The Wimmin’s Restaurant Project


There was a private dining club for feminist vegetarians on Masonic Street in Northampton for five years: 1976-82. What came to be called the Common Womon [sic] Club was the first vegetarian venue in the area. It became the only women’s space in town after the Valley Women’s Union was evicted from its home on Main Street and the businesses that formed the Egg  on Hawley Street closed. In addition to offering food at a reasonable price, The Common Womon Club was an organizing space and cultural center. Open to all women, it was a collective, Lesbian owned and operated. cwc logo apr 1977_edited-1As reported in Dyke Doings,  nine lesbians began meeting as the Womyn’s Restaurant Project in March of 1976. They incorporated as the non-profit Ceres Inc., with the purpose of supporting the development of women’s enterprises. Their first project was a women-only eating facility housed within a membership club (the only way to legally be women- only), like the men’s clubs just down the street for Elks and Masons.

By pooling their personal funds, they were able to buy the 68-78 Masonic Street property, a small one-family house with a one story stucco storefront building next door.  Donations from other local lesbians, fundraising events, and a loan from the Massachusetts Feminist Federal Credit Union in Cambridge  allowed a do-over of the rundown house.  With the skill and guidance of two lesbian carpenters, the collective renovated the ground floor, creating three interconnected dining areas with a counter for orders and service (no waitresses) next to the small kitchen. They built the tables, gathered an eclectic collection of fifty used dining chairs, and sewed pink cloth napkins

A name was chosen from the Judy Grahn poem, “The common woman is as common as the best of bread and will rise and will become strong.”  The spelling of woman was changed “to take the man out of the word,” Laura, a collective spokesperson explained. The Common Womon Club  opened December 19, 1976  to serve lunch and dinner six days a week.

cwc polcies 1977_edited-11977 Common Womon Club initial policies, handout for members.

cwc order_edited-2

With no waitresses (which is the word we used back then), order pads were at each table. Members wrote up their orders and took them to the order/prep counter. Here, Ynestra must have been treating me to dinner.

cwc eb 3

Looking along the order counter into the small kitchen. Probably Molly  in her logo T-shirt dishing something up. Thanks to Elisabeth Brook for these snapshots.

Srepub cwc 77This part of the article in the Springfield Republican Apr 24, 1977 really got the food described. Jan Whitaker discovered that this coverage was further circulated by the UPI wire service and reprinted in various forms in sixteen mainstream papers across the country and into Canada. In a story published a year later in the Republican Collective members expressed their belief that mainstream coverage had focused on an alleged anti-male bias and, as a result, in interviews asked that their last names not be used.

Though the Common Womon (CWC) was many women’s first experience of vegetarian and/or the ethnic cuisine presented by occasional guest chefs, it was much more than a place to eat. The background music was by women, and CWC or next door Nutcracker’s Suite was the town’s first Olivia Records  distributor.  The walls were hung with rotating exhibits of local women’s art and crafts.

cwc eb1

I don’t remember when I hung this show of my work at CWC but it’s a nice snapshot by Lis Brook showing the arches between dining areas. I was on the art exhibit committee and remember shows of member baby pictures as well as group and one women shows.

cwc eb2

This snapshot by Lis looks like it was taken just before opening hours, with a view from one dining room, thru the other to the area with the order counter. Is that Holly coming thru the arch to set tables? Note the funky chair collection. Painting by me in corner top left was commissioned by Sarah Dreher and later used as the basis for T-shirt design by Nutcracker’s Suite.

Sunday evenings often included entertainment by local talent as well as presentations on a wide range of women’s issues. After Dyke Doings folded, the CWC membership newsletter was the sole lesbian news source in the area until the 1979 advent of the monthly newspaper the Valley Women’s Voice.

The enclosed front porch wasn’t only a place to wait when there was a line for tables. Beside an overflowing bulletin board of women’s event flyers and notices were loose leaf notebooks for housing and jobs, literature from women around the globe, and a lending library. The mismatched, worn overstuffed sofa and chairs invited one to hang out. Upstairs was the Valley Women’s Union mimeograph machine, shared with area progressive groups, and a room rented to therapists for their sessions and available for small meetings (and the occasional toke). Some of the groups that were begun by first meeting at Common Womon included Lesbians concerned with alcohol abuse, the Jewish Lesbian discussion group, the Valley Women’s Herstory Project, the lesbian Alanon meeting, and the 1979 March on Washington WMass Lesbian contingent.

below the salt mar 2, 1978_edited-1

CWC included in International Women’s Day coverage in Below the  Salt, a supplement to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, March 2, 1978. Holly and Marjorie P. in photos.

