[SIGCIS-Members] Fw: Fw: Question about early female architect barred from men's club

Sharon Traweek traweek at history.ucla.edu
Sat Sep 11 15:17:41 PDT 2021

Thank you! Having been among the women entering those spaces in the ‘80s I can attest to the walls filled with images of older white men; we used to joke about how long it would take to change the décor demographics. In the mid-90s I attended a colloquium talk by Sandra Harding in the UCLA Philosophy Dept; the reception in the department lounge still only had images of older white men on the walls.

In 2009 I was a co-organizer of a symposium on ‘women in science’<https://jspsusa.org/wp/science-in-japan-forum/science-in-japan-forum-2009/> sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science [JSPS], jointly with NIH, NSF, DOE, AAAS. JSPS and NIH proposed holding the event (and lodging for the speakers) at the Cosmos Club in Washington DC. At the opening dinner for the symposium speakers (which included people from Denmark, Finland, Japan and Sweden, as well as the US) I asked the NIH host to tell the story about how the Cosmos Club came to accept women/people of color as guests and members. As a Cosmos Club member he knew the history quite well. That provided a useful segue into the symposium topic on the various long-standing in/formal exclusionary practices in science and engineering fields, as well as some successful strategies/policies for altering those practices in 5 countries.


From: James Cortada <jcortada at umn.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2021 2:11 PM
To: Sharon Traweek <traweek at history.ucla.edu>
Cc: SIGCIS Listserver <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Fw: Question about early female architect barred from men's club

I am not sure how much insight I can add to this discussion, but here goes with a broader contextual report on the men's clubs.

I worked at IBM from 1974 through 2012, all in jobs that required my dealing with customers, senior public officials, and with institutions of long standing, many over a century in existence.  Such clubs were largely dining and conference room facilities, often established long before there were such facilities in business offices and hotels.  So until the end of the 1970s and by custom into the 1980s in the US there existed clubs dedicated to specific professions or white collar professions more generally and were neutral ground where private conversations could be had, say, between business leaders and state governors and legislators.  I know, as I hosted some over the years in New York (Yale Club), Atlanta, Nashville, and Madison, WI, among others.  Most clubs--yes you had to join so only people in those professions, etc.were admitted--were thus aimed at the social, business, and political elite.  These were very useful facilities. Portraits of famous members hung on the walls, largely a 19th century practice that ended in the cases I recall by the end of the 1920s. You could always get a magnificent steak (guy food), creamed spinach (fabulous everywhere), mashed potatoes and if you want, Bourbon over ice at lunch time. But the point  I want to make is that when these clubs were formed, its members were in professions not occupied by women, e.g., no female governors or CEOs.  These places were strictly for conducting business in a casual way, i.e., over a meal or a drink, so having women participate would have disturbed the model.  In large cities, women had tea rooms in large department stores by the end of the 1880s where they--often the wives of the men's clubs' members--could meet.  Not until the 1960s when women had started a pretty extensive penetration into the professions served by these men's clubs did the issue of their membership begin to be discussed and acted upon.  IT industry techi managers were part of the scene.

This is not meant to be a defense of these clubs, rather an explanation for their behavior, which its members probably as a group did not view as a problem until women pushed back since such descrimination prevented them from using similar facilities with which to cultivate customers, clients, etc.  More obviously a problem, however, was that these clubs were notoriously hostile toward having African American members.  If my recollections are still intact, in almost every one of the facilities, all the servers were African American males, often over the age of 40.  A few white female servers also worked in these clubs.

I might add, a parallel circumstance existed with golf country clubs, but since these were largely the product of post WWI America, the gender barrier had not taken as strong a hold across the nation. Some clubs stipulated what days women could use the restaurant without their husbands, and there were days when the course was available only to the "Ladies," usually Wednesdays or Thursdays. They could, however, play tennis or use the swimming pools whenever they wanted.  But, right to the end of the 20th century there were some clubs that blocked women--recall the Masters Tournament (Augusta National Golf Club) in the 2010s that tried to block IBM's CEO, Ginni Rometty, from being a member (although for 80 years all of IBM's CEOs were) and yet IBM was a corporate sponsor.  Eventually they let her join the club and she walked in wearing a pink sports jacket!  I think that day thousands of American IBM women let out a cheer.

On Sat, Sep 11, 2021 at 3:17 PM Sharon Traweek <traweek at history.ucla.edu<mailto:traweek at history.ucla.edu>> wrote:

re early female architect barred from men's club

Here is some background information:  From the mid-70s to the late 80s there were many demonstrations, often led by lawyers, journalists, and those in other professions who were excluded from work-related discussions held at men-only and sometimes white-only social clubs.  The sites included some university alumni clubs. Usually there was extensive newspaper/TV coverage. Histories of those events and lawsuits might identify participants.

Quitting Is Not Acquitting - The New York Times, 3 Jan 1977  <https://www.nytimes.com/1977/01/03/archives/quitting-is-not-acquitting.html>

The troublesome thing about private clubs, in law and in fact, is that they are ... Why men only, after all, in Washington's Metropolitan and Cosmos Clubs?

COSMOS CLUB ATTACKED BY DC RULING - The ... <https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1987/11/07/cosmos-club-attacked-by-dc-ruling/6531aa35-726d-4e34-8a76-86b69e4a1aeb/>

Washington Post, 7 Nov 1987.  The sweeping decision is the latest development in a long-running conflict over men-only clubs in the District, and arises out of a two-pronged .

Club Doors Are Open, But Women Draw Back - The New York ..., 14 Sep1988 <https://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/14/garden/club-doors-are-open-but-women-draw-back.html>

Of the University Club's 4,000 members, only 20 are women; .. Many clubs have fought such laws and lost; a few are still fighting

State Power and Discrimination by Private Clubs - JSTOR <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1341620>

Harvard Law Review, Vol. 104, No. 8 (Jun., 1991), pp. 1835-1856 (22 pages). Private social clubs with discriminatory membership policies are fast becoming extinct. Such clubs face mounting informal pressure'.

Sharon Traweek, UCLA Gender Studies and History Departments

UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies




As a land grant university<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land-grant_university> UCLA acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin and Southern Channel Islands).
From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org<mailto:members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org>> on behalf of Len Shustek <len at shustek.com<mailto:len at shustek.com>>
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2021 12:08 PM
To: Jonathan Coopersmith <j-coopersmith at tamu.edu<mailto:j-coopersmith at tamu.edu>>; Ellen Spertus <spertus at mills.edu<mailto:spertus at mills.edu>>
Cc: SIGCIS Listserver <members at sigcis.org<mailto:members at sigcis.org>>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Question about early female architect barred from men's club

At 07:41 PM 9/10/2021, Jonathan Coopersmith wrote:
There are other stories about other women unable to meet with professors and other professionals because their clubs banned women -- e.g. Anna G. Perkins, Yale Needs Women.

I'm working on a condensation for CACM of Turing Award winner Dana Scott's recent oral history. In it he says this:

Close friends of [Alfred] Tarski were Raphael and Julia Robinson. Julia did her thesis under Tarski, but you can't imagine the difference for women between 1950 and today. Only men were allowed in the Berkeley Faculty Club, so when Tarski suggested at a lunch that there were many problems to be solved about rational arithmetic, Julia was not present. Raphael suggested that to her later, and that's how Julia's famous thesis eventually evolved, where she showed the undecidability of the theory of rational numbers.

If all goes well, the condensation and a pointer to the full interview should be published in about six months.

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James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu<mailto:jcortada at umn.edu>
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