Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hotel Gorley Ladies Dining Room

Gorley's Lake Hotel (c. 1915-1930)
Hotel Gorley Ladies Dining Room

Location: Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: April 1908

Closed: Hotel closed in July 1957, when sold to the Society of Brothers

The Uniontown Morning Herald announced the opening of what was apparently first called the "Hotel Gorley" on April 3, 1908. Like many of the fine lakeside resorts of that era, it featured separate dining rooms for the ladies and the gentlemen. Here is how the described the ladies dining room, which (naturally!) was on the second floor--the typical location of ladies dining rooms, restaurants, dining rooms, and the like:

Gorley's Hotel
The ladies' dining room is on the second floor. It is a dream. No expense was spared to make this room  one of the brightest spots in the house. The walls are beautifully decorated with tapestry hangings that match window curtains of the finest materials. The floor is covered with a beautifully designed velvet brussels carpet. The chandeliers are of the most beautiful designs and are connected up with both electricity and natural gas.

Gorley's Lake Hotel
Unfortunately, some of the pages of this issue are no longer readily available, so the descriptions are abruptly cut off. So all we're told about the gent's area is the following: "Men's Dining Room to be Presided Over by a Pittsburg Expert."

The hotel's 21 rooms, we're assured, were "handsomely furnished"--though only six of the 21 rooms had "private bath rooms":

White enameled iron beds, with coverings as white as snow. Mahogany is the material used in the furniture of each room. Hot and cold flowing water is provided in stationary wash stands. The carpets on the floor are of the finest quality of brussels, while the walls and ceilings of each room are finished in colors that match the floor coverings.

Sounds so romantic....

A History of Uniontown tells us that Charles H. Gorley built this four-story brick hotel in 1907: "He ran this as a restaurant from April 4, 1908, as Hotel Gorley for a short time, but failing to secure a hotel license, he closed the place."

The evidence is not altogether clear, but it appears that at some point the hotel was acquired by new owners and significantly expanded. A 1927 ad in the Jewish Criterion describes a much bigger and grander place than the Gorley Hotel from 1908--assuming this is the same place:

75 Miles from Pitt:()urgh
Mountains Are Calling—Beautiful
and Picturesque—A Tonic for
the Tired Mind and Body
This popular summer resort offering you more pastime than any hotel on the National Highway. A resort hotel for discriminating guests. You are making no mistake in spending your vacation here. Hotel is New and Modern with 100 Rooms and Baths and Beach Bathing,
Boating, Dancing
11 Miles East of Uniontown,  Pa.

Time Magazine actually reported on the closing of Gorley's Lake Hotel in July 1957, when it was sold to the Society of Brothers--what Time described as "an obscure religious sect." Presumably the ladies dining room was long gone by then: 

It was a big night at Gorley's Lake Hotel. All four bars were going full blast, and some 500 revelers milled happily about the ivy-grown Allegheny Mountain resort near Uniontown, Pa. Some of them went in for a moonlight dip from the concrete bathing pavilion, and it was 4 a.m. before things quieted down; the management even set up a few drinks on the house all around—a flagrant violation of Pennsylvania liquor laws. But the 34-year-old hotel would not be needing its liquor license any more..

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


7th Avenue and 124th Street (1959)

Location: 7th Avenue (Harlem), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1950s

In the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures (2000), Bonnie Zimmerman says the following about the Wellsworth:

Public bar life was not as prominent in African American lesbian communities as it was for working-class white lesbians. In part, this was because, until the late 1960s, there were few bars or clubs that welcomed African American lesbian patronage. Most white lesbian bars were either alienating or notoriously racist. Few African American lesbians had the capital or political connections to have their own liquor licenses and establish their own bars. There were, however, some clubs that catered solely to African American lesbians at separate times or in separate spaces. In the 1950s, for example, the Wellsworth in Harlem was a straight bar in front and a lesbian bar in back. Yet bars carried the risk of legal trouble, public exposure and harassment from straight men, so many women avoided them.

This spatial arrangement at the Wellsworth is one we have seen at a number of lesbian bars from that era. Other examples where lesbians were pushed to the back room include the Palais in Detroit and the Goldenrod Inn in New Orleans. 

