Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Center Market Ladies' Waiting Room and Ladies' Cafe

Washington Post, November 23, 1909

Center Market Ladies' Waiting Room and Ladies' Cafe

Location: 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC, USA

Opened: The Center Market itself opened in 1871; when the ladies waiting room and ladies cafe opened is not clear

Closed: The Center Market closed in 1931

I have never seen a ladies' waiting room or a ladies' cafe associated with a large urban marketplace like the Center Market before. Guess there's a first for everything. 

According to America on the Move, the Center Market covered two full city blocks in the heart of Washington's business district (where the National Archives is today). 
Center Market, B Street facade (about 1900)

Center Market opened early in the morning and usually closed by mid-afternoon, except on Saturday, when it was open all day. Different classes of people visited the market from all parts of the city. The best (and most expensive) produce and meats sold early. As the day went on, prices and quality lessened.

Center Market interior (about 1900)

The approximately 700 dealers who rented space on the ground floor of the Center Market sold both local produce and foods from around the region, the nation, and the world. With the growth of railroads and commercial farming, more and more people were able to buy oranges, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables that were previously unavailable or too expensive.

A fascinating and more detailed history of the Center Market is at the Streets of Washington blog. Unfortunately, nothing is said there about the ladies' waiting room or the ladies' cafe. Not that this is unusual. Too frequently, the womyn's spaces associated with the history of a particular location and/or a larger institution are overlooked or omitted. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chas. A. Eckstein Ladies' Cafe

Washington Post,
March 15, 1908
Chas. A. Eckstein Ladies' Cafe

Location: 1412 New York Avenue, Washington, DC, USA

Opened/Closed: c. March 1908

Hmm. Which operation has the priority here? The one for the gentleman? Or the one for the ladies?
1207 New York Avenue (1925)

Here's what we know about the gentlemen's restaurant.

1) They specialized in planked shad. Which I had never heard of before, but here's a 1904 piece on How to Plank a Shad, just in case you want to recreate the old-fashioned authentic version at home. Basically involves long oaken planks, an open fire, shad, and lots and lots of butter.

Shad planking - Maryland (1893)
Here's a version of Planked Shad that's more kitchen friendly:

4 lbs shad
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups mashed potatoes, hot
parsley, for garnish
lemon, for garnish

Clean and dress fish.

Broil for ten minutes; place on a hot, buttered plank, skin side down.

Season well, pour melted butter over the top and bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

Protect plank from scorching by coating with damp salt, excluding the parts not covered by the fish. (The salt dries and is easily removed before mashed potato is added.).

Remove plank from oven and pipe mashed potatoes decoratively around fish.

Return to oven until potatoes are golden and fish well done.

Garnish with parsley and lemon slices.

Planked shad

2) Then there was the planked steak, another specialty of the house. And a very elaborate dish as well. 
Planked rump steak

3) Last but not least: All brands of imported wines, liquors, and cigars! 

Gentlemen enjoying imported wines,
liquors, and cigars

As for the ladies: 

1) They were on the second floor. 

2) And, um, they were on the second floor? 

Well, at least they had each other's company!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Branigan's Ladies' Restaurant

Main Street - Columbia, South Carolina
Branigan's Ladies' Restaurant

Location: 133 Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1890

We've reported on plenty of ladies restaurants in the larger cities, but not so many in the smaller towns like Columbia, South Carolina. Notice how the mere act of women dining together in a public setting is treated as something vaguely sinister. Not only must the ladies be sequestered "entirely separate" on the second floor (which is typical of ladies restaurants), but the ladies restaurant itself can only be reached by a "private stairway." It's as if this was some sort of backstreet abortionist or brothel rather than an eating establishment. 

On the other hand, there is also evidence that women preferred a ladies entrance and the privacy that this afforded. It certainly allowed them to avoid the "jolly gentlemen" (i.e. drunk and/or belligerent males) in the "regular" Branigan's Restaurant.

