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And she was smokin’!

21 Jan


Hello patient SK fans.


I know. I know. I know. It’s been awhile. We have lots of excuses, but none of them good enough, so we won’t even bother. We’ll just get on with it.


Today, Jan. 21, marks nearly one month since I last blogged, and the anniversary of NYC’s 1908 ban on women smoking in specified public places.


We certainly do not condone smoking, though (and you did NOT hear this from me) My Publicist once took up the filthy habit back when a pack of Marlboro Lights was less than 75 cents. We know. Smoking is BAD, BAD, BAD. JUST THE WORST!!!! But really, banning only women.


Well, the reason behind this ban was not because the NYC AlderMEN cared dearly about the health of the fairer sex. In fact, an 1897 article in the NYC press declared that smoking – especially after dinner, was optimal for digestion. Who can argue with that?


The law was passed because BIG TIME INFLUENTIAL politician Tim Sullivan, known to suffragettes and feminists as “Little Tim,” fancied himself as one who knew best how others should conduct their lives.


Little Tim declared that witnessing a women light up a fag in the theater, restaurant or some other highfalutin place was “offensive to those who looked on and detrimental to the female character.” We can only guess who “Those who looked on” were.


Little Tim went further to imply that “when it comes to permitting women to smoke in miscellaneous public assemblages, then it is time to call in the police.”


We so agree.


The law did not prevent women, from lighting up in “places frequented by persons with liberal liberties.” I.E., you could smoke your brains out in the corner dive.


The ban was vetoed two weeks later by the Mayor, but not before Katie Mulcahey was fined $5 for lighting up in a place frequented by persons without liberal liberties. She refused to pay. Yay Katie!!! So, she spent a night in jail, a fitting punishment, I must say.


Here are some fun facts about women and cigarettes back at the turn of the 20th century.


  • Only two classes of women were likely to smoke: The High Society and the Low Lives.
  • High Society never bought their own cigarettes. Their husbands, brothers or most likely their servants, would order custom, aromatic trim Turkish butts stamped with their monograms or family crests and tipped in silver and gold. These cost $2.50 for 100 cigarettes.
  • Low Lives paid 5 to 10 cents for a pack of foul-smelling American tobacco, which High Society deemed less healthy than imported nicotine.
  • Women did not smoke much, according to the news of the day. The average female only smoked 100 cigarettes in 10-days.
  • Outside of tobacco salesmen, jewelers were the next to notice the increase in women smokers, as sales of jeweled cigarette cases took off like wildfire.
  • My Pub stopped smoking 30 years ago, after burning a hole in a gorgeous leather skirt. She went onto write about the dangers of smoking – aside from damaging cherished wardrobe must-haves –  which earned her a prestigious award from the American Cancer Society.
  • She has no idea where that award is. It triggers haunting memories.
  • After delivering her acceptance speech in a crowded Harvard University auditorium, she got back to her seat and realized her blouse was unbuttoned in a BAD, BAD, BAD place the entire time she was on the podium.
  • You could say she was smokin’!
  • Sadly, there are photos, but you will NEVER see them.
  • Like “only women” bans, some things are best left in the past.

Thanks for reading and we’ll be back real soon.


xo, LMA


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