Father Bob


St. Mary’s Church in Northampton was served by assistant pastor Robert L. Arpin from 1972 to 1975. St. Mary’s is a Catholic church, and Robert Arpin was a priest. It was in Northampton, he reveals in his memoir, that he began to suspect that he was gay. He took a two year leave of absence from the ministry during which he confirmed that suspicion. Afterwards, he requested assignment to minister in San Francisco. There, in 1981, he witnessed the beginning of the AIDS epidemic among gay men. Diagnosed himself with AIDS in 1987, he became the first Roman Catholic priest to come out as being gay and also as having AIDS.

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FROM “TOM SHEA’S NOTEBOOK”,  Courtesy of the Springfield Union-News, Dec. 29, 1988

Father Bob, as he became known, wrote a memoir with the title of Wonderfully, Fearfully Made.   Published in 1993, the book details some of his experiences in Northampton. The twenty-five year-old Chicopee native was newly ordained as a priest in 1972. St. Mary’s was his very first parish.  A self-described fat and studious only child in an extended family of French-Canadian heritage, he had played priest at age five using Necco candy wafers to give communion. He been educated entirely within the Catholic system, including two seminaries.

Within the first six months at St. Mary’s, he began to question his sexuality. He writes: “I started, for the first time in my life, paying attention to my physical and emotional desires. I started recognizing that I was having fantasies that weren’t all related to standing at the altar and being a priest and that I was attracted emotionally and sexually to other men.” He continues, “This self-recognition came very slowly for me… it was helped along by a series of ministries and events not the least of which was my appointment as chaplain to Smith College (where) I was introduced early in my ministry to the notions of feminism and, in the process, met lots of lesbians on campus.”

Arpin goes on to mention a sudden and rapid increase in gays coming to him for Saturday night confession at St. Mary’s. This culminated in a group of them from the “Gay Student Union” ( probably UMass SHL/GLF) knocking on the rectory door to speak with him. They told Arpin, with thanks, that he was the first priest in the area who hadn’t thrown them out as soon as they identified themselves.

For fear of losing his vocation, he couldn’t come out to these gay parishioners, except, eventually for a very few close friends. When Arpin told his spiritual advisor of his new feelings, he was told him he couldn’t be both priest and gay at the same time. His advisor referred him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, after determining that the priest didn’t feel guilty, advised him merely to be “discrete.”

Arpin found his support mostly outside the Valley. He made his way to the Boston chapter of Dignity, the gay Catholic group, where he found other gay and very closeted priests from the region. The stories of persecution by the Church he heard there confirmed his need to stay in the closet, even though it caused him no end of stress to hide those parts of himself.

Being closeted and overworking himself led to recurring bouts of hepatitis during his three year ministry in Northampton. This was the direct causing of his request for a two year leave of absence. Spending this time in San Francisco, supporting himself outside the Church with odd jobs, and getting gay friendly therapy restored his health and convinced him he could be a gay priest. At his request, the Springfield Diocese loaned him to the San Francisco Diocese, where he began a ministry as a hospital chaplain and grief counselor.

Father Bob came out publicly in 1987 after being himself diagnosed with AIDS. When he came out as a priest to the gay community, he began a new ministry. After coming out to Church authorities, including the Springfield Bishop and San Francisco Archbishop, he was supported financially and spiritually by the Springfield Diocese and allowed  to continue the work in California, where he now became an open advocate on a national as well as local level for the treatment, care, and acceptance of people with AIDS. He also continuing his work with the grieving. He died in 1995, eight years after being given a diagnosis which predicted his death within eighteen months.

Sources:

__Arpin, Fr. Robert L. Wonderfully, Fearfully Made: Letters on Living with Hope, Teaching Understanding, and Ministering with Love, From a Gay Catholic Priest with AIDS. HarperCollins Publishers. New York, NY. 1993.

__Shea, Tom. “Tom Shea’s Notebook.” Springfield (MA) Union-News. Dec. 29, 1988. p21.

__Fernss, Susan. “S.F. mourns gay priest who saw no bounds to love.” Examiner. San Francisco CA. May 28, 1995.

 

Dancing Wimmin: the Deadly Nightshade


Women dancing together became a significant thread in Northampton’s Lesbian subculture and nascent community in the 1970s. Gay men had semi-private parties at the men’s collective on Butler Place in ‘Hamp. Gay dances for both men and women were held at UMass and Hampshire College. Groups of gay people would also consciously “out” themselves in straight bars in Amherst and Hadley creating gay space for a night. Dances specifically for women, however, grew out of the spreading Women’s Liberation Movement, sometimes in new venues outside of bars, and often to the music of all-women bands.