Random thought: why is it that restaurants very seldom feature oysters anymore? As for game, forget it!
133 Main Street today

From the News and Courier, January 30, 1890: 


My Restaurant has been newly renovated and refitted throughout. The kitchen is furnished with the latest improved cooking apparatus, and the Establishment is complete in all its appointments, and conducted in first-class style. It is the best Restaurant in the State.


Oyster shucker girls
South Carolina
I have opened a Restaurant for Ladies on the second floor of my building. It is handsomely fitted up, and is entirely separate from the establishment on the first floor, access being obtained by a private stairway leading from Main street. It will be conducted in the best possible manner.


will find this Restaurant a quiet and pleasant place for Meals and Refreshments. It is a convenience which has long been needed.


I make a specialty of OYSTERS, and do a very large business, shipping to all parts of the state. Blue Points and Saddle Rocks and Little Neck Clams always on hand, and Game in variety. Orders by mail or telegraph promptly attended to.

Columbia, S.C.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ladycliff College

Ladycliff College
Ladycliff College

Location: Highland Falls, New York, USA

Opened: 1933

Closed:  Men admitted for class of 1978; closed 1980

Many small Catholic liberal arts colleges for women have been lost over the last few decades. Ladycliff is one of them. Notice that once again, a last ditch effort to save the college by admitting men was ineffective.

Adapted from the History of Ladycliff College:

The former Cranston's Hotel
On January 1, 1900, the Franciscan Sisters of Peekskill acquired Cranston’s Hotel, a summer retreat perched on the cliffs along the west bank of the Hudson on property adjacent to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Sisters named this majestic, dramatic parcel “Lady Cliff”; it would house their School—the Academy of Our Lady of Angels, founded in 1870 and located in Peekskill, New York. Dedication of the buildings and grounds took place on September 9, 1900, and the Sisters set out to modernize and renovate the properties.  While doing so, they changed their School’s name to Ladycliff Academy.  Ladycliff Academy and Ladycliff College co-existed on the property until the 1960s when the Academy relocated to Mohegan in order to accommodate expansion of the College.

Ladycliff College opened its doors in 1933, having received its charter from the Board of Regents of the University of New York.  Materials promoting the College to interested young women and their families highlighted the Sisters’ goals for students:  “You will find here what your mind desires, ideal location, a liberal education, social activities, religious activities—all of which are directed to the development of a noble and useful life.”  The Sisters of St. Francis aimed “to extend through the medium of higher education its full development of young women . . . to be efficient members and leaders of society.”  The curriculum offered students cultural background, it prepared them to teach, and it emphasized both religion and philosophy.  As well, the curriculum incorporated art, music, and physical conditioning.  A philosophy for the education of women was established; it would remain the foundation for academic studies and personal development for the life of the College. 

In 1940, the Board of Regents granted Ladycliff College a permanent charter empowering it to award both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science degrees.

 In 1960, Ladycliff received accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and thus became part of a whole new arena in Catholic Higher Education.

Aerial view, Ladycliff College
In 1961, Ladycliff matched the graduation rate of 1950 (46 women), and in 1969, 115 women graduated from the College.  Aims for students remained intact through this time, an honors programs was introduced, honor societies followed, a foundation curriculum was in place, and a variety of concentrations were available to students. 

Anyone reviewing archival data about the College from the early 1970s would conclude that it held great promise for the decade and beyond.  Socioeconomic and institutional indicators all suggested further growth in all aspects of life and work on campus.  New opportunities for study had emerged in studio art, business management, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology.

With the close of the decade came the admittance of men as matriculated students in all programs available at the College. The class of 1978 included 7 men.