Within a couple years, and as the original collective of nine changed, it was  found that afternoon tea was feasible, but not lunch. Business slowed significantly in the summer, as well. The collective was forced to reduce summer food service, often to nothing but the popular Sunday brunches and special seasonal efforts such as ice cream socials. Always operating on a shoe string budget, CW relied on sliding scale membership dues, fund-raising events, and sacrifice by members of the collective in order to stay open.

cwc flyer 197_edited-1

Artist unattributed, likely Molly or Kate. This format could be used repeatedly, pasting in that day’s menu into the frame for copying.

Special events helped pay the mortgage and basic expenses. The most popular of these may have been the wimmin’s dj’ed disco dances initially held at the Club, then expanded to the basement of the Polish American Home/Club on Pearl Street. Benefit events in collaboration with other feminist or lesbian groups at larger venues also included dances with the women’s bands Lilith and Liberty Standing at UMass, a concert by Willie Tyson at Smith College, poetry reading by Robin Morgan at Hampshire College, and a local Lesbian talent Show.

Income also came from the rental of the storefront next door at 68 Masonic St. This space, occupied in 2019 by Bela Vegetarian Restaurant was, in 1976, tenanted by the US Navy recruiters when Ceres Inc bought the property. The Navy was swiftly evicted and the space renovated for new tenants, the Valley’s first women’s karate dojo, the Nutcracker’s Suite . When, after a brief time, that enterprise became Valley Women’s Martial Arts and moved to Springfield,  the building then became home to the Valley’s first feminist bookstore, Womonfyre Books. With Common Womon next door, this block in Northampton became a feminist and Lesbian beehive from 1977 to 1982. One can only imagine what the closest neighbors at the Northampton Fire Department, Christian Science Reading Room, and Bell Telephone Company were saying amongst themselves.

What was it like being part of the Common Womon Collective? Stay tuned to this blog for future posts, including personal reflections  from collective member Marjorie Childers, as well as the story of CWC’s last two years and closing in the 80s.

SOURCES:

__Dyke Doings. Northampton. Sep-Oct, Nov, Dec 1976 issues. I am missing issues V and VI, if anyone has these I would appreciate copies.

__Valley Women’s Union newsletter. Northampton.  Oct 1976, Jan, Mar 1977.

__Common Womon Club. Untitled club policies mimeo. Feb 1977?

__Common Womon Club. Member info and application form. Undated, probably Feb 1977.

__The Common Womon newsletter. #2. “Progress Report” Feb 1977.

__Brown, Melissa.  “’Common’ ground for feminists.”  Springfield [MA] Republican. Apr. 24, 1977.

__Whitaker, Jan. Email to Kaymarion Sep. 11, 2019: “fyi: I was searching through digitized papers using Newspapers.com just now and found that a 1977 story about the Common Womon Club (much like the one in the Spfld Union) was sent out by UPI and reached 16 newspapers around the country and Ottawa Canada — in Brattleboro, Van Nuys CA, Hagerstown MD, Muncie IN, St. Joseph MO, Tampa and Fort Walton Beach FL, York PA, Pittsfield MA, Nashua NH, Nashville TN, Honolulu, Billings MT, Casper WY, and Biddeford ME.”

__Common Womon newsletter.  Scattered issues 1977-79. Where is there a complete set of these?

__Brook, Elisabeth. Snapshots. 1979?

__[Raymond],Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline E.  The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978.  Northampton, Ceres Inc. 1978.

__Traub, Lauren.  “The Uncommon Common Womon.”  Below the Salt [MDC sup. UMass] 2 Mar. 1978.

__O’Neill, Molly.  Missing, story in women’s words 78, the publication of the Athol Women’s Center. Lost my copy somewhere.