In a "Praise-Poem Collage" by Winnie Williams, we also see brief mention of the Wellsworth. The piece is entitled "An Autumn Memoir: Of Adam and Sunday Strolls in Mid-Century Harlem" and was published in The Crisis in February 1983: 

Looking east or west, long blocks of neat, brownstone homes;
Down seventh: drug stores, pawn shops, tailors, and small eateries.
We'd pass by Wellsworth's meeting/greeting Lounge
with its "Ladies Entrance" for the "gentler" sex.

We've posted on ladies entrances before, which were side doors, typically into a restaurant or tavern, that were intended for use by women patrons. Their expressed purpose was to allow women access to the ladies cafe/restaurant or dining room without having to pass through the male-dominated "regular" eating/drinking area. 

I have not seen a ladies entrance explicitly attached to a lesbian bar before. But I think there is increasing evidence that these ladies entrances and the safe passageway they provided into ladies cafes and the like were, at minimum, important predecessors to lesbian space as such. For example, Elise Chenier has documented how the old "ladies and escorts room" at Toronto's Hotel Rideau had developed into a lesbian socializing space by the 1950s.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

If Club

South Vermont Avenue & West 8th Street today
If Club

Location: 810 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s-1960s

According to Gay L.A. by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, the If Club was a working-class lesbian bar that started in the 1940s, but continued to "flourish" into the 1950s:  

Terry DeCrescenzo, who had been a social worker, remembers that when she walked into the If Club, "a stereotypical dyke bar," as she describes it, the butches there called to each other, "Here comes a dish of ice cream." She was terrified. "I was in there for eight minutes," she says.

810 South Vermont Avenue today
Faderman and Timmons state that police harassment directed towards lesbians increased dramatically over the 1950s at the If Club and other Los Angeles area lesbian bars. An African-American woman named Meko reported that she and her friends were regularly "hauled in" by the LAPD just for standing outside the If Club. 

In a GLBTQ Encylopedia article by Dan Luckenbill, we're told that the If Club was not necessarily supportive of the early efforts aimed at lesbian networking and organizing:

9th and Vermont (c. 1948)
Alan Weeks Collection
In 1947, Vice Versa, a newsletter featuring reviews, articles, and editorials on lesbian life, was created in Los Angeles by a secretary who still prefers not to use her real name. The name she later chose was Lisa Ben, an anagram of lesbian. She called her writing for women "America's gayest magazine," the first written by lesbians and for lesbians. She produced only nine issues of Vice Versa, typing two originals of each with carbons. She learned that she could not mail them and even had difficulty distributing them by hand in lesbian bars such as the If Club.

A People's Guide to Los Angeles  informs us that from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, this block of Vermont Avenue was home to "two working-class, racially mixed lesbian bars: the If Cafe (also known as the If Club) and the Open Door." The Open Door was located at 831 South Vermont Avenue:

"Crowd of butch girls, men in 40s, others from area," read the description for the If Cafe in 1966 in the Barfly gay guide; for the Open Door, the same guide noted simply, "Same crowd as at If Cafe." The  clientele of both bars was Black, white, and Latina, demonstrating that Queer life in Los Angeles did not exist only in white and affluent areas but was also embedded in working-class communities of color. 

Women at these clubs developed a strong, oppositional community, with their own styles and slang; for example, butch Black women termed themselves "hard dressers." Women's experiences at the If Cafe and Open Door also remind us that homophobic and racist police practices overlapped in postwar Los Angeles. Police frequently raided the bars and arrested the patrons, charging women either with "masquerading"--that is, wearing men's clothing--or prostitution. While some lesbians did work as prostitutes, many such charges were false and were used simply to harass and criminalize women who did not meet dominant and sexual norms. Black women, who were already more likely to be perceived as "loose" or "deviant" by the dominant culture, faced increased risk of arrest for lesbian behavior. The If Cafe and Open Door stayed open for years and produced a vibrant culture that carried over into activism and community life among lesbians of color in subsequent decades.     

Martin Turnbull also mentions the If Club in his list of Hollywood Places. He simply describes it as a "working class/industrial/butch lesbian hang out" from the 1930s. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


3300 Hamilton Street today


Location: 3300 Hamilton Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s

From Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia by Thom Nickels.

Pudenda was a West Philadelphia women's collective that included "a mixture of gay and straight, working women, and women in school."

