Gay women were in the minority, by far, in the UMass Student Homophile League and its 1971 spinoff activist group the Gay Liberation Front. One survey reached twenty four women out of a total of one hundred members attending SHL events. It often felt like many fewer women. One of the first things we did independently of the gay men was take a field trip to The Girls Club, the women’s bar in Chicopee that we had heard about.
I don’t recall who got the directions, but they really had to be specific because the place wasn’t visible from the road or otherwise marked. In time-fuzzed images, I see us entering at the walk-in basement level from the parking lot at that back of a small building that housed another bar up above. I retain the impression that it was near water, and in an industrial area not well lighted, definitely off the beaten track unless you lived or worked nearby.
I later heard it had been opened in the late 1940s specifically as a women’s bar, and remained so until at least 1993 though its name was changed to the Hideaway or Our Hideaway. It was a working class bar with pool table (with tournament sign-up sheet and news of the softball team on the bulletin board), pinball machine, and jukebox all handy to the bar and space for a DJ or band in the next room, with tables around a small dance area.
The clientele was diverse, though mostly white, ranging from regulars who had been going there for decades to “tourists” like those of us from SHL visiting from what seemed like a different planet. From my own experience in the military, there were probably WAF from nearby Westover Air Force Base in attendance as well. This was, as far as I know, the only lesbian bar in Western Massachusetts at the time, and one of the few in New England outside of Boston.
I later met someone who grew up in the area, the drummer Michele “Micki” Faucher, who played the Girls Club as part of an all-“girls” (as they were called back then) rock band the Reflections of Tyme. When not playing the Club, the band made music at weddings and other straight events as the Patches of Blue. I’m guessing that this was late 1960s to early 1970s.
There is a fine novel by Sally Bellerose called The Girls Club (Bywater Books, 2011) which accurately includes this very same bar as a not so minor setting. Highly recommended.
Looking for: The names and whereabouts of the other band members, more of the Club’s history. Recollections anyone? Please comment here or email me (see contact above).
Coming next: “T” is for…
__Cercone, G. James. “Survey of 100 Homosexual Members of the University of Massachusetts Student Homophile League (April 1971). For a Sociology 391 Seminar. I only have the pie-chart graph from this.
__Rothenberg, Heather. “Our Hideaway: history and ‘herstory’ of a lesbian bar as a social institution.” Project Proposal. Smith College. September 1998. Project may not have been done, it included interviewing the bar’s owner who had retired to Florida.
__Faucher, Michele. Photo album undated given to Kaymarion Raymond.
4 thoughts on “the Girls Club”
Great blog – thanks Kaymarion and contributors. I plan to read every entry. And thanks for the shout-out. I am writing about working-poor old 80+ yr old dykes – grateful for the history and memories Sally Bellerose
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It was behind a neighborhood bar – I don’t remember that it was in a cellar. A woman/butch said to me: “On New Year’s Eve, there were so many femmes here that my lighter ran out of fluid!”. I’m not sure why you’d call it ‘a working class bar’ – we were all there, professors included. Was it the decor? The haze of cigarette smoke? The softball team was probably the Ma Mannings team – a fast pitch team that competed in a league along with the Westfield Whips. I think their home field is a cemetery now. We – Greenfield Roadrunners – played in the state slow pitch championships there – when there were only 5 teams competing! I remember 3 of the Ma Mannings players – great athletes.
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the pool table and pinball machine? but that my sense was most WERE working class, not students or academics, which could probably be said for all the bars in Springfield at the time. Jacqueline addresses some of this in her poems. There WAS a class tension that I witnessed , that carried over into ‘hamp, particularly Green St. ; disdain of bar drinking and violence (and dykes) by academics and belligerence of bar dykes toward those perceived as “educated” or “better” class.
And what years are we talking for the Greenfield Roadrunners ? The name of the league? These would all pre-date the Mary V. League and be up n down the Valley? Wonder if there’s any records for these, newspaper coverage? Have you been interviewed Jane, for posterity?