Thursday, December 17, 2015

Berlin Women's Bank

Berlin 1914
Berlin Women's Bank

Location: Berlin, Germany

Opened: 1909

Closed: 1915

I've been combing through newspapers from the pre-World War I era lately, and I happened to come across this little gem.

It's from the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, January 16, 1914 (Unfortunately, the google link function is not working):


Berlin's Unique Institution to Issue Financial Daily.

BERLIN, Jan. 15--The Berlin Women's Bank, which is believed to be the only bank in the world run for and by women exclusively, has completed five years of existence, and is to celebrate January 17.

A luncheon will be given with several hundred guests. One of the day's events will be the announcement that the bank has decided to issue the world's first financial daily for women. It will start with an edition of 20,000 which represents the bank's present list of shareholders and clients. The bank's assets are $250,000.

According to this article in the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Berlin Women's Bank was closed down by the authorities in April 1915.

This February 1914 New York Times article hints at some of the problems these women faced in making this effort succeed. In this particular instance, their attempt to get admission to the floor of the stock exchange was thwarted by the men and labeled a "joke."

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Famous Door

From the Famous Door's later incarnation as a gay
male bar in the 1970s
Famous Door

Location: 1786 Madison, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Opened: 1969

Closed: 1969

As far as I can tell, Famous Door was a (predominatly) lesbian bar for only a few months in 1969. However, even that history is buried in the location's subsequently more famous history as a gay male bar known as George's. 

From a book called Carryin On In the Lesbian and Gay South, specifically the chapter called "Softball and Alcohol: The Limits of Lesbian Community in Memphis from the 1940s through the 1960s" by Daneel Burring: 

Memphis's first primarily lesbian bars opened in the late 1960s. Nancy, one of the narrators, entered into the lesbian bar business in 1969 when she took over the lease for a bar named the Famous Door. She subleased the Famous Door from a lesbian couple who had previously owned the Raven and the Aristocrat [two mixed gay private clubs in Tipton County, Tennessee].The bar had originally opened as the Twilight Lounge Tavern. At the time, the Twilight Lounge catered to both gays and lesbians; however, when Nancy took it over lesbians predominated. After a short time Nancy gave up the lease on the Famous Door and opened the Psych-Out, which legally changed names several times throughout the 1970s but always referred to as the Psych-Out by patrons.

Later on, the article adds:

None of the butch narrators who participated in this study was ever prosecuted for cross-dressing, but several remember the anxiety they felt about going to the bars.

"If you pulled up in front of the Famous Door, and this was done many times, and you saw a police car there, you drove around and around and around. If you were in there when they came in and . . .you had your arm around somebody, you dropped it. If you sere sitting a little bit closer, you immediately tried to act straight. You wouldn't dare talk back."

This selection from an article at Memphis Vive Magazine adds a few more details. Notice that once again, we see a familiar theme: how gay men take over lesbian space and make it their own. And how the lesbian usage of that space is effectively erased from that history, so that only a few random individual women remain--even "Nancy,"the one who took over the lease for a time and made it into a lesbian bar, has disappeared. Also notice that this article on the history of George's and gay bars at that location (if you look it up) includes no photographs of women or lesbians--just drag queens and gay men. 

It was way back in 1960, a long time before gay acceptance by society was even a dream, that a woman remembered only as “Lou” opened a little, dumpy beer bar at 1786 Madison called The Twilight Lounge. In those days the term “closet” meant “dungeon.” Sharon Wray (an owner or partner in many gay and lesbian bars in Memphis) used the phrase, “Gays were allowed to come in.” Gathering places were rare and usually far from town such as Ben’s, near Lehigh, AR, and the Raven, across the Tipton county line. Lou discovered that the gay crowd was a well-behaved crowd and that they spent money and kept coming. Thus was the location established.

The name changed for the first time to Cookie and Blanche’s in a year of two; no one remembers whether the two women were actually lesbian or not but the crowd was still encouraged to come. Mike Rollins took over the ownership in 1965, took back the original name and it was a bartender who leaned over the bar to kiss a sailor which caused the bar to be busted and closed. The newspaper story read, “Twilight Kiss Closes Twilight Lounge.” In order to smooth things over, a lesbian was produced and the two people involved swore that they were a couple. The ruse worked and a much more discreet Twilight Lounge reopened.

George Wilson

The ownership passed to two women named Kay Thornton and Sarah Forbes in 1969 and the name changed to The Famous Door. Several times that year, the establishment changed hands, even once belonging to Sharon Wray and business partner Carolyn Marbury. In those days beer and setups were sold. The laws were very exacting: a bar could be cited for allowing a patron to stand up to drink; they had to be seated. Beer could be sold until 12 AM, then later up until 1 AM. Sharon remembers that water setups had to be poured from a pitcher, as there was no sink behind the bar.

George Wilson had moved to Memphis and opened an antique business. He was persuaded to become involved with the long-time gay hangout at the end of 1969. He finally obtained ownership and called it merely The Door. After the new year, an old acquaintance named Dennis Belski moved back to town and was hired to tend bar. George had also acquired a new lover/partner from Canada, Don Rossignol by name. The sun was about to rise in an explosion of glitter and sequins.