Sadly, though, the 1970s was the last decade for Ladycliff College. A commitment to affordability made it impossible to sustain the College financially.  In 1980, despite its great successes, Ladycliff College closed. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Glasshouse Hotel

Glasshouse Hotel

Glasshouse Hotel
Location: 51 Gipps Street, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia

Opened: Around 1991 as lesbian space

Closed: December 2011

Here's how she described herself while she was still kicking:

Glasshouse Hotel is the grand old pub of Collingwood, with community, performance and club events. 

Melbourne's lesbian bar, which is mixed on most nights, except for Shebar which is women-only on 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. 

Full kitchen and a huge beer garden. Our chef consistently brings you a variety of quality pub fare through takeaway, pre-ordering and dine-in catering for large and small groups.

The review from yahoo! travel:

The Glasshouse is a gay pub, particularly popular with the lesbian crowd. There is a pool table, as well as a dance floor and a small outdoor courtyard. The ambiance is relaxed, unpretentious and friendly, with live bands on Sunday afternoons. Its location puts it within close striking distance of a number of other gay venues

From yahoo! voices (2006):

A place for the ladies! On Melbourne's North Side, this laid-back lesbian pub offers pool tables, a small dancefloor, and a sense of community for dykes Down Under.

And from away.com:

Long recognized as the main—some say the only—lesbian hangout in Melbourne, "the Glassy" is a large, converted brick house on a quiet street. Though it offers an Australian menu for lunch and dinner seven days a week, it's open till 5:00.

At foursquare, she had nothing but great patron reviews. How rare is that???

And then she was gone. Here is the obituary from Staronline, December 5, 2011:

Melbourne’s queer nightlife is shifting again with the sudden announcement The Glasshouse Hotel has closed.
Posting a Facebook message over the weekend, owners said the popular Collingwood pub had closed its doors.
Dykes on Bikes fundaiser at
Glasshouse Hotel (Novemeber 2011)
“Thank you to all the amazing staff and promoters, yes we’ve decided to call it a day,” the venue said on its Facebook wall.
Last month, fellow northside LGBTI-friendly nightspot Neverwhere announced its closure.
Iconic in the community as a women’s watering hole, the Glasshouse was taken over two years ago by lesbian couple Libby and Rachel.
Dykes on Bikes Melbourne held a fundraiser event at the venue as recently as November 25.
Calls made to the venue by the Star Observer have not been returned.
The obituary from same same, December 9, 2011:

Melbourne has lost another iconic queer venue with the closure of Collingwood’s Glasshouse Hotel this past weekend ending its 25 year history as a queer club.

Earlier this year Melbourne saw the closure and sales of three of its iconic gay bars, The Xchange Hotel, DT’s Hotel and The Market Hotel. Two of those bars have since been bought – the former Xchange Hotel is now the DnM gay bar, and DTs too remains serving the gay community.

The Glasshouse Hotel is the latest venue to close this year. Part bar, part diner, part dance club, the venue had a unique place in the scene. For the past 20 years, it has been synonymous with the lesbian and girls scene in Melbourne as well as being a home of Melbourne’s Drag Kings.

The venue originally functioned as a brothel before becoming a gay bar, and slowly transitioned into an iconic lesbian bar 20 years ago. Two years ago, Glasshouse ownership was taken over by lesbian couple Libby and Rachel (pictured below) who opened up the bar’s events schedule to a broader queer scene including events such as Quork Mutant Disco, the SLUT parties and the infamous Gay Shame parties.
Glass House Hotel owners
Libby and Rachel

The closure announcement came via a brief message from the owners via Facebook:

“Thank you to all the amazing staff and promoters, yes we’ve decided to call it a day.”

Shock and sadness to the news was evident through the posts on the venue’s website and social marketing pages, with many thanking the venue and owners for all the memories and community support, and others saying it was sad that community spirit didn’t equate to financial support towards the venue, and that was what lead to the hotel’s demise.

“Thank you to all the wonderful people we met and to all those that helped support us we are eternally greatful,” the owners said in a statement to Same Same. “We were very sad and so so sorry to have had to close but it just could not sustain itself at all.”