Four of the five all-women’s bands that played in ‘Hamp during the 70s were also lesbian, though not out as such. Many of the members of the Deadly Nightshade, Lilith, Artandryl, Liberty Standing and Ladies Chain had lived or gone to school in Northampton as well. While most of the bands played the local bar/dance club circuit, they also performed at feminist and lesbianfeminist benefits and events, which increasingly included women-only dances.

By 1972, feminism had spread enough in Hampshire County to be celebrated through a Five College Women’s Cultural Week, March 6-11, with events on all the campuses. Anne Bowen, who graduated from Smith and volunteered as staff at the Valley Women’s Center on Main Street in Northampton, brought part of her all-girl band Ariel out of retirement to play at a hootenanny for this celebration. Response was so positive that Anne, along with Pamela Brandt and Helen Hooke, began a new career as the Deadly Nightshade, Deadlies or DNS.

Helen, who had also graduated from Smith, played violin (fiddle) and lead guitar. Pamela, who graduated from Mt. Holyoke College and was partners with Helen, was the bass player. Anne, who had also been in a jug band, played the washboard as well as rhythm guitar. All three were to later harmonize as well on kazoos. The three lived together in a farmhouse in Ashfield.

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Anne Bowen, Helen Hooke, Pamela Brandt

 

Since they wanted to be a fun dance band for any kind of venue, they initially learned between a hundred and one hundred and fifty songs, including many Motown hits. To make Texan Anne happy, they also added some Patsy Cline and bluegrass. They described themselves as an “old school pop/rock/soul/country/electric bluegrass trio.” They often began their performances with a very up-tempo Carter family song: “Keep On the Sunny Side.” Other favorite covers included “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills and Nash; and “Truckin” by the Grateful Dead.

By the autumn of ‘72, the DNS was polished enough to play at the Valley’s first women’s dance, which was held at UMass Dickinson House, sponsored by Southwest (Residential Area) Women’s Center. Out lesbian Judith Katz (future Lambda Book Award-winning novelist) was the first Student Coordinator there.  In the spring of 1973, the Deadly Nightshade again played at Smith (for the Women’s Festival) and UMass, as well as at Mt. Holyoke College.

At first they wrote new tunes to fill in their repertoire, but soon they were presenting original material that was explicitly feminist, often in a humorous way. They became one of the first feminist rock bands in the country.

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bumper sticker from KM’s collection

Women who came to know the band through political events also began to show up at their straight gigs, including at the Lazy River in Northampton and another bar in Florence.

Pamela reports, “We drew an interesting mix of people. At some bars there were lots of bikers and burnt out Vietnam vets, as well as all our usual lesbian/gay feminist crowd. Fortunately, everyone got along okay. We very consciously considered it our job, as much as playing the music, to make sure that that happened. You know: ‘It’s only rock and roll,’ as the saying goes– but in a way for us, as politically-conscious musicians in a time before it became fashionable for entertainers to be political, it was exciting, even if only for four hours a night, to feel like we were the catalyst for creating a bit of a utopian world in a microcosm. That fit very well into the vibe in the Valley at the time.

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Pamela sent me this photo taken at a straight bar in Amherst on Halloween where the Deadlies were playing: me in drag sitting next to Liz Knowles and Nancy Schroeder

 

The Deadlies played two or three nights a week for three years before they got a record contract with RCA/Phantom. They went on to release two LPs, “The Deadly Nightshade” and “Funky and Western.” Both albums were nominated for Grammy Best New Artist Awards.

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their first album for RCA

 

They were the only all-female band in that time which signed to a major mainstream record label and still recorded songs with outright feminist content, despite RCA’s efforts to tone them down.

Pamela commented on this in relationship to their memorable song, “High Flying Woman:”

 “Well, it’s really just sort of a feminist anthem, only it doesn’t sound like an anthem. It sounds like…well, when we play it live, it sort of sounds like a country rock song, and the way it is on the first album, they made it into sort of more of a little pop song.

