Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shakespearean Inn Ladies Cafe

Shakespearean Inn Ladies Café
Beach Street today

Location: Beach Street, Boston, Massachusetts,USA

Opened/Closed: Early 1900s

Men showing disrespect for women's spaces is nothing new. Their urge to crash any space set aside for (or forcibly claimed by) women is seen in all times and all places.

Realize that the ladies cafes of the 19th century/early 20th century were largely in the former (i.e. set aside) category, as many eating and drinking establishments of the time were male-only either by law or by custom. In most cases, ladies cafes were an afterthought, a sop if you will. And in fact, ladies cafes did not typically exclude men per se (even though the men's ones excluded women), but they usually "preferred" that gentlemen be accompanied by ladies (sounds like the unofficial policy of a lot of lesbian bars, another example of a fragile and increasingly endangered women's space. And a policy that men complain about endlessly, despite the plethora of spaces catering to gay and straight males).

And yet even though there were (and are) male only/and or male-dominated establishments in abundance, they gentlemen couldn't help themselves from intruding on Shakespearean Inn Ladies Café. At least in this case, they got push-back from the management. From the Boston Post, March 19, 1901:

Landlord William Hennessy of the Shakespearean Inn in denying admission to teh [sic] Rev. Herbert S. Johnson and his party to the ladies' café because they were not accompanied by ladies followed a rule that has been in vogue at his hotel ever since he opened. It is known to the frequenters of the Inn that no hotel in the city is conducted more carefully, and that, too, in a neighborhood where every effort is made to break down rules of propriety and decorum. Mr. Hennessy has established the reputation of meeting all difficulties and conforming to the laws and police regulations as well, if not better, than any other hotel proprietor in the city.

Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Hennessy's reputation for a well-run house ran into a bit of trouble less than a year later. A man shot another man through the head (killing him instantly), just outside the Shakespearean Inn. It seems it all started as a brawl while the two men were in "the barroom at the Shakespearean Inn." According to this article, the killer was "driven to desperation" by the victim's "insulting language"-- though the insult seems pretty mild by modern standards. We're informed that a "dozen men were standing about the bar" when the "trouble began," so this obviously took place in the men's bar. The killer later committed suicide.

So I can kind of see how the ladies preferred to do their imbibing without a lot of menfolk about.

The former Shakespearean Inn is now part of Boston's Chinatown, specifically within the tiny (six building) Beach-Knapp Historical district. I'm unable to identify the specific building.

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