Upcoming scheduled events at the Glasshouse, including those booked over Midsumma, now have to find a new home.

The organisers of the popular SHEBAR, which was set to be at the Glasshouse hotel on 10 December, say that event has been cancelled. SHEBAR has now moved their NYE event to their new home at The Royal Derby at 446 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

The Glasshouse Hotel space is currently being rented out and used as a temporary retail outlet.

This is something I have seen with a lot of lesbian bar closures. They attempt to widen their customer base by going more "queer"--and it just doesn't work.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


1129 Pennsylvania Avenue SE today
Mi Vecinidad Restaurant

Location: 1129 Pennsylvania Avenue South East, Washington DC, USA

Opened: April 4, 1998

Closed: 2000?

Here's the brief description of Elan from the 2012 update to rainbowhistory:

On the 2nd floor. Women's bar, had Wednesday evening drag shows hosted by Michelle Michaels and Courtney Lovelace.

An October 13, 2000 article in the Washington City Paper on the loss of Washington's lesbian institutions mentions that in  "the last year, Elan, a Capitol Hill lesbian bar, closed its doors." Unfortunately, a more exact date is not provided. 

As often happens, reviewers don't consistently identify Elan as a lesbian bar as such. For example, clubplanet described it thus: "Elan - A gay/lesbian bar that features hip-hop/rap/punk music." Several other websites listing gay and lesbian venues used the exact same wording. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hotel Irvin for Women

Former Hotel Irvin (2002)
Hotel Irvin for Women

Location: 308 West 30th Street (near 8th Avenue), New York, New York, USA

Opened: 1925

Closed: Apparently ceased to be women-only in the early 1940s

A short description of the Hotel Irvin for Women can be found here:

The Hotel Irvin for Women was named for Mary M. Irvin (Mrs. Richard Irvin), president of the organization that worked for many years to create this residence. As early as 1916 the group planned a hotel "where self-supporting girls and women with small incomes could be accommodated comfortably and well at little cost." (Quoting New York Times Feb. 21,1916, p.11.)

Mary M. Irvin (1870-1918)
But it was not until 1924 that the group managed to acquire the land and begin construction here at 308 W 30th St. By that time the corporation consisted of Asher Mayer, president, and Charles H. Strong, treasurer. The hotel opened in 1925, "for exclusive occupancy by business women," with apartments "arranged in small flexible units with facilities for self-housekeeping" and rents "adjusted on a basis to meet the big demand that exists for this type of housing." (Quoting here the New York Times July 4, 1924, p. 20.)

In the early 1940s the Irvin seems to have dropped the women-only policy. They went out of business in the mid-1950s.

An article in the New York Times dated May 12, 1916 tells us more about the Irvin Hotel as it was originally envisioned. The costs for room and board were projected at $4 to $8 a week. And while there was no place for "charity" cases, there was none of the "surveillance" or restrictions so common to women's hotels either: "Each guest will be as independent as any guest of a hotel anywhere." Specifically, that meant that the women guests would be able to "go and return as they please at any hour of the night, and there will be no question of propriety as to the hour." 

In keeping with the new heteronormative definition of freedom for the New Woman, there was also an emphasis on "beau rooms" or "beau parlors" where the women would be able to "receive [male] company" with some degree of privacy. This was presumably a safer alternative to such "evils" as "frequenting cafes or walking the streets." 

In addition, the hotel was to include a "dance and assembly room," a roof garden, a "chafing dish room for little parties," a "big restaurant," a gymnasium, what was described as a "hospital" (infirmary?), and many other very nice-sounding amenities. 

The staff was to mostly women too: "The hotel clerks will be women, and the only men will be the porters and furnace men."