"It was open, anyone who needed a place to stay could live there. Eventually we had something like 15 women living in the house. People used to come to the house to come out. They knew it was a dyke house, they knew it would be accepting. We had wonderful times around the dining room table. We shared chores and cooked for one another. It was the healthiest way to come out," Arleen Olshan remembers.

Arleen Olshan was one of the original members of the Pudenda collective. A photograph of Arleen and three other original members can be seen on page 61.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant

Rushford Spectator,
September 26, 1895

Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant

Location: 246 Main Street, Buffalo, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1890s

The Oaks' Cafe and Ladies' Restaurant was apparently one of those places that catered to the theater crowd, as it was just opposite "the burned Academy of Music." It's certainly nice to imagine two ladies enjoying a pleasant lunch here before trotting off to the afternoon matinee.
Academy of Music (1893)

The Academy of Music wasn't a concert hall as such, despite the name. It began its life in 1852 under the name of the Metropolitan Theater. The name was changed to the Academy of Music in 1868. In its heyday, it was known as "Buffalo's best theater" and played host to the "dramatic superstars" of the nineteenth century.

246 Main Street today

As the ad above alludes to, the Academy burned to the ground on September 1, 1895 after a fire started in a nearby variety store. According to an article in the New York Times, the fire also damaged a liquor store, a saloon, and a "fur and hat store."

Fortunately, the Oaks' Cafe and Ladies Restaurant was spared, but it no doubt saw a drop in patronage after the fire. Maybe that's why the advertisement that ran after the fire emphasizes that its "prices within the reach of all."

Friday, December 7, 2012


An advertisement for Monokel, a lesbian bar in Berlin


Location: Budapester Strasse 14, Berlin, Germany

Opened: 1932

Closed: March 1933, when the Nazi party closed down Berlin's gay and lesbian bars

Way back in June 2011, I did a post on the Lost Lesbian Bars of Weimar Berlin. That post has consistently been the most popular posting here at Lost Womyn's Space, along with one on Le Monocle, a pre-war lesbian bar in Paris, which comes in at second. (For some reason, lesbian spaces from the 1930's rank very high in terms of general interest.)

Somehow up until now, I had never heard of the "Monokel" in Berlin. Very cool poster though. And totally one of those random accidental finds. I found this on a European history site, not on a lesbian or LGBT site.

In Florence Tamagne's A History of Homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939, we see that  Monokel was on the list of gay and lesbian bars closed by the Nazis after they came to power. That list was published in Berliner Tageblatt on March 3, 1933. Tamagne also mentions that Monokel was one of the last of the lesbian clubs to open in 1932. (The other two were Manuela at 26 Joachimstaler Strasse and Geisha at 72 Augsburger Strasse.)

Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin

From the Temperance Caterer (UK),
February 15, 1903
Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

Opened: 1903

Closed: ?

This is one of the more intriguing notices for a ladies restaurant. 

Typically the ads for ladies restaurants show that they're merely adjunct spaces attached to (male-only) dining areas. Not only that, but the ladies restaurants were nearly always open to male escorts. As a result, they sometimes had more men than women occupying the available tables and chairs.  

Not this one--which most unfortunately, has no name or address attached. This ladies restaurant in Berlin, which was advertised in a London temperance newspaper, was strictly for women

Berlin train station - Friedrichstrasse  (1900)
Restaurant for Ladies in Berlin.

A ladies restaurant on an extensive scale is about to be erected in Berlin. It is entirely to be managed by women, and only women will be employed as attendants. No men will be admitted or employed in any capacity whatsoever. The restaurant is intended for ladies, and more particularly young girls, shopping or passing through Berlin, who otherwise could not enter a restaurant unaccompanied, but must have recourse to one of the numerous confectioners' shops, where only tea and coffee and light refreshments are found. Ladies' hotels already exist near the large railway stations in Berlin, and a notice is posted in the railway carriages informing young girls travelling alone that ladies meet every train arriving in Berlin, and will assist them in finding suitable lodgings, or see them off if they are travelling further.
Women in wartime Berlin (1900)

Not only do we have no name or address for this restaurant, we have no names of any of the women involved or what organization that might have been associated with. Very frustrating! 

I have seen other women's organizations that met trains in large cities, in order to keep girls out of the hands of pimps and others who would lure them into prostitution or domestic exploitation in general. The White Rose Home for Colored Working Girls which was organized by African-American women in Harlem (USA) is but one example. Here we see a similar mission being carried out in Germany. 

