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Reacting to the Past: Greenwich Village

This guide is intended to support classroom use of the Reacting to the Past game series and provide students with background information.

Introduction

Greenwich Village 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman sets the stage for students to enter the bohemian world of Progressive Era lower Manhattan. In this game, students take on roles as artists, intellectuals, literati, playwrights, artists, feminists, suffragists, and labor activists who vie for influence at Polly’s Café. The premise of this game is that those belonging to the “suffrage faction” compete against those in the “labor faction.” Will bohemian villagers champion a parade in Washington, DC, in support of gender equality at the polls? Or will villagers lend their efforts to promote an avant-garde pageant designed to highlight the cause of striking silk factory workers in nearby Paterson, New Jersey?

Gallery

Greenwich Village Fair "Hot Dogs" (LOC)

Polly's Cafe

Location: 137 MacDougal Street, New York, New York, USA from 1913 to 1915; then at 147 West 4th Street from 1915 to 1917

Opened: 1913

Closed: 1917

View the Café Menu

Why is Polly’s Important?

Polly’s Café was a bohemian haunt historically owned by little known anarchist and free-love advocate from Evanston, Illinois, Paula Holladay. Polly’s was one of several bohemian-owned businesses in the Village where residents felt free, and encouraged, to express themselves. Groups like the Heterodoxy Club, established by Marie Jenney Howe, formed and held meetings there. The Heterodoxy Club was a forum for women to discuss and develop tactics of progressive feminism, and was an early leader in feminist, lesbian and bisexual culture. To be a “Heterodite” as they were called, a woman was simply “not orthodox in her opinion.” Polly, and the other bohemians at the restaurant, certainly fit that bill. And several other sites on and around MacDougal catered to early LGBT culture – check out the South Village Historic District designation report (the first report to have a dedicated section to LGBT history) and an Off The Grid post which mentions MacDougal Street and the Heterodoxy Club.

The Heterodoxy

Founded by Marie Jenny Howe, Heterodoxy was a group of women who met, debated, and communed with other women who were interested in political and social issues relevant to their day.  The group met at Polly's Restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Notable participants included:

  • Katherine Susan Anthony
  • Sara Josephine Baker
  • Agnes de Mille
  • Crystal Eastman
  • Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Susan Glaspell
  • Marie Jenney Howe
  • Fannie Hurst
  • Elizabeth Irwin
  • Mabel Dodge Luhan
  • Mary Margaret McBride
  • Inez Milholland
  • Alice Duer Miller
  • Doris Stevens
  • Rose Pastor Stokes
  • Margaret Widdemer

Speakers at group meetings, who were not members of Heterodoxy, included:

  • Emma Goldman
  • Helen Keller
  • Amy Lowell
  • Margaret Sanger

 

Hours and Locations