__Women’s Media Project newsletter. UMass/Amherst. Jul-Aug 1978.

__Associated Press. “’Common Woman [sic]’ anything but.” Sunday Republican, Springfield MA. Jul 30, 1978.

__Giudice, Angela.  “The Common Womon: A Feminist Enterprise.”  Fresh Ink: Campus and Community Newspaper of the pioneer valley.  Northampton 1 Mar. 1979

__Carney, Maureen.  “The Common Womon Keeps the Pot Boiling.”  Valley Women’s Voice Sep. 1979.

__Bishop, Holly. Email correspondence. June 25, 2019.

__More on Olivia Records: https://queermusicheritage.com/olivia.html

One of the Common Womon Club original collective nine died in June of this year, and was memorialized nationally for the career she was to expand into: “Molly O’Neill, Writer Who Explored and Celebrated Food, Is Dead at 66 ” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/dining/molly-oneill-dead.html . “Molly O’Neill, prizewinning food writer, dies at 66″ –  https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/food/molly-oneill…food-writer…/83e1b338-913c-1…

 

 

 

 

The Egg


The very first issue of mimeographed Dyke Doings, Sep/Oct 1976, carried the announcement that several lesbian-run businesses had opened in the rear of the building at 19 Hawley Street in Northampton. Calling themselves the Egg and (later added) Marigolths, the collectively-run spaces initially contained three businesses, as well as two craftswomyn studios, and a residence. Starting in July 1976, the all-Lesbian business ventures began sharing rent and utilities while operating independently. egg DDso76_edited-1

Dyke Doings Sep/Oct 1976

Mother Jones Press, a feminist offset press collective, had been renting space at 19 Hawley St. since its founding in 1972. The staff had dwindled to three, all Lesbians. In May 1976, they decided to close Mother Jones and open Megaera Press to publish Lesbian work. They also continued to print for women.

magaera opens_edited-1

The Women’s Film Coop was also an older venture, started in 1972 when the Women’s Institute project at the Valley Women’s Center inherited eight films and a slideshow from New Haven feminist distributors. Operating out of a teeny space at VWC 200 Main St., the Film Coop had expanded their holdings of films available for rent and formed a non-profit corporation, Women’s Image Takeover (WIT), with their own PO address and mailing permit.

wfc brochure_edited-1

In 1973, the Coop had produced the first Valley (and perhaps New England) Women’s Film Festival, a week-long event at what became the Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton. The dearth of positive images at the time is demonstrated by the only films available to show at the Lesbian night: Maedchen in Uniform; the Children’s Hour;  and several shorts. The shorts were Jan Oxenberg’s first film, Home Movie (1972), and maybe one by Barbara Hammer. The second edition of the Coop’s critical catalog of media that reflected the real experience of women included reviews of an increasing number of films just starting to be created by feminists and lesbians in the US.

WFC catalogue 1974_edited-1

1974 edition Cover art by Barbara Johnson

By the time it moved to Hawley Street in 1976, the Women’s Film Coop had dwindled to one Lesbian, Elana Dykewoman (later, Dykewomon), as minimally paid staff. In the new organization, Megaera Press was folded into WIT’s corporate umbrella, as was Dyke Doings, Old Lady Blue Jeans Distribution, and eventually Sweetcoming Bookstore.

the egg in lesbian tide editedcopy_edited-1

Lesbian Tide Sep/Oct 1976, courtesy of Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

The newest of the three businesses in the Egg was the Greasy Gorgon Garage. Two Lesbians repaired women’s cars on a scaled-fee basis and assisted women wanting to work on their own vehicles. They planned to offer auto maintenance classes, with a larger goal of establishing a non-profit training center for women mechanics. Also new were the two studios, one of which was occupied by a Lesbian carpenter/cabinetmaker and the other by a Lesbian jeweler/seamstress.

raelyn ad so dd 76_edited-1

Ad Dyke Doings Sep/Oct 1976

Megaera Press’s first Lesbian publication came out in September 1976. It was Elana Dykewoman’s [Dykewomon] They Will Know Me By My Teeth: Stories and Poems of Lesbian Struggle, Celebration, And Survival.

teeth pub announcement_edited-1

cover by Laura K Vera, used by permission

It stated in the volume that “This book was printed, financed, typed, corrected and bound entirely by lesbians.” The 3,000 copies were hand-collated, Elana recalled in a 2001 interview. It also stated on the cover: “To Be Sold To And Shared With Women Only.”  While anyone may now get used copies through internet used bookstores, in the 70s before the feminist bookstores began, Old Lady Blue Jeans was the sole distributor of the book.