Obviously this over-arching vision was curtailed considerably by the time the hotel finally opened in 1924--by which time the project had apparently been taken over by men. It appears that World War I and the 1918 death of Mary M. Irvin had something to do with this. And even the limited vision that survived--the Hotel as a place "for exclusive occupancy for business women" rather than as a home for "women with small incomes"--would scarcely last a generation before the hotel went coed. 

Mary Irvin's obituary, which was published in the New York Times on June 17, 1918, gives us a sense of her broad commitments to women and children:

Mrs. Irvin had been interested in charities for forty years. At the time of her death she was President of the Samaritan Home for the Aged, one of the founders and President of the Loomis Sanitarium at Liberty, N.Y.; President of St. Mary's Free Hospital for Children, the Association of Day Nurseries, the Virginia Day Nursery, the Irene Working Girls' Club and the Virginia Working Girls' Club. Work of building the Hotel Irvin for Working Girls, of which Mrs. Irvin was President, had been held up by the war.

She was a Vice President of the Working Girls' Vacation Society, the Association of Woman Workers, the Trinity Seaside Home at Islip, L.I.; a member of the Loomis Guild, St. Christopher's Guild of St, Mary's Free Hospital for Children, the Cathedral Nursery Committee, the Manhattan Trade School Committee and the Consumers' League. She was a Governor of the Colony Club and a member of the Diocesan Auxiliary of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Fresh Air Home of the Cathedral.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ms. Purdy's Women's Club

Ms. Purdy's Women's Club
Ms. Purdy's Women's Club

Location: 226 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1984-1990); 272 Sherbrook Street (1990-2002)

Opened: Established 1983; opened January 1984

Closed: August 2002

When she finally shut her doors for the last time, Ms. Purdy's was Canada's oldest lesbian bar--this according to the Rainbow Resource Centre. (However, they also report--erroneously--that the bar opened in 1974, not 1984.)

Here's how Gay-MART listed her back in the day:

Ms Purdy's Women's Club 226 Main, R3C 1A8, (204) 989-2344. Lesbian-owned or operated. Lesbian clientele, Gay men welcome Friday nights. Wheelchair accessible. Dancing, Pool Table, Games.

And Roughguide:

Ms Purdy's 226 Main St 204/989-2344 Long-running women-only lesbian bar

Fortunately there is a bit more detail in this piece from 2000, that apparently appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. (I say "apparently" because it's quoted in a Google group where the men are whining about all-women spaces and whether they should be "allowed.")

Ms. Purdys
In a city with so many live venues, Ms Purdy's remains a relatively unexploited gem. That's to be expected, since this intimate downtown space only allows men inside once a week.
Nevertheless the venue that claims to be North Americas longest running women's club is trying to expand its clientele by booking live acts a few times a month. Given the location and the atmosphere, this place deserves serious consideration as a jazz Winnipeg venue.
226 Main Street - Winnipeg today
"By its nature Ms Purdy's is a very exclusive place," says manager Rachael Stone. "We want women to feel comfortable there, but we also want men to feel comfortable on certain nights- we don't want this to be a clique."
Males are allowed in for all live performances. The next one is Nov 23 when Winnipeg singer songwriter Karen Kosowski takes the stage.

Another commentator at the same site reports the following (which may or may not be true). If true, though, this certainly illustrates the precarious existence of a lesbian bar:
272 Sherbrook Street today
Integrow Multicultural Job Centre

Ms. Purdy's was in its first form a dyke bar, it closed down for a couple of years and was rented by a couple of bands as a rehearsal space - one of those bands was mine. We had big parties in there, essentially social events with tickets, cash bar and stuff - usually to pay rent for the rehearsal space.
Thankfully, no one ever busted us for holding these events without all the required paperwork.
The place was cool, it had filthy bathrooms, a walk-in beer cooler, nice bar with draught taps and a fair amount of space. But, all good things come to and end and the dyke faction collected enough money to re-open the club known as Ms. Purdy's. Landlord opted for lesbians instead of rock bands as preferred tenants. Understandably so.

