Friday, August 29, 2014

The Front

The Front
San Francisco waterfront (late 1940s/early 50s)

Location: Front and Jackson Streets, San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1951

Closed: ?

In the Encyclopedia of Lesbian History, Bonnie Zimmerman states that The Front was the first lesbian bar on San Francisco's waterfront. It was founded by Charlotte Coleman (ca. 1924-) in 1951.

Charlotte Coleman is mentioned in a number of other books including Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Here is part of the chapter by Roberta Bobba about Charlotte:

Charlotte Coleman was more or less forced to resign from the Internal Revenue Service because of her suspected lesbianism, and, deciding to become more open about her same-sex preferences, she opened the first lesbian-owned bar in San Francisco, the Front. This was the first of many gay bars and restaurants she established; when one closed one she moved on to another, including the Golden Cask and the Mint. She was not a passive owner but an active one, and her bars and restaurants hosted many a fund-raising event in the gay community and served as a safe meeting place for others. She was among the founders of the San Francisco Tavern Guild, which, aided by the wholesale liquor dealers, served as an effective political force in opening up the bar scene in San Francisco. She was instrumental in the founding of the first gay bank, was important in the development of the Gay Olympics, and was a strong supporter of the Daughters of Bilitis.

Also see Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America and Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out (Charlotte was in the Coast Guard during World War II.) The last work is written in Charlotte's voice and is particularly vivid and interesting.

As of December 2013, Charlotte Coleman was still alive at 90 years of age. See this touching video and article. Other than this video, I haven't found any visual images of Charlotte or of The Front.


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