference in decades, women gathered in the busiest railway station in the UK.

female meeting space

We were there to celebrate our triumph at meeting together in a large women-only space – despite all the obstacles thrown in our way before we could get there. They included: wrongly asserting that females meeting together, without men, is unlawful; falsely stating in the social media that our politics is violent and hateful; accusing our speakers of “hate speech” and calling for them to be “no platformed” simply for critiquing gender; naming truths about male violence; intimidating venues into cancelling our conference and anonymously threatening our organisers and attendees with violence and rape.

We circled a statue called “The Meeting Place” a symbol of heterosexual normality. The 9 metre high statue represents the acceptable face of patriarchy – men and women publicly embracing and united. We gathered at that statue to say, publicly and loudly, that females meeting together, embracing and united, is a basic right. And yet it is so threatening to patriarchy, that, in 2013, 100 years after the violent struggle for the vote, we are continuously censored, silenced, intimidated, when we say we’ll be meeting.

We want to name our truths as females socialised in a world where women are oppressed, tortured, killed, raped, sexually assaulted, prostituted and exploited as a social norm. Men do not want us to name these truths. They tell us, if we do so at all, we must discuss male violence “underground”, in secrecy and in fear. We will not allow men to tell us we can’t be together without them. We will not allow men to dictate the boundaries of our movement. It is our basic right to decide for ourselves and we will claim it.

silent no more (2)

On Friday 7 June, at St Pancras, opposite the venue for the 2013 women’s liberation conference, and round the corner to where Emily Davison was commemorated for dedicating her life to women, almost 100 years to the day, we read this rights of women statement:

First woman: Today, in the 21st century, in 2013, 100 years after Emily Davison died fighting for the vote, women’s rights to politically organise are under attack. There are moments in history when women have to fight for our basic rights. Today is one of those moments. Women now, and in the past, fight for the right to be educated and take part in democracy. Today, we are fighting for our right to meet as females. The law, calls of bigotry, lies and smears, are used by men to shut us down. Extremist male groups try to intimidate us and anyone who supports us. We are here, today, at St Pancras “meeting place” statue to say together, to say out loud, that we will not be silenced. We will claim our rights.

This is our rights of women statement which we, revolutionary feminists, read to you today, on the 7 June, 2013, St Pancras, London.

We have a right to meet together as women
We have a right to claim women-only space
We have a right to state that “gender” benefits men at the expense of women
We have a right to critique gender ( and to state that swapping or “playing with” gender does not change the fact that men have power and control within society)
We have a lawful right to meet under the Human Rights Act and under the equality act – and even if we didn’t, we’d do it anyway
We oppose the use of existing laws to censor us and restrict our freedom of assembly and our freedom to politically organise.
As a class of oppressed people, we have a right to politically organise to fight for the freedom of females, without fear of harassment and intimidation.
We have a right to openly present our politics, clearly and without compromise,
We have a right to correct distortions, misinterpretations and lies about our politics because these are attempts to silence us
We will not be silenced
We are angry women and, today, we claim our women-only space by surrounding the “meeting place“, the spot where historically thousands of people walk these platforms.
We will continue to claim our women-only ground, from this day on, until women can meet safely and without fear.
We unite with all women everywhere, throughout history, and internationally, who have fought for the basic right to meet to talk about our freedoms and rights.
We will fight for our sisters of today and our sisters of the future, until patriarchy is destroyed.

–Ruby Fruit, Lakha Mahila, Jackie, Lysandra, and all the sisters present at the action.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Oshkosh Old Ladies Home

Old Ladies Home - Oshkosh
Old Ladies Home

Location: 1628 North Main Street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

Opened: August 20, 1902

Closed: 1974

Like similar initiatives during the 19th century, the Old Ladies Home in Oshkosh came about because middle-class women banded together to create charitable institutions to help women, children, and the poor.
Derived from the Ladies Benevolent Society website (unbelievably, they still exist!):
In 1863 a group of prominent Oshkosh women formed the Ladies Aid Society and rolled bandages from old sheets and table linens to assist in the Civil War. In 1865 the name was changed to the Ladies Benevolent Society.
In 1902 the Society built a home at 1628 North Main Street in which they cared for older women. 
By 1974, however, government regulations and the health of the women made it too expensive for LBS to keep “The Home” open. There were 10 women living there at that time. Evergreen Retirement Community agreed to take the women in and care for them until they died. Nine of them moved to Evergreen; one died before the move. 
The home was later sold to the Winnebago County Association for Retarded Citizens. In June 1992, the house became Centennial Inn, a home for seniors.
So the place came full circle--but this time they admitted men. 
Haven't found out a lot about life at "the Home." But we see here that the Oshkosh chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) "furnished the Christmas dinner and entertainment" for the ladies in 1917. This included "music, readings, Christmas tree, and a gift of one handkerchief and $1 for each lady--20 in number."
For some reason, all that sounds rather depressing....