Women window cleaners in Berlin (1900)
Hoping that by some lucky accident I stumble across more information on this restaurant and the women behind it. When or if I do, you know I will share it with you ASAP. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Smoking Cars for Women

The Smoke Nuisance (1886)
Smoking Cars for Women

Location: England

Opened: 1906

Closed: Existed at least into the 1920's

In the 19th century, smoking was defined as a strictly masculine activity, and definitely improper for ladies. Smoking was also an activity that was strongly attached to the idea of male space--the smoking rooms in hotels, clubs, and the like were typically reserved for gentlemen only. 
Smoking car on the Chicago Limited, which was
reserved for men only (1891)

One of the spaces where gentlemen used to enjoy their cigars--and do a little exclusionary male bonding--was aboard the smoking car on railroad trains. 

According to an 1881 piece in the New York Times, only a minority of the men who took up the seats in the smoking car were actually smoking. A good number of the rest, or so it is suggested, "have just quarreled with their wives, whom they have left in another car, and who can not follow them with angry tongue and umbrella to the smoking car." (Notice that in the illustration from the Chicago Limited, all the men in the smoking car are also white--except for the Black porter.)

Unfortunately, women began to associate smoking itself with male privilege and freedom, and soon took up the habit themselves as a way of declaring their personal autonomy and independence. 

And for a time, separate smoking cars for women came into being, just as there were for the men--at least on the English trains.

From the Bedford Daily Mail, August 23, 1906:

Bedford Daily Mail
August 23, 1906

Introduced in England, They Seem to Be in Demand

Fashionable women in England seem to be leading those in America in the smoking habit. According to Everyday Housekeeping, one of the first class carriages on a train that left London for Liverpool recently displayed the sign , "Ladies' smoking."

Women's smoking car (1920's)
It was the first time ever. A man called for the carriage, as they call a car in England, for his women friends, who occupied it for smoking purposes. Regular smoking carriages for women may now come into vogue over there.

Actually in America, the sentiment tended to run the other way, with municipal campaigns to ban public smoking by women. Part of the reason was that it was associated with excessive drinking and promiscuity--definite social no no's. Back in 1908, a woman named Ethel Powers protested one such ban:
Women smoking on bus (1925)

They have stopped women from smoking in public!
Their excuse for this is public decency.
They say it is wrong for women to smoke in public places – that it is offensive to those who look on and detrimental to the character and dignity of the fair sex.
Who say and do this?
Why, who else but those lords of creation — men.

Read the rest here.

By the 1920s, many younger women had taken up smoking with a vengeance. They smoked on the streets, on trains, on buses, in restaurants, and anywhere else they could get away with it.

And we now have the lung cancer rates to prove it....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe

Uniontown Morning Herald,
April 21, 1910
Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: 1910

Closed: ?

One hundred years ago, it was not unusual for businessmen to create spaces for women as something of an afterthought. As a result, the resulting women's space was not only marginalized physically in relation to any existing men's space, but it was typically regarded as far less important or valuable in other ways.

The Griswold Hotel Ladies Cafe perfectly illustrates this concept. Check out this ad from 1910, which I have reproduced in part below:

Mr. [Walter] Herrington has remodeled the Griswold. A ladies' cafe on the second floor is a new feature. On May 2 the Griwold will open a Gents' Cafe on the ground floor and this is sure to be well stocked with the best wines and liquors, seven-year-old pure rye whiskey is served over few bars, but the Griswold serves it. Moreland's Beer is always on tap. When you go to Pittsburg stop at the Griswold.

Forbes Field (1910)
Hmm. Do the ladies who hiked up the steps to the second floor also get the best wines and liquors? Or seven-year-old pure rye whiskey? How about that Moreland's Beer? It's not clear to me that they do. Maybe just iced tea and lemonade? It's obvious that Mr. Herrington really doesn't much care, as he can't be bothered to tell us anything about the ladies' cafe, except that it's upstairs from the ground floor Gents' Cafe.