We are probably on surer footing with this information from the University of Manitoba library archives:

Shortly after The Winnipeg Women’s Building closed, a lesbian venue called Ms. Purdy's opened at 266 Main Street in January of 1984 and provided space for women artists to perform. By April, the club had more than 200 members and continued to thrive as the only lesbian social space in Winnipeg. Ms. Purdy's relocated to 272 Sherbrook Street in 1990 where it remained until it closed in August of 2002.

And finally, this is how Ms. Purdy's described herself:
Established in 1983, Ms. Purdy's Women's Club is North America's oldest continuously-run women's club and the only club of its kind in Manitoba.

As a not-for-profit private club, it is owned by its membership, who elects representatives to the Board of Directors annually. As the directing force of the organization, the Board oversees the aims and undertakings of the Club and is responsible to the general membership. Members are encouraged to participate, by attending monthly Board meetings, forums and the Annual General Meeting , as well joining committees to help the Club function and succeed.

Operated by minimal staff, Ms. Purdy's relies on volunteers for everything from bartending to carpentry to fundraising to event planning. It strives to offer employment and training to as many women as possible and there are many opportunity to get involved.

Ms. Purdy's strives to maintain facilities which provide the opportunity for women to meet on a casual basis in a comfortable social atmosphere. Whether it's quiet conversation over a drink, a pool game or a night of dancing, Ms. Purdy's offers a safe and welcoming environment.

Through diverse programming, Ms. Purdy's also provides a unique and intimate space for women performers and artists to be recognized. From musical concerts to drag shows, poetry readings to film viewings, workshops to performance art, Ms. Purdy's aims to offer a wide variety of events which appeal to a broad audience.

Ms. Purdy's works to cooperate with other organizations having concerns for the interests of women and the community. It offers a free space for fundraising and other social events and works hard to serve and strengthen ties with the community, resource centres, community members and many not-for-profit organizations.

In 2001, Ms. Purdy's celebrated its 18th birthday, marking a turning point in the Club's history. Without the tireless and often-unheralded efforts of the many women who have spent much of their lives volunteering time and expertise to maintaining this Club, Ms. Purdy's would not exist. Eighteen years ago, 100 strong and dedicated women came together to build an organization that would serve the needs of the community while still offering a fun and interesting space. One can only hope that in another 18 years, Ms. Purdy's doors will still be open for all who wish to enjoy it.

Alas, she was to live for only another year....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dorothy Restaurant

431 - 451 Oxford Street (2011)
Dorothy Restaurant 

Location: 448 Oxford Street, London, England, United Kingdom

Opened: June 21, 1889

Closed: Summer 1895

In Karl Baedeker's London and its Environs: Handbook for Travelers (1894), we see the following item listed on page 13 under "Restaurants":

Dorothy Restaurant (for ladies only), 448 Oxford Street.

Just enough to whet your appetite, and nothing more.

London of To-day: An Illustrated Handbook (1890) advises us of the following:

Try the Dorothy Restaurant in Oxford Street (near Orchard Street) if you are among the number of those who "detest to have men about the place." Dorothy Restaurants admit no men.

Whoa. What is this place?

Fortunately, Franny Moyle tells us a lot more about the Dorothy Restaurant  in Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde.

Isabel Cooper-Oakley
If you had walked down Oxford Street at lunchtime on Friday 21 June 1889, proceeding from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch under the almost continual canopy of coloured awnings that once graced that thoroughfare, about half-way down you would have found a cluster of folk blocking the pavement, vying to press their noses up against the windows of no. 448. This group, drawn from hoi polloi working in central London, were enjoying the spectacle of a great crowd of celebrated women milling about inside, many of whom were smoking. This activity, normally the preserve of men, was causing particular consternation. Constance Wilde, in her signature Gainsborough hat and wearing a full-skirted velvet highwayman's coat, was in their midst. She, like a whole host of other notable ladies, was attending the opening of a new Dorothy's Restaurant. 
Constance Wilde (1858-1898)