In a history written by and/or interviewing lesbians, somebody would know who "Lou" and "Cookie" and "Blanche" were, and whether they were lesbians. Here they are merely ciphers. Of course, lesbians would pay attention to such things. To gay men, they are merely background figures in the scenery. 

In addition, notice that this article on this history of the Memphis white gay male community makes no mention of this location's previous existence as even a short-lived lesbian bar. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Beijing Lesbian Center

Beijing Chauyang District
Beijing Lesbian Center

Location: Beijing City Chaoyang district Sihui East Heng Shidai Building No. 3, 28th floor, Apartment no. 8

Opened/Closed: c. 2012

Perhaps the best description of the Beijing Lesbian Center is from a 2012 article at City Weekend. Notice that despite the name, the Beijing Lesbian Center wasn't exclusively lesbian at all, which is pretty typical of the confusing, co-opted times we live in. (How ironic that the gay men and/or trans people take over the women's restrooms in gay bars, so women can't use them. And then women can't even keep a "Lesbian Center" women-only.)

Here it is reported that the Beijing Lesbian Center is now closed.

La La Love: Hanging out at Beijing's Lesbian Center

    “This is gay night, are you gay” This comes from inside a stall at [Alfa) where men have taken over the ladies’ washroom and are refusing to give up the space to women who need to use the facilities. Instead, they partner up in the stalls, shouting at the women that “only gay people” should be at Alfa on a Friday. The bar is teeming with Chinese men and a few expat boys, while a small group of girls huddle together on the second floor in the smoky haze. Sometimes it seems the gay scene in Beijing is really just for men. But is it? Language barriers and financial struggles make the growth of lesbian life in Beijing slower than volunteers and staff members at Beijing’s many gay groups and organizations would like, but a closer look reveals a vibrant community.

Beijing's Vibrant Lesbian Scene

At the Lesbian Center in Sihui—formerly known as Lala Salon—is volunteer Carina Rother. While it mainly serves as a hang out place for lesbians, what is most amazing about it, Rother says, is its diversity, with monthly meetings for transgender persons, middle-aged lesbians, and a night for lesbian mothers and mothers of lesbian daughters. “The program is quickly evolving,” she says. “There are new volunteers, ideas and interest groups every week.”
Carina Rother
While there are still many challenges to the future of the center and the community it serves, “the worst problem is definitely the money,” she says. The center’s five board members pay the rent themselves, with some help from the ¥25 fee for activities. But financial burden makes an uncertain future. Networking is another problem. The center lacks foreign NGO contacts, and because they use Weibo and QQ, it’s difficult for non-Chinese speakers to find them. Language issues also present difficulties for expat women looking to join local lesbian culture. Tongyu, a lesbian group whose name translates as “common language,” put on a well-attended play in Beijing last month, but, as the performance was in Chinese, foreign faces in the audience were few. Tongyu is involved in a variety of activities, but most are solidly aimed at the Chinese-speaking set, such as co-hosted Saturday afternoon salon for Chinese-speaking lesbians at J Bar, with a discussion or lecture. Tongyu also runs a hotline (132-4038-4246) and teams with [Aibai] to provide legal and health information to the queer community and to increase support for gay rights among the general public. English-speakers can find support through [BGLAD] (Beijing Gay, Lesbian and Allies Discussion), a Yahoo group.

Bringing Expats and Locals Together

Messages for Meeting Up
In a quest to bring foreign and Chinese lalas together, a volunteer at the LGBT Center says they, in collaboration with the Lesbian Center, are planning an “international la la meeting” in the near future. She points out that on BGLAD, she will tag it as a “party” so people actually go. A number of lesbian-oriented groups have moved to the same building as the LGBT Center in Liufang, she says, and she believes it is a good idea to “pool resources, and, more importantly, to build a real physical sense of ‘community.’” Though there is a stereotype that lesbians are quick to settle down after meeting a new love, leading to a lack of a party crowd to support regular lesbian nights around the city, this isn’t necessarily the case, says Stephen Leonelli, program manager at the Beijing [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Center. Chinese lesbian magazine Les Plus’s occasional fundraising events are a place for la las to let loose, he says. “And those girls really know how to party.”

Love, Marriage and a Supportive Community

The community also often gathers for non-party events, such as trips just for girls up to 798 or potluck dinners. Those interested in stepping out of the party scene to meet up can check out. While being gay in China is still not as socially accepted as it could be, those involved with the capital’s gay and lesbian centers say they don’t experience any organized or blatant opposition, an atmosphere that allows women to come to Beijing and feel free to be themselves. With several groups in operation and the drive to create a larger and stronger community, volunteers and members are optimistic about the future of Beijing’s la la scene.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lesbian bars in Milwaukee

Bet-Z Boenning at Walker's Pint
Lesbian Bars in Milwaukee

We're down to one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Where have all the lesbian bars gone?

By Molly Snyder

Milwaukee was never a hotbed of lesbian bars, but from the '70s until recently there were always at least a few in operation at the same time, including the Beer Garden, Fannie's, Kathy's Nut Hut, Mona's, Barbie Dolls and Dish.

Now, Walker's Pint, 818 S. 2nd St., is believed to be the only women's bar left in the city – although there are unconfirmed rumors that there's one quietly operating on Milwaukee's North Side. Art Bar and Hybrid are "straight friendly," gay-ish bars that don't cater specifically to lesbians or gay men.