Well, hopefully the ladies that patronized the ladies' cafe enjoyed the baseball game...and the time away from their drunken husbands downstairs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grace Dodge Hotel

Grace Dodge Hotel (1920s)
Grace Dodge Hotel

Location: North Capital and E Streets, Washington, DC, USA

Opened: October 1921

Closed: Hotel began admitting men as guests around 1924. Hotel demolished in 1972.

The Grace Dodge Hotel was built as a women-only hotel by the National Board of Young Women's Christian Associations. The intention was to create housing for women workers who had flocked to Washington, DC during World War I. But as it turned out, the hotel was not completed until after the war was over. 

The hotel was named after Grace Hoadley Dodge (1856-1914), who was elected as the first president of the Board in 1906. The 8-story, 376-room hotel finally opened in October 1921 under the leadership of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948). 

(As something of a side note, it turns out that Abby Rockefeller was a great booster of womyn's space. As the New York Times reported in 1922, "She hopes to live to see the day when every big city has a woman's hotel." She informed the Times that "If women can go down the corridor in their kimonos knowing they will not meet a man, it will add to their sense of freedom and comfort.")

John DeFerrari has written one of the more extensive descriptions of the Grace Dodge Hotel:

 WCTU members tour the Grace Dodge Hotel
(March 1922)
Designed by New York architect Duncan Candler (1873-1949), the Grace Dodge was stately and elegant but restrained in décor. It was finished in tan brick with limestone trim and featured an enormous three-story tall entrance-way with a neoclassical pediment broken by third-story windows.   In contrast withor perhaps to complementits other facilities that aimed to help disadvantaged young women, the Grace Dodge Hotel was conceived from the start as a for-profit enterprise, intended to be managed and operated by an entirely female staff.   It offered professional women traveling alone to the Capital a top-notch hotel experience, free from the harassment by men that they would undoubtedly suffer anywhere else. As summarized in The Washington Post,
The Grace Dodge Hotel, as it is to be called in honor of the woman who did so much for her sex, will have all the useful and attractive features that any hotel has, excepting men, and the housing committee of the "Y," of which Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is chairman, guarantees that the staff and working force of women will be every bit as efficient and courteous as the best masculine staff could be. And the hotel has some conveniences that no other public stopping-place has offered to date.

Ad for Grace Dodge Hotel (1923)
There are special suites for mothers, with heaters for baby's milk, and cribs constructed on sanitary principles. There will be a nurse on call, to be paid for by the hour. There are valeting rooms where the woman who wants her tumbled blouse laundered in a hurry can slip in and do it herself, at the cost of a small sum for the use of the tubs and electric iron. There are shampoo basins, and the guest may wash her own hair. There are vanity parlors for those who care about their complexions, and there is to be an information service where the visitor can find out what debate is on in the House of Representatives and what the Senate is doing about that bill she is interested in....
Nevertheless, as we have often seen with women's hotels, the restaurant and lounge on the first floor were open to men. In fact, it is reported that these facilities were reserved at least as often by organized groups of men as by women (though Washington men certainly didn't lack for facilities of their own).

After just three years, the women-only policy was abandoned. When the hotel was sold in the mid-1940s, it was renamed the Dodge Hotel, which of course just further stripped it of its female origins.

It's interesting that when the hotel was still owned by the YWCA and managed by Mary A. Lindsley (1876-1949), the hotel paid much higher wages than comparable hotels in the area. Lindsley was apparently able to pull this off by running a tight ship with "efficient, by-the-book, economical operations." She ardently believed that no employees (i.e. management) should have special privileges.

But after the hotel fell into the hands of "a group of private investors," with a (male?) former manager from the Waldorf-Astoria hired to run the place," hotel service and food workers voted to strike over poor wages and working conditions, a predicament that surely would never have arisen under Mary Lindsley and the YWCA."

This isn't to say that the Grace Dodge Hotel was progressive in every way. Racial discrimination at the hotel is discussed in The Women and the Warriors (1995) by Carrie A. Foster. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scenes in a Boston Ladies Restaurant (1889)

Boston ladies (1890s)
Scenes in a Boston Ladies Restaurant (1899)

As regular Lost readers are aware, womyn's spaces have a complex and often contradictory history in terms of how gender/sexual boundaries are understood and enforced. And what I'm finding is that this ambivalence has been a consistent theme for at least the past hundred years or more. 

