West Coast Women's Salon

TRADITION: The salon is a cultural tradition that has played a crucial role in women's lives and in the creation of Western culture for centuries. Since the 17th Century, writers, artists, musicians, performers, and intellectuls have had their works and ideas introduced to society through salons hosted by women such as Gertrude Stein and Natalie Clifford Barney.

Research has shown that the majority of these salons lasted over thirty years, that salon women lived exceeding long and culturally rich lives (often into their 90's), that they became role-models for younger women, and frequently passed their salons on to each other, thereby forming a veritable historic salon matrilineage. Often their superficial catering to male artists and writers was the pretext for creating a setting in which they could read their own works in public and present new work by other women. The power of Salon women to positively affect the creative lives of those attending their salons means that they exerted an important influence upon the artistic styles and intellectual ideas of their times, often setting the standards of taste and helping to mold opinions of the leading thinkers of their day.

The cult of Grandes Ameities ("sacred friendships") which developed over the many years of close relationships that salons fostered has been recorded in the lives and letters of numerous women writers. American expatriate Natalie Clifford Barney hosted a salon that lasted as long as 70 years. Salon women also provide us with inspiring examples of older women whose cultural careers came to their peak as they entered their fifties and sixties.

In June of 1984, the Women's Salon for literature in New York, co-founded in 1975 by Erika Duncan, Gloria Orenstein, Karen Malpde, Marilyn Coffey, and Carole Rosenthal, celebrated its tenth anniversary and closed. During its decade of monthly programs, writers and artists from Adrienne Rich and Judy Chicago to Anais Nin, Deena Metzger, Kate Millet, and Susan Griffin presented their works to audiences of up to two hundred women.

The Women's Building initiated the West Coast Women's Salon in March of 1985. It will be held on the first Thursday evening of every month beginning in March, and we are now soliciting ideas for salon events for the coming months, The cost of the salon is $4 for members and $3 for non-members. They begin at 8:OOpm at the Women's Building, 1727 North Spring Street.

Please call Liz at 748-9554 or Elaine at 221-6161 for further information.

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For questions, email to Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries

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