Words were very important to feminists in those days. Well, like the word “chick,” you were all supposed to be a woman, not a girl if you were over a certain age, because the way the words had been used in those days for men and women, even when you were 80, men would say “Hi, girls.” But they were men, you know, it was girls and men, it wasn’t girls and boys. And then chick was one of those words also, which we really hated, because as band people it was okay for women to be in bands if they were just the chick singer, for a male band. What was considered to be inappropriate was for women to actually be the band, be the players, so the whole chick thing really rubbed us wrong. So that’s what the whole song originally started out as, you’re not a chick, you’re a free-flying woman, a high-flying woman. And it sort of got more general as the song went on about how women should not be in a cage, you should set yourself free, take yourself for a glide, you’re a high flying woman.A version of it is accessible on YouTube.

The Deadly Nightshade had many memorable gigs once they were on the national circuit. One of my favorites was their appearance on Sesame Street. Watch it here as they play “Walk on the Sunny Side”!:

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the Deadly Nightshade on Sesame Street

They toured nationally, so, after their early years, they were generally outside the Valley. Their last official gig was in 1977 at the National Women’s Conference. They retired after that because Anne had grown tired of being on the road.

Both Pamela and Helen continued with their music after the band retired. Helen has released four solo albums over the years  . Pamela was a member of Lowlife, a New York City mixed gay and lesbian band which existed from 1982-86, at a time when the two groups were largely separate politically.

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In 2008 the Deadlies had a reunion performance at the Institute for Musical Arts in Goshen, MA that drew an enthusiastic crowd of 150. Encouraged by this, they began writing new material and making more reunion appearances. In 2012, they released a cd, “Never Never Gonna Stop”, with mostly new music (described as “newgrass, modern electric blue grass”) as well as four vintage audio/video clips from 1984.

 

thedeadlynightshadealbum cover

A little promotion tour for the cd included the Bitter End in  Greenwich Village and Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall. The band had been planning a tour for 2015 which would have included Northampton, but Pamela developed knee and back problems in the spring. In August, she died unexpectedly of a heart attack at her home in Miami.

Further reading:

The Girls Next Door by Pamela Brandt and Lindsy Van Gelder (Simon and Schuster 1996) contains Pamela and Helen’s coming out at Mt. Holyoke College while in a girl-band story.

SOURCES:

__Brandt, Pamela. Email to KMR May 23, 2004.

__Raymond, Kay[marion] and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. A Herstorical Chronology of the Valley Women’s Movement 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton. 1978.

__ The Deadly Nightshade website includes lots of the group’s history unavailable elsewhere including how they got their name. http://www.thedeadlynightshade.net/Home.html

__And their facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/TheDeadlyNightshadeBand

__ Doyle, JD. Queer Music Heritage. Radio show recorded stream and transcript interview with Pamela Brandt about the Deadly Nightshade plus lots more. An incredible resource and searchable site. March 2013. http://www.queermusicheritage.com/mar2013s.html

__Parnass, Larry. “Deadly Nightshade performs again Sunday in Northampton.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton. May 24, 2013.

Coming Next: the bar bombing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Intense Confluence of Radical Ideas: Umass Fall 1971


 

The 1970 co-founders of UMass/Amherst Student Homophile League (see previous posts)  had rapidly moved into other forms of activism creating a leadership vacuum within the group. Kathryn Girard joined the Women’s Caucus of the School of Education and Michael Obligado started, with other more radical SHL members, the local Gay Liberation Front. I stepped into this opening for leadership that Autumn of 1971, editing a few editions of SHL’s newsletter the Closet Door, and ushering the group through the process of getting recognized status as a student group and student senate funding.

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Kathyrn Girard and I outside the GLF space in the Student Union basement (across from the Hatch) early 1971, photographer unknown

Shortly after I started going to SHL meetings in the fall of 1970, I broke up with my partner Susan  and moved into a rooming house in Northampton. I had to leave the cats and dog in her custody. In addition to a subscription to the lesbian magazine the Ladder, my partner and I had established a mutual correspondence with its editor Barbara Grier (publically Gene Damon). Susan sent clippings of relevant news and book reviews. I contributed black and white line drawings on demand that were published as illustrations under the pseudonym Kate McColl.

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Illustration I did for the Ladder under the pseudonym of Kate McColl. I don’t have the date for this issue.

