That’s Old News: Protecting A Woman’s Reputation?

That’s Old News: Protecting A Woman’s Reputation?

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In doing research in the Oakland Tribune, I came across this item under a section on saloon/liquor updates.  The section was devoted to inspections on saloons, licenses applied for and the status, and different regulations.  This was Oakland, Alameda County, California, 1907.


I find it funny that businesses that served alcohol had to be equipped with side entrances so that ladies could come in for a drink.  They had to be seated in private boxes and were only allowed in with an escort.  And, get this!  If their escort did not order a drink, they couldn’t have one either!  The police were sent out to ensure that each establishment conformed to the rules.

What do you think the purpose of such regulations were?  Was it to protect a woman’s reputation?  What it because a woman drinking in public was unseemly?  Did they think it was dangerous for drinking women to mix with drinking men?  Was this type of sentiment spread throughout society?  By that I mean, was it generally inappropriate in 1907 for a female to be in a social establishment like a restaurant, cafe, store, etc. alone–even if it wasn’t an establishment that served alcohol?  How much independence did a woman have in 1907 in America?

It’s difficult to look at regulations like these from a different era and not see it as demeaning.  You can’t help to think women were seen as second class citizens.  But, that is looking through our modern eyes.  In 1907, women drinking in public may have been so frowned upon that the citizens of Oakland probably went before the City Council and demanded that these regulations be enacted.

Newspapers really are great for revealing the social mores our ancestors lived by.

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