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.

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