Why I drank at an Establishment that Wouldn’t Allow Women Until 1970


I recently have attended Soap Box’s Feminist Boot Camp in New York City. Which was amazing, and of course I would love to talk about in more detail, and will in later posts.

However on the packet of things to do in our “free” time was McSorely’s Old Ale House. It said, Go have a drink, because women weren’t allowed there until 1970.

Simple enough right?

Well then the discussion started. Why support an establishment that clearly did not support women and was only forced to because of legal regulations?

Essentially shouldn’t I become part of the boycott to create change?

Certainly I understand this line of thinking. In fact, had I been in New York for an entire year and had more time to ponder this idea I may have chosen that boycott may be the best possible outcome for this situation.


I could have a drink at McSorely’s and completely infiltrate “the man space.” I use the term man space here because well stereotypically this was the “man space.” For instance, as we waited in line to enter the establishment someone realized via the fancy phone that McSorely’s only serves ale. To which half of our group grimmaced because they are not ale drinkers. Perhaps straight whiskey, or a fancy cocktail, but not ale.

I on the other hand. Am an ale fan. A beer fan.

The line dwindled a lot faster than most had expected (we were inside within 5 minutes).

It was what was inside that made me certain coming was what needed to be done.

Inside we heard chanting from the back room, “U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.” although I have heard this from my own set of friends I do believe it is because there is a Canadian amongst us and we appreciate all forms of bickering.

This was because of a sports game on t.v. or better yet a perceived sports game on t.v. because when I turned around to look at the back room there were two t.vs playing sports games, but the no captions, no sound, and what looked to be no active watchers.

We stood at the doorway between the back room and the extremely crowded bar. When I say extremely crowded I mean it. There was not a comfortable place to stand. Or not to have ale spilled on you.

Indeed most of the participators seemed to be male. Some even acted male. Or as a women’s studies observer may say, “some patrons were acting their gender to the highest degree.”

Standing there we ordered our ale. It seems that waiting for the foam to clear was not in their agenda and therefore you ordered two half full glasses of ale for one price. Thanks.

Also apparently there was some type of waiter or runner. Working in a grey shirt and accompanied with little patience and a whole lot of, “excuse me girls.” or “excuse me honey.” and lastly, “babes get out of my way.”

This experience showed me that although you may allow women inside the man space. It changes little in action and in words.

But we did invade, explain to the runner that we were grown women who preferred the term women.

We took our tourist pictures (at my demand) and left.

But not before the runner said, “Goodnight baby”