The disappearance of lesbian bars is not only happening in Milwaukee. Even cities with a high number of LGBTQ ladies like San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago and New York have closed the doors to most – if not all – of their women's bars due to lack of funds and low turnout.

The most recent impactful closing took place earlier this year when The Lex in San Francisco shut down after 18 years of business. In 2013, West Hollywood – where almost half of the residents are lesbians – shuttered its last women's bar, The Palms, after 43 years.

What's happening to the American lesbian bar? Do gay women not need girls-only entertainment spaces anymore? Has the country become so accepting of lesbians that they no longer need their own bars?

Bet-z Boenning, who worked as a bartender at Dish in the '90s, opened Walker's Pint in 2001. Although she agrees there is now more acceptance of gay women in Milwaukee, the city still has a long way to go.

"We don't have to go to dark bars and hide anymore, but that's not to say that women don't need safe spaces anymore, because we do. There is always the risk of getting picked on, made fun of or worse when you're a lesbian and it still happens a lot," she says.

Read the rest here

Monday, August 17, 2015

Club Tribute

Club Tribute's photo.
Club Tribute (March 2009)
Club Tribute

Location: 3200 North Arnoult Road (18th Street), Metairie, Louisiana, USA
Opened: March 2009
Closed: February 2013

From Gay Cities:

NOLA's #1 lesbian bar
Club Tribute is always having a good time in Phat City. With drink specials throughout the week and hot girls servin' them up, it's sure to be a fun girls night.

And here's a customer review from August 2012:

This bar not only had a dance floor but also 5 small pool tables (only 50 cents a game). There were booths for more intimate conversation. The drinks were well priced and despite having three drinks each our bill was under $30.00.

The Facebook page documents what a great old-school lesbian bar this was--hundreds (if not thousands!) of photos from birthday parties, benefits, fundraisers for breast cancer, animal rescue, etc. Unfortunately, it all came to an end when the owners of the building decided to sell.

Club Tribute's photo.
Club Tribute Farewell Party - February 22, 2013
Here's the farewell letter from the owner (dated February 21, 2013):

Just received verbal notice this week that the building where Club Tribute / Escapades are located in has been sold...The new owners (a Medical Service) wants us to vacate within 10 days so this weekend will be our last weekend opened forever (at this location). We will open Friday for Club Tribute (No cover)...Saturday for an event hosted by Dragon (cover) and Sunday for Escapades (Club Tribute family are welcomed but there will be a cover) .
I want to take this time and ...
thank our customers (family) for helping to put us on the map. My family has been operating at this location for 25+ plus years (4 years as Club Tribute) so it saddens me deeply to see it come to an end; but our journey will continue and I hope that Club Tribute’s family will go out and support the Beach House and all other “Alternative” businesses…We are a community and we need to do everything in our power to support each other.
Much love to you all,

Below are a variety of posters from Club Tribute's four years of existence:

Club Tribute's photo.
Kristy Lee at Club Tribute
(March 2009)

Club Tribute's photo.
Michigan Avenue at Club Tribute (April 2012)

Club Tribute's photo.
Tammy & Coleen Birthday Celebration at
Club Tribute (November 2011)

Club Tribute's photo.
God-des & She at Club Tribute (April 2011)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lounging room for ladies, Louisville & Nashville Railroad

San Antonio Express, June 20, 1925

Lounging room for ladies, Louisville & Nashville Railroad

Location: Ran between New Orleans, Louisiana, Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Open/Closed: 1920s

As a student of history, I know very well that access to a transportation service like this, especially in this location (the American South), was stringently regulated by race and social/economic class.

But there is a part of me that is easily seduced by the golden age of railroads--I freely admit it. Especially in the hot summer months, I can easily find myself fantasizing what this kind of journey by train could have been like.

And then under the description of the Pan-American, I see a reference to a "lounging room for ladies."

Now I'm really imagining good times!

I have seen references to ladies lounges in hotels of this era, but never one on a train. I have seen references to smoking cars, which were almost always reserved for men with few exceptions. (An earlier post on a smoking car for women--for some inexplicable reason--is one of our most popular posts.)

So as I swelter in front of my computer, I am drifting back to 1925 and shuttling off on a night-bound train out of New Orleans. I had just settled into a seat in the lounging room for ladies, when a mysterious woman in a black cloche hat strolls into the car and eases into the seat beside me....

Monday, July 27, 2015

India's first lesbian helpline

Workers at the Lesbian Helpline in Tamilnadu, India, posted by the Indian Community Welfare Organisation.
Workers at Lesbian Helpline, Tamilnadu, India
India's first lesbian helpline

Location: Chennai, India

Opened: February 2009

Closed: May still be technically in existent, but apparently not really functional

In the U.S., Canada, et. al, lesbian hotlines and helplines started popping up in the 1970s. With the rise of the Internet, loss of volunteer interest, apathy, other alternatives, etc., they gradually withered away.

In India, the first lesbian helpline just got started about six years ago. But just as we see with all sorts of womyn's spaces in the western countries, this particular "space" was quickly infiltrated and overrun by men. Basically destroyed before it could even get started.

From the New York Daily News, February 5, 2015:

India's first lesbian phone helpline is being swamped with calls by curious men.

More than 80% of people who dial in to the Chennai-based service are actually males, reports Gay Star News.