Today, you can find many lesbian bars, dyke marches, and other so-called "womyn's spaces" that are pretty much dominated by men. Women may feel vaguely uncomfortable about the situation, but many seem hapless or paralyzed by guilt when it comes to doing anything about it. 

You can also find many examples of women who are intent on preserving a particular womyn's space, along with women who are willing to aggressively regulate the presence of men to the extent that the law and/or custom will allow. These spaces can be as different as a 1950s lesbian bar in Detroit or Buffalo, a 1970s women's music festival, or a current women's passenger train car in India. 

Up until now, though, the evidence I have seen suggests that while some women may have been unhappy about the numbers of men that insisted on barging into the ladies' cafes and restaurants of 80 - 130 years ago (while the same men still insisted that the gentlemen's clubs, bars, and grills be strictly that), the women's objections were largely muffled, ineffective, and limited to the private sphere. (By way of exception, see this 1885 complaint of a New York City woman, which was published in the New York Times.

But just recently I found an article that shows that Boston women were not afraid of policing their ladies' restaurants. They didn't shy away from the old "fish eye" when it came to the dudes marching in--unlike many of their supposedly more liberated and assertive great, great-granddaughters.

Back on December 22, 1889, the Boston Daily Globe published a piece called "Scenes in a Ladies Restaurant." As you would expect, the descriptions of the women and their conversations are quite patronizing. And yet for all the condescending language and dismissive treatment of these women, we still see that these women were quite capable of taking care of business. In addition, we see the origins of a narrative that is still pretty common: the poor naif of a man who (accidentally!) wanders into a lesbian bar, only to be treated cruelly by the mean evil butches:

It is a rare thing to see a man in a ladies' restaurant. Few men possess the courage to venture in such a place. However a man gets in sometimes, but not intentionally always. When one does come in, no matter under what circumstances, he wishes before he has been there five minutes he had selected some other place in which to get his lunch. He looks about in a helpless and distressed way for a seat. His evil genius leads him to take the one beside the prim and proper spinster. She looks up to see who it is that dares to share a table with her, and then gives a little shudder, as if to say, "Oh, good gracious! It's a man!" And she turns slightly in her chair in order to present him with the cheerless north side of a very cold shoulder.

The unhappy recipient of these delicate attentions casts an appealing glance at the women opposite, and is rewarded with a look of cold contempt, whose mercurial registration would be about 20 below zero. The poor unfortunate young man is at once depressed by the frigidity of the surrounding atmosphere. He bends his downcast eyes, rings the bell and orders "chicken salad" in a supulchral tone, without raising his eyes. Many long and painful minutes elapse before his order is filled, during which time he devotes himself to the literary merits of the bill of fare, with an ardor of attention that is really pathetic. At last his order comes and he makes remarkably good time in getting through it. He apparently does not care for any dessert, except that he has an inward desire to desert this place of torture. He pays his bill and departs a wiser and a sadder man.

Just to show that nothing is new under the proverbial sun, read a contemporary retelling of this story here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Breathe Fitness for Women

Breathe Fitness for Women (2010)
Breathe Fitness for Women

Location: 13864 Poway Road, Poway, California, USA

Opened: 2008

Closed: April 1, 2011

Here's how she described herself at yelp:

Breathe Fitness for Women is Poway's premier health club. You don't have to look beyond the front doors to see The Breathe Difference, but the amazing decor is only the beginning. Our staff is courteous and professional, our members are friendly and warm and our programs safe and fun.

What you will find at Breathe Fitness:
-Les Mills Group Exercise Classes: Body Flow, Body Combat, Body Pump and RPM
-Zumba and Yoga
-Our spa featuring facials and massages to relax and rejuvinate
-State-of-the-art Cardio machines, each with personal televisions
-Juice bar with 100% fruit based smoothies and healthy snacks
-Free support on the weight room floor
-Outstanding personal training services
-Complete satisfaction every time you visit

Breathe Fitness for Women interior (2010)
Customer reviews were enthusiastic without exception: 

Some snippets from 2009:

I had never really belonged to a gym before, and actually wanted to go there on a regular basis!

It's clean, people are friendly, so I definitely recommend joining this gym for women only!

And 2010: 

I utterly love this gym and the people who work there.  

From the moment I walked in as a charter member just weeks after it opened they made me feel like family.

And finally, from 2011:

This WAS a fantastic gym for women.  Unfortunately, it closed as of April 1, 2011.