Dorothy's was the initiative of one Mrs. Cooper-Oakley, another of London's leading feminists, who also ran a milliner's business in Wigmore Street called Madame Isabel's. It was an innovation, a restaurant for women only. Although dining for upper- and middle-class women was already available at the various women's clubs, and although some conventional restaurants provided ladies' dining room discreetly in upper storeys or side-rooms, Dorothy's was a bold modern proposition. Its door was right on the street, and it was open to all classes of women, from shop assistants to duchesses. Offering cheap wholesome fare for all, Dorothy's liberated the former from having to eat a bun in a shop and offered the latter a new kind of experience. You just bought an eightpenny dining ticket on entrance, took a seat at one of the tables and waited for your 'plate of meat, two vegetables and bread' to arrive. For an extra couple of pence you could also get pudding, and for a further penny tea, coffee or chocolate.

Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891)
Dorothy's was a perfect example of how, in late Victorian London, Aestheticism, liberalism and feminist sympathies could collide. The first branch of the restaurant to open, in Mortimer Street, had cream-coloured walls with 'aesthetic crimson dados' and had been made 'gay with Japanese fans and umbrellas'. The Oxford Street branch, which opened just months later, was a far more dramatic proposition, its windows hung with rich Indian curtains, its ante-room painted a deep red that offset luxurious couches, small tables and carefully selected ornaments, and its larger luncheon room featuring rows of simple tables set with glazed white cotton tablecloths surmounted by vases of fresh flowers.

The Dorothy Restaurant was also closely connected with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophist movement. See here, here and here for more on that.

Just to see that men mocking women-only space is nothing new, see this piece in Punch (1890) that ridicules the patrons of Dorothy Restaurant. 

Ad from London Women Penny Paper,
September 14, 1889

According to a published liquidator's report, the Dorothy Restaurant closed in the summer of 1895.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hotel Marlborough Ladies Restaurant

Hotel Marlboro - New York (1908)

Hotel Marlborough Ladies Restaurant

Location: Herald Square at Broadway and West 36th Street, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1908-1910

This is one of very few photos I have seen that depicts the exterior of a turn-of the-century ladies restaurant.

So far, I have found no written descriptions or advertisements referring to the Marlborough Hotel Ladies Restaurant, though there is frequent mention of the (gentlemen's) Rathskeller, which was a famous German restaurant associated with the Hotel.

In addition, there are postcards illustrating the interior of the Rathskeller (as well as the Hotel lobby) but (apparently) none for the Ladies Restaurant. This suggests that either the Ladies Restaurant did not have a long existence, that its presence wasn't as well-known or publicized, or that its operations were considered somewhat marginal to the Hotel's operations. Perhaps all three.

Close up of Hotel Marlborough Ladies Restaurant (1908)

Hotel Marlborough postcard

Hotel Marlborough lobby (1906)

Rathskeller, Hotel Marlborough

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Between the Acts at a Ladies Cafe

Between the Acts at a Ladies Cafe (1896)

From the Galveston [Texas] Daily News, November 8, 1896

It's not terribly common to find illustrations of nineteenth-century ladies cafes that actually depict, well, ladies. Especially ladies that are enjoying each other's company without a lot of male escorts. So I'm sharing this particular print here. Unfortunately, the reproduction quality of this print is not terribly good (okay, it's awful) and the article that accompanies it is basically illegible. Very frustrating....

Alan's Tea Rooms

Alan's Tea Rooms (1910)
Alan's Tea Rooms

Location: 263 Oxford Street, London, England, United Kingdom

Opened: 1907

Closed: 1916

Time and time again, we've made the argument here at Lost Womyn's Space that having real physical public space where women can safely meet and congregate is crucial to the survival and the future of the feminist movement. (Bonus points if the space is actually owned, managed, and controlled by women for women.) We've also mentioned that this was also true for the women of the first wave of the feminist movement, who often met at tea shops and used them as "sheltering space" for public meetings and organizing. (Check out the tea room tabs below for earlier posts.)