Volunteer Aksma said many try to get contact numbers for gay women while others just want to find out more about same-sex female relationships.

"Some call up and say they have a sister or wife or a relative who is attracted to women. Finally, they ask for contact numbers of lesbians," the 24-year-old boxing coach told the Times of India.

"When we ask them to pass the phone to the woman, they refuse. A few men ask questions like how women are attracted to other women and how it is to be in a relationship," she added.

The weekend helpline was launched by the Indian Community Welfare Organization in February 2009 after a lesbian couple committed suicide in Chennai.
It now handles around 25 calls per day from across the state of Tamil Nadu — and also from south Indians who have settled in cities across the world, including London.

Psychiatrist Dr. Vasantha Jeyaraman, who works at Global Hospital, said the callers' curiosity was "not abnormal."

"Some men would get pleasure out of making such calls or few would want to try their luck while some heterosexuals would want to ridicule the women," he told the Times of India.

"It could be anything but only irresponsible men would make such calls," he added.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Karangahape Road Girl's Club

women at the KG Club 1974
KG Club (1974)
Karangahape Road Girl's Club

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Opened: 1971

Closed: 1979?

From a piece called Queen City: A Secret History of Auckland:

And who remembers the KG Club – the Karangahape Road Girl’s Club or the Kamp Girls Club? It was New Zealand’s first ever lesbian social club, founded by Raukura Te Aroha “Bubs” Hetet, in late 1971. It met in a variety of private homes before opening in Beach Road and then moving to the corner of Karangahape Road and Hereford Street, where it had a sterling reputation for boisterous parties.

And also from New Zealand or Bust:

Here’s what I’ve found out about the KG Club, or Kamp Girls Club, one of the first, if not the first, lesbian social clubs in New Zealand.

Queer people in New Zealand did not begin to regularly describe themselves as “gay” until the 1970s. Prior to that, queers used the word “kamp.“ The term comes from the acronym used by Australian police to label gay men “Known As Male Prostitute.” Despite its negative roots, "kamp” was embraced by gay men and lesbians in Australia and then in New Zealand. Usage continued into the 1970s.

By the late 1960s, lesbian social culture had the right ingredients to thrive. Kamp women recognized cities as the best places to meet other women and as more people moved to urban areas, public kamp communities formed. News of the fight for gay liberation and information about lesbian clubs abroad inspired New Zealand lesbians to organize. Sports such as hockey and softball became very popular among kamp women, bringing teams and fans together to socialize.

To meet the needs of this blossoming culture, the Kamp Girls Club was established in late 1971 as a social club meeting in private homes in Auckland. One of the women who hosted the club at her house tells her story in Alison J. Laurie’s doctoral thesis. Raukura (Bubs) Te Aroha Hetet’s group of kamp women got together to sing, play guitars, eat and drink. Bubs soon established the first rented location for the KG Club in 1972 on Karangahape Road.

Lesbians met at the Kamp Girls Club after sports games or to attend dances in this women-only space. There was even a newsletter for the patrons, named after the club, published in 1977 and 1978.

Documentary-style fine art photographer, Fiona Clark, who has photographed many points of queer cultural significance, snapped some shots in 1974 (including the above image).
women at the KG Club 1974

women at the KG Club 1974

During the 1970s, the KG Club moved locations, existing at venues on Beach Road, Hereford Street and Albert Street. In 1979, the KG club relocated from Beach Road to the corner of Karangahape Road & Hereford Street, which I believe is its last rented location.

This is the building today. The club existed on the second floor.
531-535 Karangahape Road

I’m looking forward to paying tribute to the Kamp Girls Club in person in a few months.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bookie Joint for Women

Bookie Joint for Women

Location: 5057 Lake Park Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: Between 1928-1930

Closed: 1938

One of the odder women-only spaces we've ever posted on.

From the Chicago Tribune's Dangerous dames and good-time gals:

Emeline Poshil and Bernice Sheppard (1938)

Miss Emeline Poshil, 51, left, and Miss Bernice Sheppard, 25, at the State's Attorney's Office after both were arrested for owning and operating a bookie for women on Oct. 19, 1938. According to the Chicago Tribune, Miss Sheppard was looking after the place, located at 5057 Lake Park Avenue, for her mother Mae, who was out watching a horse that she owned at the track. The Sheppard mother and daughter team, along with Poshil who was a clerk, had run the bookie for women for eight or ten years. "The ladies were nibbling jelly rolls and sipping soft drinks and coffee," according to the newspaper, when State's Attorney axmen came busting into the betting establishment for discriminating women. Detective Daniel Moriarty and his fellow axmen were ill at ease arresting the women with Moriarty later saying "I was a little embarrassed." The headline read "Axmen Toast Ladies With A Bang Up Party; Axmen Wreck Handbook Run By Women." — Chicago Tribune historical photo, Feb. 27, 2014

Monday, July 13, 2015


Patricia Highsmith at 21

Location: Macdougal Street, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1930s-1940s

I have found exactly one reference to L's. That was in a December 2009 New York Times article on the lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith. The article discusses a lot of the places where Highsmith used to go in the 1930s and 40s, when she lived in New York's Greenwich Village. A brief selection:

A few blocks east is Macdougal Street, the home of some of Highsmith’s other favorite, now extinct, hang-outs like the Jumble Shop, a Prohibition-era tearoom she and [Judy] Holliday (then Judy Tuvim) went to in high school and L’s, a lesbian bar where she would later troll for lovers. Macdougal is also where the cop Clarence Duhamel in “A Dog’s Ransom” stays with his girlfriend.