No reasons are given for why this place was shut down. Yet another short-lived womyn's space....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lindseys Bed and Breakfast for Women

Lindseys Bed and Breakfast
Lindseys Bed and Breakfast for Women

Location: 3974 Avenue Laval, Montreal, Canada

Opened: 1984

Closed: 2010

The Lindseys website announces the sad news of her departure:

We will miss meeting so many warm and interesting women from all over the world. We are leaving up our web site for the time being if any of you wish to contact us.

So what was Lindseys? Here's the basic description:

Lesbian-owned bed and breakfast in a restored Victorian brownstone in the heart of the "Plateau" restaurant district. Three guest rooms, for women only.

According to the website, Lindseys was run by two women: Lindsey and Augusta. Judging by the mouth-watering photos, the breakfasts were totally scrumptious. And what a gorgeous home! The website also has an area where various newspaper articles about the history of the place are scanned in, if you want more detail. Like, just how does a classically trained bass player end up becoming a B&B operator anyway? But I'm going to let you look up the answer yourself.

The "Victorian Bathroom" at Lindseys
Here's what gay pink pages had to say:

Lindsey's Bed and Breakfast offers a warm, friendly atmosphere for women traveling to Montréal. We're located in an 1887 renovated Victorian townhouse on a quiet residential street. Within a few blocks you'll find cafes, restaurants and terrific shopping on rue St. Dennis and Boulevard St. Laurent. There is also lots of nightlife nearby. Choose from private studio with bath and kitchenette or from one or two upstairs bedrooms that share a Victorian bathroom.

One of the bedroms at Lindseys
Judging by the reviews at tripadvisor, guests uniformly adored this place. Five stars across the board.

Why Lindseys closed is not really not explained. We only know that this womyn's space is no longer with us.

Very sad right now, as this would have been a lovely place to visit some day...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Peninsular Hotel Ladies Cafe

South Boston, City Point (around 1910)
Peninsular Hotel Ladies Cafe

Location: City Point, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Opened/Closed: 1890s

I have not had a lot of luck determining where the Peninsular Hotel was, or even finding a postcard showing its appearance. But I do have a newspaper ad that mentions the hotel's ladies cafe.

Boston Daily Globe,
July 19, 1897

We've mentioned more than once that men's space and women's space are (sometimes) separate, but very seldom equal. Notice that the ladies cafe was squished onto the second floor--which is nearly always considered more marginal space from a commercial standpoint. A second floor (or basement) location was pretty much standard procedure for the ladies cafes. 

Not only that, but in this case, the Gentlemen's Cafe even commands a larger font! So if you somehow didn't realize that the men had priority, the very layout of the ad spells it out for you. 

In the absence of any photos, I'd like to think that the Ladies Cafe had plenty of windows. At least we're promised that "all the rooms give a magnificent view of the bay with its hundreds of yachts." It's even possible that there might have better views of the bay from the second floor than the first floor. But then, the men were NOT excluded from the second floor view, as ladies cafes were set up for unescorted women and women in the company of men. While the boys had the stag party all to themselves downstairs. 

Those who don't understand history will sometimes claim (erroneously) that men have no spaces just for themselves, while women still do. Actually, the evidence has always been clear on this. Women's bars, guesthouses, cafes, restaurants, etc. are nearly always "open" to all with few exceptions. And if not, they're under constant social and economic pressure to be "open" to all. By contrast, men's bars, clubs, baths, guesthouses, etc. are seldom under the same pressures of reciprocity. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hayden Hotel

Ad for Hayden Hotel
Phoenix Arizona Republican, August 4, 1895
Hayden Hotel

Location: Tempe, Arizona, USA

Opened/Closed: Around 1895

Most of the ladies hotels I have identified have been located in the eastern United States, especially in New York City.

This appears to be one of the exceptions. Note the above ad from an 1895 Arizona newspaper:

MRS. M. E. SPOONER, proprietress of the Hayden Hotel has a most delightful home for ladies stopping in Tempe as well as gentlemen. The only ladies hotel in Tempe.

And though I have done a little digging, I can't uncover much more than that. I did find out that Hayden is a prominent name in Tempe history--Charles Hayden is generally credited with founding the town, and the Hayden family has continued to play a leading role politically and economically since then. And though I have found references to all things Hayden, I have not found any reference to a hotel as such. Nor have I figured out who (Mrs.) M. E. Spooner might have been.

