When Women Ruled Valencia

Elizabeth‘s latest post got us thinking. An acquaintance hipped her to a bygone era along everybody’s favorite Mission corridor:

[S]o haunting was the number of women-run, women-only businesses and projects she referred to, up and down Valencia Street. They are all gone now. Old Wives’ Tales bookstore, a woman-only bar where the Elbo Room is now [...] A women-only restaurant where Radio Valencia used to be. A women’s newspaper.

Link. How exactly does a women-only restaurant (or bar) work? Maybe this era is bygone because it’s not legal. Anybody remember any of this stuff?

Elbo Room photo by kewlio.

4 Responses to “When Women Ruled Valencia”

  1. SlideSF says:

    I remember when I was new in town, around 1980. I was walking down Valencia St., just checking out the bars. I walked into Amelia’s (now Elbo Room), and immediately every eye turned towards me and just stared. No further action was needed. I got the message. Nothing illegal about staring…

    BTW, years later I ended up working at the Elbo Room. Rikki Streicher, owner of Amelia’s and later Elbo Room, was one of the warmest and most generous employer I have ever had. RIP Rikki.

  2. C. says:

    I remember! When I first moved here, in 1985, my closest friend was a very happening, very connected young lesbian woman, who not only took care of me by giving me a job as her assistant but also gave me a fabulous introduction to the city by taking me out with her to all her favorite places. The Elbo Room was Amelia’s, and one of them. It was definitely not “women-only”, as I spent many evenings there (and I am a man), but it was definitely “by and for women” (as we might now say following the language of clothing labels); there was also a lot of progressive gender-related terminology in those days, such as “woman-identified”, but I can’t remember the subtleties of its variations and applications, esp. not in the context of bars. I have fond memories of very warm, friendly and festive reception at Amelia’s, naturally partly due to my company, but also just because it seemed to be a very special place in its human dimensions. As Elizabeth mentions, Osento, which sadly is going out now, was present then too, and a very big and regular part of lives of many of the aficionadas of Amelia’s (I just realized “aficionadas” gets spell-checked, but “aficionados” doesn’t). My sense was that its popularity hadn’t declined, but perhaps it’s just very difficult to maintain such an establishment in the recently priced-up Mission. In any case – Yo, Mission Mission, keep it real!

  3. gordonzola says:

    The first time I went to Amelia’s I was the only man with a group of 4-5 women. When I entered the woman working the door pulled me aside and explained that it was a women’s space and that I was welcome to be there but that I needed to understand that. I said I did, and there was no issue after that.

    If I remember correctly (and it may not have always been that way) Old Wives Tales was open to anyone but there was a women’s only space within the store (I think that was after they expanded).

    It’s a little foggy. This post made me realize how long ago it all was.

  4. Evan says:

    I’ll ignore the outright gender discrimination inherent in making certain businesses “women-only,” “women-oriented,” or “by and for women” as long as women agree to never play shufflepuck at Doc’s Clock.

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