Where Macdougal meets Waverly Place stands the refurbished Washington Square Hotel, formerly the Hotel Earle, a seedy spot that both Highsmith and her mother often checked into when visiting New York later in life. It was the scene of many of Highsmith’s seductions and the inspiration for her short story “Notes From a Respectable Cockroach.”

I'm wondering, though, if "L's" wasn't a shorthand for Louis' Luncheon at 116 MacDougal Street. From an NYC Landmarks Commission report on the "20th Century Lesbian Presence" in South Village Historic District, Manhattan:

By the 1920s, the South Village emerged as one of the first neighborhoods in New York that allowed, and gradually accepted, an open gay and lesbian presence. Eve Addams’ Tearoom at 129 MacDougal Street was a popular after-theater club run in 1925-26 by Polish-Jewish lesbian emigre Eva Kotchever (Czlotcheber), with a sign that read "Men are admitted but not welcome." Convicted of "obscenity" (for Lesbian Love, a collection of her short stories) and disorderly conduct, she was deported. Later popular lesbian bars were: Louis’ Luncheon (1930s-40s), 116 MacDougal Street; Tony Pastor’s Downtown (1939-67), 130 West 3rd Street, which was raided on morals charges in 1944 for permitting lesbians to "loiter" on the premises, but survived with mob backing until the State Liquor Authority revoked its license in 1967; jazz club Swing Rendevous (c. 1940-65), 117 MacDougal Street; Ernie’s Restaurant/ Three Ring Circus (c. 1940-62), 76 West 3rd Street; Mona’s (c. late 1940s-early 1950s), 135 West 3rd Street, later The Purple Onion (c. 1965-72); Pony Stable Inn (c. late 1940s-1968), 150 West 4th Street, remembered by African-American lesbian poet Audre Lorde in Zami; and Bonnie & Clyde’s (c. 1972-81), 82 West 3rd Street.
I believe all these other places have been posted on before--except for Louis' Luncheon.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House
Rose Hovick
Rose Hovick

Location: West End Avenue, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1930s

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House is one of those absolutely random finds--you're looking for one thing, but you get distracted by something else, and on it goes.

Those of you who are into American musical theater probably remember Gypsy, which was based on the 1957 memoir of "striptease artist" Gypsy Rose Lee. The book (and subsequent musical and movie) introduced us to Rose Hovick, who has become immortalized as the ultimate stage mother.

Yet Rose did something rather interesting in later life, which was running a lesbian boarding house (and possibly a lesbian farm as well, depending on the source).

This boarding house is mentioned in a number of sources related to Gypsy Rose Lee, but unfortunately, all of them are brief, rather cryptic, and somewhat contradictory.

From Jewish Currents:

Gypsy’s mother, Rose Hovick, ran a lesbian boarding house in New York and shot and killed one of her lovers when she made a pass at Gypsy.

From Historylink:

Madam Rose died in 1954. Her last words threatened her daughter Louise, promising to drag her daughter into death with her. In later years, Rose had run a lesbian boarding house and farm. One of her guests was shot at a party, and the verdict was suicide, but Lee’s son, Erik Preminger, is quoted in a Vanity Fair article saying that the victim was Rose’s lover, and that Rose killed her in front of many witnesses after she made a pass at Gypsy.

From Hub Pages:

According to her sister Belle, she blackmailed, or begged her daughters for money and gifts, often showing up to visit dressed in ragged clothing and claiming to be poor. In the meantime she was running a Lesbian boarding house, and Gypsy had rented her a farm.

In one of his biographies of the family he grew up in grandson Erik Lee Preminger alleges that Rose actually shot and killed a guest for making a pass at Gypsy, also alleging the person shot was Rose's lover. Obviously, with the internet and research, again, more than one story. In some accounts it is a boarding house guest, in others the guest is decidedly a male and a guest at a party.

Sometimes, it is claimed that daughter Louise (Gypsy) rented the boarding house. From Wikipedia:

Later on in her life, her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee rented both a farm in Highland Mills, New York and a lesbian boardinghouse in a ten-room apartment on the seedy West End Avenue in Manhattan. At some point, one of the guests made a pass at the visiting Gypsy (according to Erik Preminger, her son by director Otto Preminger), who was said to be Mother Rose's own lover, and in a jealous rage Mother Rose shot the lover/guest dead. This incident was publicly explained as a suicide.

One of the fullest description seems to be from Matt & Andrej Koymasky:

Rose (or Mama Rose, as she is best known), who was Jewish and lesbian, had married John Hovick, a newspaperman, at the age of fifteen, and was the classic example of a smothering stage mother who insistently pushed her two daughters into stardom: stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc; Gypsy's story about lives of the three women became the a 1959 hit musical, Gypsy: A Musical Fable.
Rose was no longer bothering with men. She had, as Havoc would write, 'turned toward her own sex,' at first running a lesbian boardinghouse in a 10-room apartment Gypsy rented for her on West End Avenue, and then running a sort of lesbian farm in her country house in Highland Hills. At a party in that house, Rose pulled another gun, this time on one of the girls. She killed her. Because Gypsy was a star, it was covered up. "There were a lot of people there when it happened". says Erik Preminger [Gypsy's son], who had heard the same story from three people. "The girl was Rose's lover and she made a pass at my mother."
Gypsy Rose Lee, her daughter, born around 1910 and died from cancer in 1970. The only living Hovick was June Havoc (nee Hovick), her other daughter, who was born in around 1915.