The local one-womyn enterprise was already distributing other art by Valley Lesbians: notecards by (now) anonymous; Linda Shear’s LP album of original songs “A Lesbian Portrait;” and Great Hera’s (Kaymarion’s) Incunabula prints-to-color. The old lady of Old Lady Blues Jeans took these items, a brochure, and Elana’s book to Lesbian events to sell. Mail orders were solicited through advertisements in the increasing number of national Lesbian publications coming into being at that time . OLBJ eventually circulated hundreds of Lesbian-made products, though the owner never made a living from this work.

OLBG collage_edited-1

Collage of parts of OLBG catalog. Linda Shear photo used by permission. Great Hera’s Incunabula by Kaymarion [Raymond]

Megaera Press’s second, and final, Lesbian publication was a collection of local Lesbian creations. Visual art, music, and writing by forty womyn were included in The Rock: a Collection of Lesbian Expressions. Decisions on what to include and the physical process of producing it were done collectively by the contributors and others from the Lesbian community. A publication party was held April 4, 1977 at the Common Womon Club  to premiere this for-wimmin-only book and celebrate its issuance. On a personal note, it included a drawing of me by a Green St. tenant; my fourth and last issue of Great Hera’s Incunabula, a woodcut print; and a poem by someone else that I think referred to me entitled, “Horizontal Hostility.”

rock collage_edited-1

Collage of the more public bits of the Rock

The Dec.1976 Dyke Doings contained an announcement from Elana Dykewomon that she was planning to leave the Valley the next summer and was looking for someone to take over the Women’s Film Coop.  By mid-1977, no one had volunteered for this, so the films and slides being distributed by the Coop were returned to their makers and the business was closed. Megaera Press sold their offset press and closed that summer as well. The papers for the umbrella non-profit corporation Women’s Image Takeover were handed over to a local Lesbian volunteer.

While the rest of the Egg collective withered after a year, the Greasy Gorgon Garage (Triple G) had expanded to three and a half womyn mechanics and two apprentices. Twice weekly repair classes were being offered. They found new space, a “real” garage, for their business in nearby Hatfield in August 1977. At the end of the year, according to their notice in Lesbian Connections, they were seeking funds to buy the rented building.  I find no record of their later history. Does anyone know?

3G LCdec77_edited-1  LC Dec 77

The Egg only lasted a year and the collective members became dispersed across the country. Some, Elana  recalls, moved to Minneapolis where there was a sobriety community. She herself initially wound up in Oregon via Springfield MA and Florida, and later settled in Oakland CA where she continued to write and circulate work by Lesbians. Raelyn Gallina  fetched up in California where she established herself in the Lesbian and S/M communities as a nationally known pioneering practitioner of piercing and scarification, particularly for women. Elana estimated that by 1978-79, all the dykes of the Egg had left the area.

SOURCES:

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton MA. 1979. http://vwhc.org/timeline.html

__ Dyke Doings. Northampton MA. Sep/Oct, Dec 1976.

__ Women’s Film Coop. Catalogs 1972 and 1974. Northampton MA.

__ “The Egg: Dyke Building Opens.” Lesbian Tide. Sep/Oct 1976. Courtesy of the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College. Northampton MA.

__ Dykewomon, Elana. Interview by Tryna Hope. Aug. 20, 2001. Valley Women’s History Collaboration Collection. UMass Special Collections and Archives. Amherst MA.

More information at https://www.dykewomon.org/

__Old Lady Blue Jeans. Catalog. Undated, probably 1976. Northampton MA.

__The Rock: a Collection of Lesbian Expressions. Megaera Press. 1977. Northampton MA.

__ “GREASY GORGON GARAGE.” Lesbian Connection. Dec. 1977.

__Vale, V and Juno, Andrea editors. Interview with Raelyn Gallina. Included in Modern Primitives. RE/Search 1989.

__Johnson, Barbara. http://barbarajohnson.com/index.htm

__Shear, Linda.  Family of Womyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLM-xZnTsPA. 

More about the album  https://queermusicheritage.com/oct2001b.html

__Gallina, Raelyn. Interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZRA0JmSIpQ

Obituary https://infinitebody.com/blogs/news/r-i-p-raelyn-gallina

__ Review and view Maedchen in Uniform https://www.afterellen.com/movies/79116-review-of-mdchen-in-uniform-1958 Link to view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJDEvwftR94

__ Childrens Hour https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/childrens_hour

__ Jan Oxenberg https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC24-25folder/JanOxenberg.html

__Barbara Hammer the early films http://barbarahammer.com/films/barbara-hammer-the-early-films-1968-72/

1976 Gay Guide Reflects Valley Revolution


 

By mid-decade, the social revolution begun in the early seventies had markedly changed the gay subculture in the Connecticut River Valley in Western Massachusetts. This is graphically evident in the second edition of the New England Gay Guide: 1976 published by Gay Community News.