I sent Barbara a letter telling her of this change in relationship, and also about my involvement with the area’s first gay group, SHL. I think she was in St. Louis, Missouri, working as a librarian and living with a partner, Helen. Her response was, “…enjoy your gay lib play therapy.. but when the boys take over go find a women’s lib groups and educate them…”

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Dictaphone memo sent to me from Barbara Grier dated 11.12.70.

It took an eventful year before I finally understood and took Barbara’s advice. I was, after all, a recent veteran out of Ohio. I was Republican (“I like Ike“) stock and older than most UMass undergrads. I looked around at freshman orientation in 1969, at the anti-war protests, hippies, and drugs, and, when surveyed by the school, projected my four year experience there would make me, in a reactionary way, more conservative. Ha ha!!

I cannot adequately describe the intense confluence of radical ideas flooding the campus (and Valley) at that time, some of which were (literally) hallucinogenic. This was a massive influx that stunned then stirred my brain into bursts of new synapses. Light bulbs turning on, indeed.

Sifting through a book of paper scraps jammed together, I see the autumn of 1971 as being pivotal, not only for my personal identity, but as a further base-laying for Northampton’s unique LGBTQ culture. Three historical developments are apparent then: 1.) An early organizational separation between gay women and gay men; 2.) a wide emphasis on radical (as opposed to reform) feminism that began receiving regular energy boosts from nationally known feminists (and lesbians); and 3.) the melding of these two circumstances that would lead to the emergence of a phenomenally strong and multi-faceted expression of Lesbian feminism.

Several news items of note appeared in the October 1971 Closet Door. There are notices of the beginnings of three collectives. The women’s collective would live together in North Amherst on Leverett Road. They overlapped with another newly forming group, the women’s newspaper collective that was to produce the area’s first feminist newspaper, The Full Moon. The Men’s Collective mentioned was, in fact, gay. Michael and friends rented a large house on Butler Place in Northampton. Included in the newsletter is the invitation to attend weekly parties there after the SHL Thursday evening meetings. I think the cover charge for the parties  helped pay the rent. The guys would show off their latest drag costumes garnered from the free store at the Valley Women’s Center.

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Closet Door SHL newsletter Oct. 1971

I am not sure how it happened but by the end of Nov. 1971 I had written a multipage report on the status of women and activism at UMass which was printed in the alternative campus paper, Poor Richard’s.  In the meantime, I came out to my mother over the phone because I was included in the first mainstream media coverage of the Valley’s Gay Movement, Dec.7 in the Springfield Union. My mother’s response was that she had read something in the Readers’ Digest and would pray for me.

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Courtesy Springfield Union published Dec. 7, 1971.
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Michael and I clowning around in front of the Union photographer, Really? Print this!

I also let it be known in SHL that I would be doing less in the group as, instead, I organized a Dec. 8 first meeting of the Gay Women’s Caucus. The space advertised was JQA lounge near the brand new Southwest residential area Women’s Center, in what, I heard, was a former janitor’s closet. The Caucus was the foremother of the UMass Lesbian Union. The attendance was small and my memory needs to be refreshed by others (Jane? Dale?), but my recollection is that the small size and very wide range of interests meant we mostly met socially with each other rather than suggested potlucks or CR/study/action groups. It was a clear statement, however, that gay women had needs separate from gay men, something that other women outside SHL may have already concluded as they joined feminist groups on campus or Amherst Women’s Liberation.

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schedule of events at the end of 1971 published in an article I wrote in Poor Richard’s

 

The year ended for me with euphoria when nationally known feminist and poet Robin Morgan spoke at UMass as part of the Distinguished Visitors Program. (I would like to know who orchestrated this major funding coup.) Addressing a capacity crowd of mostly women in the Student Union Ballroom, she focused on the current state of radical feminism in the U.S. It was the first of many solo appearances by Robin in the Valley. She had previously visited the Smith Campus at the invitation of undergraduate Sandy Lilydahl in 1968 as part of WITCH, Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.

I fell in love with Robin when she refused to take questions from men after the lecture. I also loved her handling of a student reporter. A few of us sat with her in the campus center coffee shop afterwards, where a male from the Collegian persisted in asking her questions.  My mouth must have dropped open when she told him to “stick his prick in his mouth and sew it shut.” Oh my!

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Photo caption reads “Robin…makes a point about why she feels women.” Massachusetts Daily Collegian Dec. 15, 1971. My guess is that since Robin wouldn’t talk to male reporters they finally got it and allowed a woman to report. From my scrapbook.

