Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lost lesbian places in Wellington, New Zealand

Lost lesbian places in Wellington, New Zealand

This list of lost (or mostly lost) lesbian places is derived from a longer list of places cited in the Lesbian/Gay Historical Walk of Wellington.

Queen Victoria by Alfred Drury
Wellington, New Zealand
Queen Victoria's statue. The famous story that she denied the possibility of lesbianism when the Labouchere Amendment, criminalising all same-sex activity, was introduced in 1885 - resulting in lesbianism's omission from the Act - is probably false. More likely is that the gentlemen attending her struck it out rather than even mention it, or feared (as the House of Lords did nearly 40 years later when an attempt was made to add it to the statute) that criminalising it would alert women to its possibility. The story was useful, however, when her statue was made the focus of a demonstration in 1977 promoting lesbian visibility on International Women's Day.

41 Vivian Street today--now the
Phu Thai Lanna Restaurant
41 Vivian St. Site of Club 41 (the first lesbian club). The site was offered by Carmen in 1973 and a group of four lesbians bought the lease and ran it as a women-only club until it closed in 1977, partly owing to licensing problems - it had no legal liquor licence. [We previously posted on Club 41 here.]

Wigan St. Site of the Lesbian Club, September 1984-1985. Shifted to 41 Vivian St upstairs, then to Tory St.

Lesbians went to The Pub, Ghuznee St, 1977-80 - an important meeting place during this period, because Club 41 had closed. (Firebombed and closed 1980)

Mary Taylor
DEKA Building (2012)
Southwest corner of Dixon and Cuba Sts (now DEKA). Mary Taylor (1817-1893), a former lover of Charlotte Bronte (who wrote that she had "more energy and power in her nature than any ten men"), came out from England in 1845 with her brother Waring Taylor and founded a drapery store on this site in 1849, named after herself. It was described as one of the principal stores of Wellington in 1853. Bronte died in childbirth in 1855 without seeing Mary again. In 1859, unable to find anyone here she had anything in common with, Mary sold the store to her assistant, James Smith (who renamed it after himself and later moved it to its present site) and returned to England. In 1870 she collected some articles she had written into a book, The First Duty of Women, "designed to inculcate the duty of earning money on every woman in order to protect herself from the danger of being forced to marry."

Willis Street Village
Willis Street Village, fourth and final site of the Dorian Club c1980-c1987, Outrage (first lesbian-owned private club) 1991-1993, Euroclub 1993

3 Boulcott St, now part of the Majestic Centre, site of the Lesbian and Gay Resource Centre, 1980-1986. In the basement was a drop-in centre, headquarters of the National Gay Rights Coalition, a coordinating centre for Homosexual Law Reform, and the first site of the Gay Switchboard. The Women's Resource Centre and the Women's Health Collective opened here in 1979. Lesbians were employed by all three organisations under PEP schemes. The Pink Triangle magazine was published from here. On the top floor was the first Lesbian Centre, and the first home of what is now the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand, object of an arson attack on September 11, 1986. (The attack seems to have been opportunistic, though homophobic messages were left.)

The Grand arcade, site of the Grand Hotel, "popular with businessmen after work" - John Miller.
The Wakefield, the Panama and other pubs were variously gathering places for sporting lesbians at various times.

Lambton Quay near Whitcome & Tombs (now Whitcoulls) and Cable Car Lane. Third site of the Dorian Club. c1970-c1980. Women accepted as members again.
The Federation of University Women (clubrooms, Lambton quay near Cable Car Lane) and other women's organisations (YWCA, CWI) were useful lesbian networking points, which gave excuses for knowing people.

Bowen House. On July 29, 1993, the Human Rights Amendment Bill was passed here after only a day and a half of debate -- but many, many hours of hard work behind the scenes. After a long and hard struggle by lesbian groups throughout the country, the Human Rights Commission Act is now unique in our legislation in including the word "lesbian" in its definition of sexual orientation.