The southernmost, heavily-populated, and industrial Hampden County retained its traditional bar/cruising/bath scenes. By 1976, mid-Valley Hampshire County rivaled Hampden for sheer number of activities, all of which were new. Even northern, sparsely-populated, rural Franklin County had become semi-publicly “out” home for a few lesbians and gays.

Bambi Gauthier tells me that the 1975 first edition of the New England Gay Guide was a mimeographed and stapled publication by Gay Community News, the regional newspaper based in Boston that started in 1973. The Guide was organized alphabetically by states and then towns within each state. Bambi photocopied the Valley listings for me. For the purpose of this post I have cut and glue-sticked them into relevant segments for a close-up view.

While gay and women’s guides are notorious for being out of date, this 1976 version presents a fairly accurate approximation of what I’m finding in documents and/or anecdotes. Whoever wrote the copy also had a sense of humor. The Guide listings demonstrate not only the growth in the gay subculture that took place in the first five years of the decade, but also illustrate discernible differences in the character of that change, among the three counties and also among towns within the same county.

As the largest Valley city, Springfield, in Hampden County, has always been the epicenter of the area’s gay bar culture. It still was in 1976, when all three of the Valley’s gay bars were in the city. The Guide’s listing includes not only these bars, but the anticipated opening and noted closing of others, among them the bombed Arch downtown and the Hideaway (also known as the Girls’ Club) in nearby Chicopee. This appears to be so culturally typical that the Guide has a listing category “Bars, defunct.” Gay women appear to be comfortable at one of the three bars and encouraged at a second. The traditional baths, restaurant, nearest VD clinic, and interstate highway cruise spot near the Longmeadow exit are also included.

gay guide hampden county_edited-1

 

What had changed by 1976 in the heavily populated Hampden County, according to GCN’s Guide, was the addition of a few new activities outside the bars. A “small local sprig” of Dignity, the national religious group for gay Catholics, had a Springfield PO Box. The group appears to have been attending mass together in Hartford at the Metropolitan Community Church. The Springfield Gay Alliance also had a PO Box, as well as a phone, and the organization was meeting weekly at the Unitarian Church in Longmeadow. Another new activity, although bar related, is a listing for Artandryl, “An all-women’s band doing 60s rock and some feminist material.”

Listings for rural Franklin County are, not surprisingly, sparse but exciting. Though they had listed an agent’s address in NYC, the all-women band Deadly Nightshade  lived together in a farmhouse in Apple Valley, Ashfield. Though they had an Amherst PO box, the Hopbrook Community was just across the river. The Hopbrook Community of gay men in New Salem marked the beginning of the gay and lesbian (and radical hippie) back-to-the-land movement in the hilltowns of the Valley.

gay guide franklin cty_edited-1

Nestled between Hampden and Franklin, Hampshire County is a mix of small cities, towns, and farmland in which the largest industry is education. In 1976, Smith, Amherst, and Mt. Holyoke were elite colleges. Hampshire College was founded in 1970 as an “experiment in education.” UMass was one of the state’s large universities. This county proved to be extremely fertile ground for the social change Movements sweeping the country, including the Women’s, Gay and Lesbian. By the time the NE Gay Guide was published, the number of activities listed in Hampshire County surpassed those in Hampden County. All were new in the seventies. Some were extensions of old bar culture in slightly different form. Others were groups and organizations consciously created as alternatives to gay bar culture.

The greatest number of Hampshire County listings are in Amherst, on the east side of the river. Along with nearby Hadley, bars are listed though they are only gay tolerant or gay-themed one night a week. UMass, home to the beginning of the Valley’s Gay Liberation Movement , had multiple student groups, a first effort to support teens, the first gay radio in the region, and feminist endeavors that welcomed lesbians.