Boz Hadleigh in Broadway Babylon throws a brothel into the mix:

In the Broadway version [of the musical], after Louise blossoms into a relatively demure stripper and strikes out on her own, it's suggested that Mama (never referred to as "Mama Rose") could open an acting school for kids, to keep occupied. In reality, Rose Hovick wound up running a lesbian boarding house and brothel. This was revealed in June Havoc's second autobiography, More Havoc, published in 1980, by which time The Topic could finally be broached (her first book, Early Havoc, in 1959, was a sisterly attempt to grab back some of the limelight from Gypsy, whose memoirs had angered June less than the resultant hit musical).

June's mother had informed her, "Sex is dirty because men are dirty." As for her lesbian tenants, Rose warned, "Don't you dare feel superior to those girls. At least they have the good sense to know they can't get pregnant with spit!"

But just to add to the confusion,  Carolyn Quinn in Mama Rose's Turn, The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother, isn't convinced there ever was a lesbian boarding house:

Then there was the story that Rose, who had rented out rooms, probably for less than a year, in her Manhattan apartment to ladies who quite possibly had been lesbians, had run a "lesbian boarding house." No one who knew of Rose's love for the almighty buck could have ever bought into the idea that Rose would have turned away paying customers based on their sexual orientation. Paying customers of every orientation made Rose's heart sing.

Quinn also doubts that Rose ever shot and killed any woman lover in said boarding house.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hermitage Ladies Restaurant

Ad for the Hermitage, New York Times,
January 24, 1910
Hermitage Ladies Restaurant

Location: 42nd Street and 7th Avenue (Time Square), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1910

We haven't posted on a ladies restaurant in a while, and it seemed like time.

Hotel Hermitage (1915)
Separate eating and drinking establishments for ladies and gentlemen were fairly common in the years before Prohibition.

Though ladies escorted by gentlemen were no doubt admitted into the ladies restaurant, but ladies were not admitted into the Gentlemen's Café and Grill whether they were escorted or not.

Still a familiar double standard when it comes to womyn's space.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Behind the BarsThe Hollywood

Location: 304 West 4th Street, Austin, Texas, USA (later 113 San Jacinto)

Opened/Closed: 1980s through 90s

Hollywood is mentioned in an Austin Chronicle article on lost gay and lesbian bars.

The first gay bar I went to was in Dallas. I didn't drink or smoke. I was real naive. I was like, "What is this scene ...?" But they played ABBA, and I was like: "Cool! I like Abba! OK!" It was real confusing. I was more into seeing shows. I went to clubs like Club Foot. There was kind of a crossover. Androgyny was being played with a lot at that time. "Oh he's the straightest guy there is, but he likes to look like Eno!" There were all these weird crossed signals, and then if you went to a gay bar, everybody looked totally like John Travolta. We liked going to the Hollywood because they played soul. We thought, "This is pretty cool." We'd go there on the way to the Ritz to have a couple of drinks before a show. My friend was so confused. He'd get frustrated. He would be like, "Oh, that guy is sooo cute, and I was like, "That's a girl." – Dan Plunkett, owner of End of an Ear Records

I hated the Hollywood. The thing about the Hollywood, that was a place where there was gonna be fights. It was in 1984. I did Deborah Hay's big group dance thing, and there was this one movement, and I'm on the dance floor, doing my dance. Whatever. We were doing some crazy dances; I hung out with dancers. And this girl kicked me in the head! 'Cause, granted, I had this move where my head was down, but I was like, "Did you just kick me in the head?" And she said, "Yup." And I said, "Well, why?" And she said, "'Cause you're dancing funny," in a really defiant way, and I remember going out into the parking lot and crying. Crying my eyes out. You know what? Many people will tell you about a gay bar where the end of the story is "I was in the parking lot crying!" I never went back to the Hollywood. – Gretchen Phillips

Crying is not the worst thing that ever happened in the Hollywood parking lot. A lesbian was shot to death here in March 1980. Unfortunately, the most comprehensive reference I can find to the incident consists of two sentences at Gay History Wiki:

Carol Oetting was killed by a single shot to the head as she was parking her car at “The Hollywood”, a lesbian bar in Austin, Texas. Police reported that they had discovered no suspect or motive.