A few days later a (first) regional women’s conference was convened at UMass by the Leverett Rd. Women’s Collective. Among the ten scheduled-in-advance workshops was a “gay” one, facilitated by yours truly. Little did I anticipate the explosion of political activity I would be swept into over the coming decade, except I knew it would be with women, with sisters.

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First (?) regional women’s conference 1971.

Sources:

__ McColl, Kate. Illustration. The Ladder. Circa 1970-71.

__Grier, Barbara. Memo note to Kay Raymond. Dated 11.12.70.

__Closet Door, newsletter of the Student Homophile League, UMass Amherst. Oct 1971.

__Bradley, Jeff. “Gay Society Emerging on UMass Campus.” Springfield Union. Dec. 7, 1971.

__Raymond Kay M. “Part II. The Other 42%.” Poor Richard’s: a Weekly Magazine. UMass Amherst. Dec. 3, 1971.

__Spencer, Buffy. “Ms. Morgan Says Women’s Movement Alive.” Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Amherst. Dec. 15, 1971.

__Raymond, Kay(marion) and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. A Herstorical Chronology of the Valley Women’s Movement, 1968-1978. Ceres, Inc. Northampton. 1978.

__Flyer, mimeographed. Regional Women’s Conference.  UMass Amherst. Dec. 17-19, 1971.

“T” is for…


The UMass Student Homophile League got a cubicle next door to the Students for a Democratic Society to use as an office on the mezzanine of the Student Union. Stopping in between classes became a habit of mine even though it was mostly gay men who were hanging out. It was here I first heard the word “T-room.” Since, in context, I understood it to mean that the men were going to cruise the Goodell Library restrooms for casual sex, I thought the “T” I was hearing meant “toilet.”

Only decades later, upon reading Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn, did I come to understand the “T” was “tea,” and that cruising the “tearoom” was very old American gay vernacular, the origins of which had been lost over time. Not only that, but Jan, a Northampton resident as well as a restaurant historian, had discovered an example in the city of the early 1900s Bohemian tearoom phenomena that, like others of its type, may well have been cruised by men we would today call gay. Whether the men were there or not, we know that the tearoom which was enormously popular with women was run by a gender bender former actress who had passed through NYC.

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Postcard of the Rose Tree Inn (courtesy of Jan Whitaker)

For fifteen years, 1908-1923, Madame Anna  deNaucaze ran Ye Rose Tree Inn at 252 Bridge Street. Madame  had several different women partners in the business. Like many other tearooms of the time, the Rose Tree Inn introduced the dining public to a setting with special décor and food that was a great improvement over the usual hotel or tavern meat and potatoes fare. Well-prepared fresh ingredients were featured. Salads and sandwiches were introduced for lunch. There was also afternoon tea, sumptuous six-course dinners and extravagant deserts. Above all, tearooms like the Inn were mostly women-run and, for the first time in the U.S., provided a welcoming place for women unaccompanied by men. In fact, according to Whitaker, “real men” didn’t generally eat in tearooms, perhaps because they were uncomfortable on women’s turf.

In addition to being the province of women, a genre of tearooms became popular in Bohemian Greenwich Village. These even more exotic venues gained a reputation for welcoming those outside the new heterosexual norm, as well as other social mavericks. While we have lost the presence of such dining/lounging establishments, gay lore has retained the use of the word “tearoom” to designate places worth strolling through to look for kindred souls.

In Northampton, the Rose Tree Inn proprietor A. dN., as she signed herself, was such a maverick, and so was subject to local criticism. She has been described by a Smith College student as wearing “mannish suits and stiff collars” and that “there is a mystery surrounding her. No one knows if whether it is a man or a woman.” Although no alcohol was served at RTI, she is recalled as visiting Anna Bliss, an unmarried woman friend living down the street, where behind drawn shades, they would share some port and a cigar. According to the stories Bliss told her nephew de Naucaze also lost a lot of money gambling in  Monte Carlo one summer.