There seems to be a lot of new and fascinating research on these issues, which is really important to share. This recent piece from the Women's History Network on "Suffragettes and Tea Rooms" discusses one of these places, which was called Alan's Tea Rooms. [Note: the "reference guide" mentioned below is shorthand for Elizabeth Crawford's The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide (1999)]:

One of the businesses mentioned in the Reference Guide was ‘Alan’s Tea Rooms’, 263 Oxford Street, popular with both suffragettes and suffragists. I suggested that the owner, ‘Mr Alan Liddle’, while not charging the rent of the room hired for suffrage meetings, doubtless made his profit from the sale of the accompanying tea and buns, conjuring up the image of a suave male entrepreneur cashing in on the need of campaigners for a safe haven in Central London. A minute with the relevant rate book in Westminster Archives revealed that the owner was not ‘Mr Alan Liddle’, but ‘Miss Marguerite Alan Liddle’. A subsequent investigation of the census records showed that she was the sister of Helen Gordon Liddle, an active member of the WSPU, who, in The Prisoner, describes the month in 1909 during which she endured forcible feeding in Strangeways prison. Thus, while the news pages of Votes for Women were reporting her sister’s hunger strike, the back pages carried advertisements for Alan’s ‘dainty luncheons’.

Over and above this direct connection with the suffrage movement, the rate book demonstrated that Alan Liddle may have had good cause to advertise to suffragettes as assiduously as she did. For it became evident that ‘Alan’s Tea Rooms’ was on the first-floor of the Oxford Street building and, in order to reach their lunch, customers had to enter by a door at the side of the shopfront and climb a flight of stairs. With so much competition from neighbouring establishments  – a Liptons, a Lyons and an ABC were all close by – one can see that the proprietor may well have thought it necessary to carve out a niche market.

As to the ‘look’ of Alan’s Tea Rooms – a photograph (London Metropolitan Archives) showed that the now-demolished building had at its first floor a semi-circular arcaded window, rather in the Venetian style. One might imagine that a table in the window, looking down onto Oxford Street, would have been rather popular.

Fortunately the discovery of a line drawing of a ‘corner of Alan’s Tea Rooms’ in a 1910 issue of The Idler, a magazine edited by Jerome K. Jerome, made it unnecessary to rely wholly on conjecture  – with the bonus that the artist included a sample menu. Thus it has been possible, from a variety of sources, to recreate something of the reality of this business, which, from 1907 until 1916, provided a space in which ‘Votes for Women’ could be freely discussed.

Read the rest here

Friday, October 5, 2012

Troll Club

Street scene - Alikarnassoy Kolonas
Troll Club

Location: Alikarnassoy 7, Kolonas, Athens, Greece

Opened: ?

Closed: June 17, 2006

The only reference I have found to this former lesbian bar is at an old website by the name of Athens by Night Sapphites Guide (love that name!). But unless you're interested in history, don't bother to visit as it hasn't been updated since 2007. At any rate, this is what is said about Troll Club:

Troll, Lesbian bar-club * REPORTED CLOSED - 17 JUNE 2006 
www.troll.gr - Alikarnassoy 7, Kolonos (from Kostantinoypoleos & Lenorman bridge) tel. 210.5158920 
The second self-identified lesbian venue in Athens - Mostly young women and a few occasional gay friends 
very interesting music mixes (latest mainstream 2 all-time classics 2 Greek dance music) 
Opens late Tuesday-Sunday nights, (~ 11pm to 3am.. and more on weekends) !

We know that it was open in April 2005 as there is this reference:

Friday, April 8th, Athens, lesbian.gr-chat Party, at the Troll club, Alikarnassoy str, Kolonos, after midnight

But that's about it.