However, the old Charles Trumbull Hayden house, which was built in 1873, still stands. And it is said that for a time it functioned as a boarding house. Could this have been the old Hayden Hotel as advertised in 1895?
Hayden House today

La Casa Vieja (the old house in Spanish) was built in 1873. The original structure was a residence for Charles Trumbull Hayden and his family. The original house was a single-story row house constructed of adobe in the Sonoran style by Hayden and his Mexican American workers. Prior to 1883, the house consisted of 13 rooms located in an “L” shaped plan. The house spanned a distance of 80 feet along the Mill Avenue frontage and 120 feet along First Street. During the period of 1876-1883, a second story of adobe was built over the room at the north end of the house. In this same period, three rooms were built to create the west wing.
The Hayden Family moved from the adobe house in 1889 at which time the house began 35 years of use as a boarding house. In 1893, a frame second story was added to the west wing.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mrs. Kemp's boarding house and ladies-only dining room

Winnipeg Free Press,
November 13, 1914
Mrs. Kemp's boarding house and ladies-only dining room

Location: 277 Donald Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Opened/Closed: Around 1914

We've reported on several women-only boarding houses, at least one of which has been documented as a lesbian space (see Edith Mary Chapman's Boarding House in Salt Lake City).

Donald Street - Winnipeg (1910)
Mrs. Kemp's boarding house is interesting in that it explicitly advertises its ladies dining room as ladies only:

Also Mrs. Kemp has opened a ladies' dining room in connection, and would be pleased to see old friends and new ones looking for a select dining room for ladies only.

This is more unusual than you might think. Typically, ladies dining rooms were designed for "unescorted" women and women in the company of men, as women were typically not admitted into "regular" (male-only) eating and drinking establishments.

Lady bicyclists in Winnipeg (1900)
The result, as we have seen in many cases, were so-called ladies restaurants and cafes that were--paradoxically--dominated by men. (See this 1885 complaint from a woman in New York City.)  

In addition, the dining areas, parlors, and other semi-public rooms in most women's hotels, dormitories, and the like were usually considered "co-ed" spaces where women might entertain a beau. It seems, however, that Mrs. Kemp had no interest in any (male) suitors or "friends" mucking about her establishment.

Though Mrs. Kemp doesn't explicitly say that her boarding house is women-only, I think it is safe to assume that it was, given that men were explicitly not invited to any meals in her dining room.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ladies Cafe at Exchange Station

Exchange Station - Liverpool, England (1892)
Ladies Cafe at Exchange Station

Location: Liverpool, England

Opened: 1889

Closed: ?

Exchange Station was the former railroad station in Liverpool. The original station structure dated back to 1850, and after an extensive renovation and expansion it was renamed the Liverpool Exchange in 1888.

Although the Ladies Cafe opened about a year later, notice that it was still an afterthought following the "very extensive premises" constructed for the men. Nevertheless, this sounds like this was a very pleasant combination of a ladies cafe and ladies reading/writing salon. Even though no women--at least that we know of--were involved in the planning, creation, or management of this space. But hey, too often that's still the case over 100 years later.

The Exchange Station was closed in 1977, and mostly demolished shortly thereafter. However, I seriously doubt the ladies cafe survived that long.

As is often the case, I can find no reference to the ladies cafe in any of the standard histories of the Exchange Station.

From the Temperance Carrier, November 2, 1889:


Liverpool is well catered for. What with private venture, the Clerks' Cafe Company, and last, but not least the British Workman's Public House Company, which has no less than sixty-two houses, no town in England is better provided for. Not content to let "well" alone, Mr. Peskett, the energetic secretary of the British Workman Public House Company, is ever on the alert for "fresh fields," so far as Liverpool in concerned. The new venture is a ladies cafe, in connection with the very extensive premises occupied by the company in the Exchange Station. This will prove an immense boon to ladies coming into town to shop, either by rail or from the Cheshire side of the Mersey. The new cafe is fitted up with every requisite, and is furnished in luxuriant style. Writing materials may be obtained, and every accommodation is found for those desiring to write letters or other communications. This is a very great convenience, and one which would be acceptable in many cafes and coffee taverns patronised by the sterner sex.