‘London restaurant refuses to serve women cocktails after 8,unless with a man’

I wasn’t going to post about this as my first reaction was it was a bit too frivolous, but then I put a comment on Twitter and it got re-tweeted more times than anything else I’ve put up, so I figured it deserved a blog post of its own!

This was the tweet I posted

Well much as I love vintage fashion, 1930s were def not 4 me ‘London restaurant refuses to serve women cocktails after 8,unless with a man!’

 However far from being frivolous the correspondence and press cuttings about this issue reveal some deep seated prejudices about ‘acceptable’ female behaviour and really highlighted to me how powerless women could be in terms of control over many aspects of their own lives.  Which is why it is so wonderful to see all the correspondence in this collection, where women got together, protested, and instigated real changes.

Image from NUWT Collection, reference UWT/D/40C/1

This poster (seen above), not the most catchy looking poster I’ve ever seen but maybe that’s what worked at the time, is from 1930 and advertises a protest meeting organised after too many women had expereinced refusal of entry to restaurants and other public spaces.  Some examples cited in the correspondence and accompanying press cuttings include a group of women who, after listening to a debate which went on late at the House of Commons, wen to a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus.  They were refused admittance because they were without a man.  Other examples include women being refused cocktails in the evening because they are without a man, and a woman asked to leave a restaurant because she smoked a cigarette along.   The implication in some of the press cuttings seems to be that eating out along, or only with other women, could imply you are of ‘certain reputation’ and could be a ‘reputed prostitute’, and that license holders were unwilling to face potential prosecution on this so just banned all women unaccompanied by men in the evenings.  The folder includes correspondence with some of the restaurants concerned and correspondence with other women’s organisations.  In addition to demonstrations and protest meetings, boycotts were made of the offending restaurants, by individual women and women’s organisations.  Having the press cuttings in the same folders as the correspondence, and the relevant posters and other ephemera really brings the subject to life and provides a much fuller view of the issue than just one type of record could.

You can follow the NUWT Archive on Twitter @NUWT_archive

You can access the NUWT Collection through the online catalogue

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