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Anna deNaucaze, 1919 Smith College yearbook paid ad (courtesy Sophia Smith Collebction, Smith College, Northampton MA)

In 1910, she came to the defense of her Inn and others, by publishing a newspaper entitled, 4ALL: They Say- What They Say?- Let Them Say.  In decrying townspeople who spread rumors about the Inn and her customers, she said, “Nor do I wish to blazen forth the weakness of any individual picked up on Main Street, limp of limb and thick of speech. Neither do I desire to spread scandals…I shall at all times be delighted for the sake of truth… I have no use for people who talk through their hats and veils, protecting themselves with their hatpins to the detriment of their neighbors.”

The former New York City actress moved to the area in 1907. After briefly trying to run a tearoom in Goshen, she packed all her pots and pans into a horse-drawn wagon and moved to Northampton. She and Marie VonVeltheim (aka the Countess), who was a painter of miniature portraits, bought a 200 year-old farmhouse on the edge of town from an Irish family.  This became the Rose Tree Inn.

The Inn opened in December of 1908. It rapidly became popular with Smith College faculty and students. Perhaps because so many of its customers were on an academic schedule, the Inn was closed during the summers. In an entrepreneurial spirit, deNaucaze also owned, for a brief time, a summer Rose Tree Inn in Maine, and two “annexes:” the Rose Tree Hut on Arnold Avenue in 1918 and the “Queer and Quaint” Rose Tree Den on Masonic Street in 1919.

Contemporary accounts credit her personality as being as great a draw as the Inn’s fine food. Her wit and intelligence are repeatedly noted. Many Smith faculty visited in her book-lined “den” at the Inn to exchange views. She was unpopularly outspoken about many contemporary affairs.  She was against women’s suffrage, vehemently anti-German, and in favor of America joining the Great War, now known as World War I. This latter opinion, she felt, was the reason she was eventually forced to close the Inn.

No mention of a “Monsieur” deNaucaze has been found, and she refused to tell the 1910 Census taker if she was divorced. A friend recalled that A.dN. had been born in Belgium to the Irish Montgomery Moore family, was educated in Paris, married, and had a son.  This same friend said that when A.dN. began her stage career, she had adopted the deNaucaze name from an aunt who was an actress in Paris. The Countess probably lived with her at the Inn until 1912.  Kate Sangree joined the Inn partnership in 1919. In 1923, “Mrs.” Sangree and deNaucaze were planning to adopt an infant girl that had come into their care in some unspecified way.

Although A.dN. cited other issues as well, being popular with Smith students seems to have led directly to the demise of the business. In order to serve students, establishments had to be on the College’s approved Warden’s list. DeNaucaze was variously forced to prohibit dancing, smoking, and drinking.  She was also required to provide a “matronly” cashier to act as chaperone at her places of business. In 1923, despite student protest, the Rose Tree was dropped from the Warden’s list of places approved by the College, allegedly because students had been smoking there. The resulting loss of business forced Madame, at age 69, to sell the Inn. She moved briefly to Maryland and then to New York City where she died a year later of pneumonia.

Even under a new woman owner, the Rose Tree Inn wasn’t able to regain Smith College approval. In 1928, the Rose Tree Luncheonette became the Rose Tree Filling Station. Today, what remains of the original structure houses Duffy Tire. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 1989 to preserve and restore the building as the Inn.

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The current use of the former Inn at 252 Bridge St. (Google map street view)

 

Further reading: See more on the Inn

__at Jan Whitaker’s restauranting history blog   http://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/tag/roadside-restaurants/page/2/

__The building has been inventoried as a historic site

http://www.northamptontimelines.org/bridge-street-252.html

__ Elizabeth Kent presented research in 2012, http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/2012/03/01/northamptons-lgbt-ancestor-anna-de-naucazes-story-intrigues-inspires

__and in  again in 2015

http://www.historicnorthampton.org/rose-tree-inn.html

 

Sources:

__Whitaker, Jan. Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America. 2002. St. Martin’s Press, New York.

__Pease, Kathleen. “Rose tree: Local historians seek to save inn built in early 1700s.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. March 18, 1989.

__Murray, Clarence. “Reminiscence of what told by Anna Catherine Bliss, friend of A. dN.. 1987.” This is a handwritten account by Bliss’ nephew of stories told him by his aunt. Historic Northampton.

__DeNaucaze, Mme. Anna. “Baby at ‘Rose Tree” not Kidnapped.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Sep. 1, 1923.

