|431 - 451 Oxford Street (2011)|
In Karl Baedeker's London and its Environs: Handbook for Travelers (1894), we see the following item listed on page 13 under "Restaurants":
Dorothy Restaurant (for ladies only), 448 Oxford Street.
Just enough to whet your appetite, and nothing more.
London of To-day: An Illustrated Handbook (1890) advises us of the following:
Try the Dorothy Restaurant in Oxford Street (near Orchard Street) if you are among the number of those who "detest to have men about the place." Dorothy Restaurants admit no men.
Whoa. What is this place?
Fortunately, Franny Moyle tells us a lot more about the Dorothy Restaurant in Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde.
|Constance Wilde (1858-1898)|
Dorothy's was the initiative of one Mrs. Cooper-Oakley, another of London's leading feminists, who also ran a milliner's business in Wigmore Street called Madame Isabel's. It was an innovation, a restaurant for women only. Although dining for upper- and middle-class women was already available at the various women's clubs, and although some conventional restaurants provided ladies' dining room discreetly in upper storeys or side-rooms, Dorothy's was a bold modern proposition. Its door was right on the street, and it was open to all classes of women, from shop assistants to duchesses. Offering cheap wholesome fare for all, Dorothy's liberated the former from having to eat a bun in a shop and offered the latter a new kind of experience. You just bought an eightpenny dining ticket on entrance, took a seat at one of the tables and waited for your 'plate of meat, two vegetables and bread' to arrive. For an extra couple of pence you could also get pudding, and for a further penny tea, coffee or chocolate.
|Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891)|
The Dorothy Restaurant was also closely connected with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophist movement. See here, here and here for more on that.
Just to see that men mocking women-only space is nothing new, see this piece in Punch (1890) that ridicules the patrons of Dorothy Restaurant.
|Ad from London Women Penny Paper,|
September 14, 1889
According to a published liquidator's report, the Dorothy Restaurant closed in the summer of 1895.