Not surprisingly, the murder does NOT show up on any LGBT lists of hate crimes that I can find, even though it took place in the parking lot of a lesbian bar. Unfortunately, this kind of erasure is not uncommon when it comes to the murder of lesbians.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Green Street Rooming House

66 Green Street, 2013
66 Green Street (2013)
Green Street Rooming House

Location: 66 Green Street, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Opened: 1975

Closed: 1992

From the Five College Archive & Manuscript Collections:

The Green Street Rooming House was a lesbian cooperative started in the Elmhurst apartment house at 66 Green St in Northampton, Massachusetts. It operated from circa 1975 to 1992. From the 1960's on, Northampton had become a haven for lesbian and feminist activity. Some residents of the boarding house were students at the five colleges, and others were lesbians coming out of the closet seeking freedom to express their sexuality. The rooming house was established as a lesbian-only residence with a designated live-in manager who functioned as a liaison between the residents and the landlord. The house operated in a cooperative spirit by rotating cleaning chores and sharing in the preparation of meals. A notebook was always kept in the central hallway for residents to write messages to each other.
The owner and landlord, Michael Cohen and his assistant manager John Knowles, provided basic house supplies, such as toilet paper, soap, light bulbs and cleaning products and also authorized maintenance for heat, electric and plumbing. Initially, the landlord was not told that the current lesbian tenants were starting a lesbian-only household. Eventually, he found out and thought it amusing that a group of women wanted to maintain a cooperative community in a rooming house. In 1992 the building was sold to Housing and Economic Resources for Women and it eventually became a co-ed rooming house. In 2007 it was bought by Smith College and was torn down in 2013.

Sunday, June 28, 2015



Location: 1400 West 6th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Opened: Unclear

Closed: 1989

Isis is yet another lesbian bar that, unfortunately, is probably best remembered for a violent crime against lesbians. Back in June 1982, two lesbians were abducted at gunpoint from a nearby parking lot. One woman, Mary Ann Finegan, was shot to death. The other, who prefers to remain unnamed, was raped, shot, and left for dead after witnessing Mary Ann's murder.

It would not be until 2010--28 long years later--that the killer was brought to justice.

Yet another reminder as to why we should suspect the motives of men who hang around womyn's spaces.

From Gay People's Chronicle:

Isis was a popular bar at 1400 West 6th Street near the corner of Frankfort Avenue, “for the contemporary woman,” according to a July, 1982 ad in the gay monthly High Gear. It was known to women in Cleveland and Akron, where Finegan lived with her four dogs in nearby Barberton. Isis closed in 1989, and the space has since been home to a variety of businesses, though none gay or lesbian. It is now Crop Bistro and Bar.

“Mary Ann and I had broken up the week before and had no plans to meet up with each other that night,” continued the survivor, now 66, who asked that her name not be printed.

“We got to the bar around 9:30 or 10 pm,” said the friend who joined her for dinner that evening, who also asked that her name be kept private. She has helped care for the survivor and been a companion to her for almost three decades, and remains protective of her. “It was a nice evening. We parked the car and sat in the parking lot talking for awhile.”

Later, the friends noticed Mary Ann’s pickup truck and saw her walk toward the bar. “I knew she was probably looking for me,” the survivor recalled. She left her purse in her friend’s car and went to talk to ‘Finy’ while her dinner companion went inside the bar.

“We all called Mary Ann ‘Finy,’ ” she noted.

The two walked to Finegan’s truck and got in. “Mary Ann was a great listener but she had a hard time expressing herself.” That night, she seemed kind of upset, like she needed to talk.

They talked for a while and Finegan started the truck to move to a parking spot closer to the bar, according to early police reports of the incident. Before she could park, a man suddenly opened the passenger door, put a gun against the survivor’s chest while climbing in and told Finegan to drive “or I’ll kill her.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Park View Grill

Park View Grill

Location: Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, North Carolina, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1990

The only Internet references I can find for the Park View Grill are all related to the murder of a lesbian by a man she met while playing pool there. Sometimes women need to be reminded as to why we need safe women-only spaces.

And we need to seriously question the motives of why men want to go to these (very few remaining) spaces. We need to keep our eyes wide open, as too many women are way too naïve and trusting. They fail to even speculate why these women-hating, lesbian-obsessed little sh**s want to "hang out" with us. And women are dying as a result.

In this particular case, I would suggest NOT looking up the details of the crime. It was a typical sociopathic/sadistic over-kill in the worst way.

From Q Notes:

Community remembers 1990 hate crime victim
Memorial breaks the silence on Talana Kreeger slaying

by Bambi Weavil, Special to Q-Notes

Talana Kreeger, 32, was raped and murdered by Ronald Sheldon Thomas (pictured right) in Wilmington, N.C., on Feb. 22, 1990.
WILMINGTON, N.C. — Eighteen years ago, Talana Kreeger was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in a vicious hate crime here. The painful memory of that tragic event has been held in silence in this Coastal community — until now.

Community members gathered into a packed sanctuary at St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church on Feb. 22 to remember and celebrate Kreeger’s life. They came to express the need to answer the questions of why Talana Kreeger was murdered and why the community had been silent about such a brutal and passionate crime of hate.

Kreeger, 32, was murdered by truck driver Ronald Sheldon Thomas on Feb. 22, 1990, after leaving Park View Grill, a lesbian establishment, where they drank and played pool. Kreeger was remembered as fun-loving, loved and free-spirited.

The memorial service allowed community members to express the need to start the process of healing within the gay community and come together to fight for stronger hate crime legislation in North Carolina and nationwide.

The gathering was organized by Tab Ballis, director of “Park View,” a documentary-in-progress about Kreeger’s murder. He hoped the memorial would provide healing for individuals who knew her personally. Film clips of “Park View” were shown between speakers including Kristen Dempsey, Lynette Miller, Frank Harr, Ken Cox, Scott Whisnant and state Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).