__”Madame De Naucaze sells ‘Rose Tree.’” Daily Hampshire Gazette.  Sep. 7, 1923.

 

Coming Next: autumn 1971

 

 

 

It Started In Amherst


In the Connecticut River Valley, the Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements both began in Amherst. They soon spread to other communities, reaching a unique intersection in Northampton that marks the beginning of the town’s LGBTQ history. It all happened within the context of sweeping nationwide social change also focused around the counter-culture, anti-war, New Left and Black Nationalist movements, all which had local counterparts.

Though the first event of Valley Second Wave feminism may have been the appearance of WITCH at Smith College in 1968, the first group to form was Amherst Women’s Liberation in 1969. Four Amherst women found each other, and found four more, to form the first support (conscious raising) group and spread the word. Within a year, AWL had grown to a hundred women members meeting in support, study, and action groups, as well as in monthly forums. The groups met in the women’s homes and in church space.

In December 1970, AWL rented space over Pierce’s Art Store at 200 Main St. in Northampton and opened the Valley Women’s Center. VWC’s half of the second floor space, shared with a beauty parlor on the other side of the stairwell and entry hall, included a storefront-like drop-in space with couches, bulletin board, reading material, desk, phone, call log, mimeograph machine, as well as a second, smaller room used for counseling. The third floor open loft space was used for larger meetings, including the general membership meeting, and, at one point, a free store.

During the summer of 1970, my partner Susan heard about AWL and joined a support group. What interested me, however, was a personal ad I found in the UMass student newspaper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, when I returned to school that Fall as a sophomore: “Anyone interested in extending the Boston Student Homophile League into the Amherst area. Contact Jerry 586-1602.”

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Or some version of it, because by the time I saw it and called, Kathy had joined Jerry as another contact person. From my recollection of what she told me, after that initial ad and others, the group met in various places in Amherst, including a church, before settling to weekly booking of space at the Campus Center at UMass. The advertised names were pseudonyms for Michael Obligado and Kathryn Girard, both UMass grad students.

Again, a singular event is noted as the “first gay outing” in the Valley: Roz Shapiro and Cindy Shamban read lesbian poetry in their dorm corridor at UMass in 1968. The first political gay group in the Valley I’ve found evidence of is SHL. Students, mostly from UMass, were the majority of those who called the contact number for more information. Within a year, membership grew to a hundred, and included UMass faculty and staff, people from other colleges, and from local communities.

To protect the privacy of those who attended and prevent harassment (which could include violence), the meeting places were not publicized. Providing a safe space to meet and socialize was always a primary function of the UMass Student Homophile League, followed closely by a need for information on a wide range of issues and a place to discuss them. The group quickly added a public educational function. Members advocated for its right to exist and for change in public attitude and behavior toward gays. The pages of the student newspaper, particularly the letters to the editor section, became one forum for advocacy.

Attendance at the Second Christopher Street Liberation Day (June 1971) in New York City was a pinnacle of SHL’s first year, as reported here in SHL’s mimeographed newsletter The Closet Door that I wrote:

closet door sep 71 christopher03202015

christopher st 197103202015button gay revolution 197103202015

The Northampton meeting of these two streams of activism occurred the summer of 1971. Kathryn Girard and I had previously been invited to an AWL support group to lead a discussion on being gay. That led to an invitation to conduct a similar discussion at the monthly forum in July, attended by about fifty women. This was followed in August by AWL paying the registration fee for me and three other SHL women to attend the first New England Lesbian Feminist Conference in Kent, Connecticut. My secret lover was there with her other primary (and “public”) lover is what I remember most from that conference. Oh, and it was the first I heard of granola or slept on the hay in a barn.

Summer ended at the Tri-County Fair where Amherst Women’s Liberation got a booth and AWL’s Isabel Arnold invited SHL to share the space. That Fall these and other events were reported by me in the SHL’s first(?) newsletter The Closet Door, run off on AWL’s mimeograph machine, as was the flyer circulated at the Fair. I notice in rereading that newsletter that I still referred to us as “gay women” in spite of having just attended a Lesbian Feminist event and also used the pejorative diminutive in referring to Women’s “Lib.” The seeds of ideas were planted however.

closet door sep 71 more summer w AWL03202015

Coming Next: Checking out the women’s bar in Chicopee.
Sources:
____[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline Elizabeth. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Northampton. Ceres Inc. 1978.
__Massachusetts Daily Collegian, coverage of SHL/GLF starting Sep.24,1970.
__The Closet Door, Student Homophile League, Sep. 1971.