Two business listings in town are especially notable. Amherst was one of the earliest towns in the state to pass a non-discrimination law that included gays and lesbians, long before the state legislation. I am seeking a date and confirming detail for effort, which I think was led by a gay Selectman, Tom Hutchinson.

gay guide hampshire east_edited-1

The Guide’s listings for Northampton, across the river to the west, are a sharp contrast, highlighting a great cultural difference between it and the rest of the Valley. All of them are for women, even if only described as welcoming, such as Legal Services, which I believe was submitted by the lesbian who worked there.

About half the listings are an extension of the old bar culture: a lesbian dance night at a straight bar, and two of the all-women’s bands  that played the straight and gay dance club circuits. The other half are the feminist centers of activity that included lesbians , exclusively or with other women.

gay guide hampshire west_edited-1

The differences within the Valley demonstrated in the 1976 New England Gay Guide show how the beginning of change was rooted here, to greater or lesser degree, in varying form, and for differing populaces. Gender and sexuality were both ways in which gatherings were called together, but so was political ideology. These differences come into play over the coming decades, sometimes in very dramatic ways.

SOURCES:

__New England Gay Guide 1976. Gay Community News. Boston. 1976.

__Gay Community News (Publication) Collection · Documented ...https://historyproject.omeka.net › collections › show

 

Nutcracker’s Suite and the Anti-Rape Movement


 The dojo’s name was a private joke, known in the Lesbian feminist community as the Nutcracker’s Suite and in public as the Northampton Women’s Karate and Self-Defense Dojo. That wry humor was also reflected in the mural painted on the side of the squat little lavender stucco building housing the school at 68 Masonic Street.

There is a photo of the mural taken in the summer of 1978 by Elizabeth Samit and reprinted fifteen later in Northampton’s Lesbian Calendar. Dojo student, and later instructor, Beth Holt’s VW bug can be seen parked next to the building. The mural faced the fire department next door and so confronted the town’s firemen every day as well as those passing by. The mural and the institution it decorated were among the results of more than half a decade of anti-rape organizing in the Valley and a connection to the larger national movement.

dojo mural tlc coverPhoto and artwork copyright Elizabeth Samit a member of the Hestia Mural Collective, used by permission

Lesbian feminists were part of the Valley’s movement to begin ending violence against women, including rape. In 1973, after a series of rapes in Puffton Village, (an Amherst apartment complex lived in by many students), the newly-opened Everywoman’s Center (EWC) formed an action group to address the violence.

rape comm amherst
Enter a caption

Feb 20, 1973. Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It was essential to begin breaking the silence around this hidden and often misnamed form of assault, one of the many forms of abuse endured everyday by women. The next month, EWC, with the Valley Women’s Center in Northampton, convened a conference on rape, including a speak-out. Recruited to do the poster, I asked Jackie, another Green St. tenant, to pose on the floor of my room for the drawing I used in its design.

rape conference poster by me1973 poster layout by Kaymarion [Raymond]

At that speak-out, an increasingly emotional crowd of women filled the Main Street basement of the Unitarian Society to witness woman after woman share her experiences, many for the first time, myself included. Organizing immediately began in Springfield to include rape crisis intervention as one of the areas to be supported by the brand-new Springfield Women’s Center. A brief report on the conference and an action resolution were included in their dittoed newsletter dated March 21, 1973.

swc rape gp jan 73_edited-1Springfield Women’s Center Newsletter Mar. 21 1973

Feminist-invented actions were needed on multiple fronts; public education and individual self-defense training to prevent assaults, physical and emotional support for victims in crisis, advocacy on behalf of victims with police and courts, education of law enforcement, and changes in laws concerning rape and victims’ rights. There was no easy fix in working on behalf of assaulted women. These activists had to deal with the varied competency levels and sexist attitudes of police departments and prosecuting attorneys across the three Valley counties.

As with many other issues addressed by the Women’s Liberation Movement in the U.S., the thinking and experimentation of feminists in other cities helped inform those locally. In the ad hoc library on the Common Womon Club’s porch, I found a manila file folder of articles on women and violence. There were mimeographed papers from feminist activists around the country, including guidelines for counselors helping rape victims, the Detroit Women’s Crisis Center (1973); the goals and objectives of a city-wide anti-rape campaign led by an Ann Arbor Michigan municipal advisory board, (1975); and a guide to self-defense courses and martial arts, NYC Women’s Martial Arts Union (second edition 1974).

antirape lit

Mimeographed literature from around the country was gathered and read in the Valley as feminists invented ways to address the violence against women. These examples from a folder in Common Womon Club’s library that may have been a Valley Women’s Center/Union subject file.