81 Hill St, Thorndon, studio of Dorothy Kate Richmond, probable lover of Frances Hodgkins, and a mecca for their many lesbian and gay friends.

US Embassy - Wellington
29 (formerly 4) Fitzherbert Terrace (now the US Embassy) Site of Katherine Mansfield's home 1906-1908 (aged 18-20). She was living here when she had her affair with Edith Bendall - who became Winifred Inger in D H Lawrence's The Rainbow - and possibly with Maata Mahupuku [Martha Grace], but she was no longer welcome there, possibly because they had been sprung. Edith Bendall married and lived to 107, dying in 1986, but latterly would not talk about the relationship.

25 (formerly 11) Tinakori Road, Katherine Mansfield's birthplace

Annie Besant
Jerome Spencer House, 1 Collina Terrace. Jerome Spencer was a friend of Annie Besant and helped found Theosophy in New Zealand, and also the New Zealand Country Women's Institutes. She wrote to Elsie Locke that her intention in doing so was to bring women together doing something simple and innocuous. Principal of Napier Girls' High School, she lived with another teacher, Amy Large. Amy resigned to marry Frank Hutchinson. Jerome resigned too, and the three lived together in an orchard in Havelock North, carrying on "the Havelock Work" -- spiritualism, morris dancing, pageants, and The Hermeneutical Lodge (hermeneutics = interpretation), and she said "Frank is a very necessary part of the trio," but her meaning remains mysterious.

Thorndon Tavern. Until 1994, hosted monthly Dykes Out Of Debt (DOODs) dances, fundraisers for Lesbian Radio, Lesbianline, etc.
Thistle Inn

The Thistle Inn. Scene of KM's unpublished lesbian story, Leves Amores. KM had her father's typist Matty Putnam type it up, and it created such a scandal she was first prevented, then encouraged to leave the country.
(The Thistle Inn is now on the corner of Kate Sheppard Place. A suffrage connection: Elsie Andrews, who taught at New Plymouth Girls High School, organised the fiftieth anniversary of women's suffrage. She wrote love poetry to the woman she lived with for most of her life, Muriel Curtain, another teacher at NPGHS. At least 30 Taranaki lesbians, mainly teachers, knew each other in 1910-1930 and willed their property to each other.)

Site of the Railway Tavern. Lesbian gathering place (Friday and Saturday nights) 1981-2, and meeting place for gay men and rough trade. "A great push and shove." - John Miller

Site of Chaffers St Bus Depot (now New World). Lesbian bus drivers pioneered concessions (partner passes) for same-sex partners. In 1979, Mayor Michael Fowler vetoed a notice for bus interiors bearing the dangerously inflammatory message, "Lesbians, Contact Your Local Community, phone ...."

Oriental Parade, site of the Victoria Club, 1979-1992. Its third-floor balcony provided great summer scenery for and of gay men. The few lesbian members were generally older and less political, but it was home of the Lesbian Club in the last year or so of its life.

The following sites are NOT womyn's spaces, but they beautifully illustrate the historic control/regulation of womyn's space. 

Northeast corner of Dixon and Cuba Sts (now The Oaks). Site of The Royal Oak Hotel. The Bistro Bar and the Tavern Bar were notable gathering places for gay men and transsexuals from at least the 1950s to 1979 when the Royal Oak was demolished.

Gay and lesbian gathering was very much under the control of the licensing laws until 1967, when ten o'clock closing was introduced after a referendum. The Bistro Bar was one of the first to bend the licensing laws, abot 1963, by offering a token meal (a bowl of rice for 2/6) and so becoming a licensed restaurant where both women and men could drink until 10pm. Women were not admitted to most public bars at all, and to certain private bars (marked "Ladies and Escorts Only" but commonly called "cats' bars") only with a male escort. This was intended to prevent prostitution. Gay men formed natural escorts for lesbians under this restriction, both finding more interesting company once they were inside.

Cornhill St (near Regent Arcade). First site of the Dorian Club, 1962-c1965. Women were not accepted as members or even visitors at this site.

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