Miller, Kreeger’s friend, told the audience how Talana freed spiders when she encountered them and wanted to let them live instead of killing them. Miller emphasized that Kreeger was a lover of all animals and a generous and giving friend to anyone who knew her.

The Rev. Amanda McCullough led the lamentation and prayer for affirmation in hope that the community would continue to honor Kreeger’s life as well as the dedication of a memorial plaque to be placed at St. Jude’s.

The church is also is establishing a memorial fund in honor of Kreeger and other victims of hate crimes. Money specifically donated to the Talana Kreeger Memorial Fund will be used to establish a special prayer garden.

Ronald Sheldon Thomas
Various speakers from the community also related their stories and thoughts, including local lesbian author Cheryl Cushine, gay leader and activist Bo Dean, Director of the Rape Crisis Center Amy Feath and New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David.

Dean expressed passionately the need for the gay community to address its internal divisions, and urged everyone to come together and unite in the fight against hatred. Laura McClain, a local lesbian singer/songwriter who is also an associate producer and music director for “Park View,” performed selected songs including “We are a Gentle Angry People” and “Left for Dead” — written in Kreeger’s memory.

This article gives a few more details, though it's pretty circumspect about the lesbian angle to this crime. Not even the owner seemed to suspect why this guy, basically a drifter, was hanging around all night:

It was about 1:30 a.m., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 1990, almost closing time at the Park View Grill, a bar on Carolina Beach Road.
The owner, Wanda Whitley, and her roommate, Heidi Crossley, were shooting pool in the back room. With them were Talana Quay Kreeger, a carpenter who had been doing some remodeling on the Park View, and Ronald Sheldon Thomas, a long-haul trucker who had pulled in a few hours and about 10 beers earlier.
The foursome discussed heading to a nearby Hardee's for something to eat. Kreeger, 32, hitched a ride in Thomas' tractor-trailer rig.
They never made it to Hardee's.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Harriet Tubman Young Women's Leadership Academy

Students at Harriet Tubman (February 2012)
Harriet Tubman Young Women's Leadership Academy

Location: 2231 North Flint Avenue, Portland, Oregon, USA

Opened: 2007

Closed: June 2012

Here's the description from Facebook:

The Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women is the only all girls public school in Portland, Oregon serving grades 6 through 12. It has a focus on math, science and leadership-areas where women are grossly underrepresented.
And now it's gone.
Can't help but see this within the context of the overall destruction of womyn's spaces, whether it's a college or a bar. Given that schools that serve young women of color and help them "find their voice" are especially rare, the loss of the Harriet Tubman Academy is especially sad. I wonder if the same "queer women" who cheered the destruction of Portland's last lesbian bar also see this closing as a good thing?
From the Oregonian, June 13, 2012:
As Shea Turner marched through the halls of the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women in her yellow cap and gown, the recent graduate couldn't help but smile.

Girls protesting the closing of
Harriet Tubman (April 2012)
Throngs of her classmates had lined up along the lockers on the last day of school to cheer on Turner and three other graduates, before joining the four in a parade to the auditorium.
But even with the fanfare, Turner, 17, found herself in a somber mood. The ceremony just reminded her that the 163-student building, the only all-girls public school in Oregon, is shutting down for good.
"It's a family," Turner said. "You're leaving your family behind."
The school, which served sixth through 12th grades and focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes, has long had a presence in the city's African-American community. Tubman originally began as a neighborhood middle school, and moved to the current North Flint building in 1985. After that school closed, the young women's academy got its start five years ago as a place for girls to focus on academics in a small setting without distractions like boys and cliques.
Despite community opposition, the Portland School Board confirmed in April that Tubman and Humboldt, another North Portland school, would be closed because their low enrollments would be difficult to sustain.
Those who fought to keep the school say the district will be losing an irreplaceable program. The small enrollment helped build community, students say, and single-sex education helped girls feel more comfortable in their skin.
At Tubman, Turner said, girls grew into themselves. "Every girl I know found her voice here."
Allie Beard, 16, was just barely passing classes in middle school before she ended up in the program for ninth grade. As Beard transitioned into a foster home, Tubman became a place of family and stability: teachers went to her roller derby bouts, and she didn't worry about being judged.
"I wasn't dreading coming into school each day," she said.
On Wednesday, the girls took their seats at 10 pink lunch tables in the auditorium to celebrate the last day. They listened to speeches from Superintendent Carole Smith  and former Tubman Middle School Principal Paul Coakley, and they whooped approvingly for friends as they were given awards.
By the time students settled into lunch, Medha and Shradha Pulla, both 16, had kept on their caps and gowns. The reality of the situation had not yet sunk in, said Medha.
She'll be attending Portland State University with her sister next year and credits Tubman's access to advanced classes for their early graduation.  The Pullas and their mother, Jyothi Pulla, were some of the loudest voices asking the district to keep the school open.
Medha said she hoped a community could still come together and bring back the program in some way -- some parents are even considering proposing a charter or alternative school.
In the end, she said, Tubman would still be a part of her classmates even if they leave.
"They've gained something here that can't be taken away from them," Pulla said, then turned to hug a classmate goodbye.
Two weeks after the school closed, students did a Silent Protest at the school board.
Two sisters protest closing of Harriet Tubman (July 2012)