In 1974, the Springfield Rape Crisis Hotline was started by volunteers in the Springfield Women’s Center. There is a note in the Herstorical Chronology of the Valley Women’s Movement  that a “Sep 6, 1975 benefit for Springfield Rape Crisis Center was disrupted by police, one woman beaten. Protests made to Mayor of lack of police cooperation.” Can anyone add details or documentation for this?  They were an activist group, witness a clipping I came across in which women disrupted a lecture.

swu rape_edited-2Undated and Unattributed clipping, likely April 1975 Springfield Union.

spfld rape ctr_edited-1Springfield Rape Crisis Center brochure undated

 

One of the long-term goals of the Springfield Center was to establish a school for self-defense and karate.  The need for this was also felt in Northampton during the hot summer of 1975, with a noticeable increase in physical harassment of lesbians on the streets of Northampton in reaction to new activity at the Lesbian Gardens and Gala Café. This prompted not just the formation of a slightly trained ad hoc Dyke Patrol to protect lesbians coming and going from lesbian events in town, but also greater awareness in the lesbian community of the need for self-defense.

One result was the formation of self-defense classes at the Lesbian Gardens  space over the Valley Women’s Center at 200 Main Street. The Lesbian Gardens was where I saw a woman in a karate gi for the first time. She was Cindy Shamban, an instructor. A year later, in 1976, Cindy teamed up with Pat Turney to rent fourth floor space in the Masonic Building at 25 or 26 Main St. in Northampton and open “a wimmin’s self-defense and karate school.” Separate all-wimmin’s and all-lesbian classes were offered on a sliding cost scale. There was also a karate class for little women age 5-13.

nutcracker opens dd nov 76_edited-1From Dyke Doings Nov. 1976

Self-defense demonstrations and workshops became included at women’s conferences in the Valley along with more – and more specific – planning for support for victims.  In 1976, a Rape Advocate/Counselor Training Conference, based on feminist principles, was held by Family Planning at their newly opened Center Street, Northampton offices. The Springfield Rape Crisis Center closed, though it is unclear if this was because the Women’s Center lost space. The hotline may have continued but became housed at the Springfield YWCA as HERA, the Hotline to End Rape. I have no documentation for this. Please share if you do. Everywoman’s Center in Amherst began doing Rape Advocacy/Counseling. 1976 also saw the first anti-rape march in the Valley, held in Northampton by the Valley Women’s Union. march ant rape_edited-1Undated [May 14, 1976?] and unattributed publicity for Anti-rape March

In a related 1976 move, NELCWIT battered women’s services started in Greenfield for Franklin County, another Valley first. By 1978, Everywoman’s Center had established the Crisis line that continues to this day, and Necessities/Necessidades (now Safe Passage) Hampshire County battered women’s services had opened. When did Hampden County Womanshelter open?

Ceres Inc, which bought the buildings at 68-78 Masonic Street to start a women’s restaurant, evicted the Navy Recruiters from number 68 and rented it to the Nutcracker’s Suite in April of 1977.Cindy & Robin @ The Nutcracker

“Robin and Cindy at the Nutcracker.” View onto Masonic Street. Photo courtesy of Cindy, photographer unknown.

At some point, that mural went up. I don’t know who painted it there, but the design came from the cover of the first issue of Black Belt Woman, published in 1975-76 from Medford Massachusetts. The image is from a woodcut by Elizabeth Samit.

bbw1cover

First issue Sep 1975 of magazine from Medford MA. Graphic by Elizabeth Samit

Pat Turney, later named Banshee, became part of the network being formed among women across the continent. She contributed writing to Black Belt Woman, and included the dojo in the sixty page directory of women in the martial arts published by the magazine in 1976.

Pat and the Nutcracker’s Suite organized and hosted the second annual 1977 National Training Camp for Women and the Martial Arts. Ninety women from over a dozen karate styles worked out together for three June days at Hampshire College in Amherst. I had the pleasure of designing the teeshirt for that. The training was reported in Off Our Backs.