Falcon Hollywood

Falcon Hollywood

Location: 7213 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California, USA

Opened: 2006

Closed: 2012

Falcon was one of those places that operated as a restauant during the day, before switching to an swanky club at night.

It was also identified--but inconsistently--as a lesbian bar. Especially when various celebrities stopped by. Like Tara Reid in July 2008 or Paris Hilton in January 2008.

The vast majority of customer reviews are pretty generic discussions of the food or the general ambience and service. One of the (very) few reviews that allude to this being a lesbian place is from yelp, March 2009:

Falcon exterior

Falcon interior

So I showed up Sunday for Lword night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one was wearing cargo shorts.
Some how in Az at any given lesbian club/bar/eventyou just have a sea of cargo shorts.

Come on people brush your hair at least.

Gotta say everyone put effort into there looks which is nice to see. I dont care about looks or anyhting but I swear the lesbians in az are soo frumpy. Not only that but the are very stand offish.
If you go to somewhere and see another lesbian they will stare you down like they want to beat your ass. In LA I notice they nod or smile like normal people. Anyway, this place was small but really cool great seating, my only complaint is that the dj was playing 10 yr old bad techno, I mean bad. It was easy to order a drink no wait.

Everyone was friendly..

Friday, June 7, 2013

Miss S.J. Hale's Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies

School for Young Ladies
Miss S.J. Hale's Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies

Location: 922 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: Around 1859

The only source I have on Miss Hale's comes from a February 1859 article in the Godey's Ladies Book entitled "American Schools and Colleges for Young Ladies." It's reproduced at a site called Accessible Archives:

PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES — We would again call the attention of our readers to Miss S.J. Hale's Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies, 922 Spruce Street. This school combines, in an unusual degree, the comforts of a home with the discipline and regularity of a school. The health and deportment, as well as the intellectual advancement of the scholars, have careful attention.

922 Spruce Street today
The Course of English study is thorough and liberal. A superior French teacher resides in the family, to aid in conversation in that language. The musical department is under the care of those qualified in the highest degree to improve the pupils intrusted to them; and all the other accomplishments are well and carefully taught.

922 Spruce is now a private residence. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Green Door

Green Door Bar (August 1955)
Green Door 

Location: Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, California, USA

Opened/Closed: Around 1955

This must have been an archivist's fondest fantasy come true. One day, some photos inexplicably arrive--and they're of a local lesbian bar from nearly 60 years ago. Not only that, they document a bar that had been more or less erased from the record, totally unknown! 

The story is reported in a great article called Remembering LA's Earliest Lesbian Bars:

Recently, the [June Mazer] archive received a donation of several photographs dated August 1955, taken at a bar called the Green Door on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. The donation is notable, [Angela] Brinskele, [the archive's communication director] said, because LGBT historians had never heard of the Green Door. Furthermore, the photos show women freely posing, which was rare in a time of police harassment.

The article also identifies several other early lesbian bars in LA--some of which we have discussed here at Lost Womyn's Space, some not. Great material to mine for future posts. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Maler - Ladies' Secret Club

Blanick√° 28
Maler - Ladies' Secret Club

Location: Blanick√° 28, Prague, Czech Republic  

Opened: ?

Closed: By August 2007

The following description of Maler shows up at AllPraha.com:

A ladies' club for women who enjoy hanging out in the company of other women. They serve breakfast starting at 9am, and organize weekly dance parties with various themes. Men are welcome during the week, but during the special weekend events, they may only attend in the conmpany of women.

We're also told that Maler had been "Shut Down" with the last update on the place dated 22 Aug 07.

Prague Guide tells us a little more, but not much more:

Maler - Ladies' Secret Club 
A lesbian club with discos on Friady and Saturday (cover 50CZK). Once a month they do specials 'Ladies Secret Club' parties. 

Pretty much the same description at Prague Travel Guide:

maLer - Ladies' Secret Club
A large lesbian club with discos on Fridays and Saturdays. Ladies' Secret Party once a month. Breakfast and fastfood.

Now the space is occupied by--surprise!--a gay (men's) bar called Fenoman Club.