McSorley’s Circa 1970

Photo: JP Laffont/Sygma/CORBIS via EV Grieve Photo: JP Laffont/Sygma/CORBIS via EV Grieve

Faith Seidenberg, a lawyer possibly best known for forcing McSorley’s Ale House to allow female patrons in 1970, died last week at 91. Whether or not as a 55-year-old woman actually wanted to drink at McSorley’s was beside the point. Women in bars, particularly non-young women in bars, is one of my dearest causes despite the surface frivolity.

Please do read this New York Times account from August 11, 1970 (subscription required) of the first day women gained entry. Fights broke out, insults were hurled, and a “stein of ale” was dumped over the head of Lucy Komisar, a vice president of NOW.

The best quote from an observer:

‘It’s not exactly First Avenue,’ commented one man, referring to the ‘singles’ bars on the Upper East Side.

So, then what was the East Village scene? According to a woman who’d stopped in with her husband:

…I don’t think many girls will come here. It’s a neighborhood place, and the neighbors are mostly Ukrainian women who aren’t interested in drinking beer.

exterior mcsorley's ale house macau

I have never been to the original McSorley’s, just the Irish wrapped in Italian conjured by Chinese outpost, established roughly 2008, inside The Venetian Macau where gender politics are probably not top of mind.

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