Pat & Cindy @ training camp“Pat Turney and Cindy at Training Camp “, photographer unknown. Courtesy of Cindy

 

summer tng tee 1977 by me

Tee shirt by-blow from summer training by Kaymarion [Raymond] photographed by Anne Moore

Perhaps because of the training camp, Wendy Dragonfire joined Banshee as an instructor at the Nutcracker’s Suite briefly before Banshee withdrew for further training elsewhere.

dojo flyer 1977

Undated [1977] flyer. the graphic on the right is by me and was used as the t-shirt design for the ’77 National Training

Wendy took over the school in September of 1977. Its name changed to the Valley Women’s Martial Arts and in 1978 moved to Springfield. As part of a now national campaign, Northampton’s first Take Back the Night March was held in 1978. Over 1500 women showed up.

take back 1978_edited-1

abbreviated flyer (for space reasons). As a women’s march, men provided childcare and sideline support.

songs 78 march_edited-1mimeographed songsheet first Take Back the night March

78 march pr_edited-1Springfield Union Nov. 6 1978

78 march coverage_edited-1

Undated Springfield Union clip of March coverage, estimated 1500 marchers

SOURCES:

__The Lesbian Calendar. May 1993. Cover photo of dojo mural “Olive Oyl on the dojo” 1978 by Elizabeth Samit.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton MA. 1979. http://vwhc.org/timeline.html

__Ballou, Bill. ”Rape Crisis Committee Formed.” [Probably daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton.] Feb. 20, 1973.

__[Raymond,]Kay[marion.] Rape Conference poster. Northampton. [1973.]

__Springfield Women’s Center Newsletter. Mar 21, 1973. (Five page ditto.)

__Filosi, Penny. “Female Protesters Disrupt Rape Lecture.” [Springfield] Union. [April 1975?]

__Rape Crisis Center. Brochure. [Springfield.] Undated.

__Dyke Doings. Nov. 1976. Northampton.

__”Valley Women’s Union to Stage Rape March.” Undated [May 14, 1976?] and Unattributed.

__Black Belt Woman. September 1975. Medford MA. __ Black Belt Woman: Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense. Online description/contents of issues. “Historic magazine of the women’s martial arts and self-defense movement arising out of the second wave of feminism, published from 1975 to 1976.”  http://www.greenlion.com/BBW/bbw.html

__Valley Women’s Union Newsletter. Nov. 1976. Northampton.

__”articles on women and violence.” Subject file c. 1973-75. From Common Womon Club, Northampton reading library.

__Delaplaine, Jo. ”Martial Arts.” Off Our Backs. Aug. 31, 1977.

__Valley Women’s Martial Arts Inc.”Valley Women’s Martial Arts: 20th Anniversary 1977-1997.” 1997. Easthampton MA.

__Bloomberg, Marcia. “Women plan march to underscore rape crises.” Springfield Union. Nov. 6, 1978.

__Weinberg, Neal. Springfield Republican. ”Women stage protest against […]” Partial clipping without date, probably Nov. 19, 1978.

__[additional source to find ?Author?  “3000 Women March In Take Back the Night March.” Valley Women’s Voice Feb. 1979. I have a note of this but not the coverage itself. Was this in reference to the Nov. 1978 March?]

 

 

Lesbian Alliance Forms at Smith College


As the student founders of Smith College’s first lesbian group graduated, the unfunded and unofficial Sophia Sisters folded in 1975. The next year, however, a new student group formed. Calling themselves the Lesbian Alliance, over the next several years they fought hostility from other students to achieve official group status, space in the Women’s Resource Center, and student government funding. As the 1977 flyer included below indicates, they laid the organizational foundation for  a much greater town/gown collaboration in the 1980s. It is likely members of SCLA attended the first (?) Seven Sisters Lesbian Conference held at Radcliffe in 1978.scla apr3 77 flyer w mtg agenda, scarchives_edited-1

 

 

Flyer/Agenda. Courtesy of the Smith College Archives

Sources:

_Braverman, Stacy. “Crushes at Smith.” Unpublished paper submitted to KMR for use in the chapbook. 2003.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton MA. 1979. http://vwhc.org/timeline.html

__Lozier, Anne. “Records of the Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance, 1976-2003.” Finding Aid, College Archives, Smith College. Northampton. 2003