When women weren’t allowed to smoke in public

City Council members just passed a bill prohibiting smoking on beaches, in parks, and even in Times Square.

But New York is no stranger to strict anti-smoking laws. It’s just that 100 years ago, these laws were all aimed at women.

[Only men puffed in public a century ago, as this NYPL image shows]

About 100,000 women “of the highest social classes” smoked in the city in 1901, according to a New York Times article, calling it a “growing menace.”

So the city passed the Sullivan Ordinance. It didn’t make it illegal for a woman to smoke.

“But it does make it an offense for the manager or proprietor of a public place to allow her to smoke therein, and for doing so he may suffer the revocation of his license and he may also be fined,” explained a 1908 New York Times article the day after the bill passed.

Even crazier, one city council member wanted to make it illegal for a man to smoke in the vicinity of a woman, “who ought not to be forced to inhale tobacco fumes,” the article stated.

In the end, the Sullivan Ordinance only lasted two weeks before Mayor George McClellan vetoed it.

And by the 1920s, smoking lost its rep as something only unfeminine or loose women enjoyed, and it became a symbol of freedom and liberation—as this 1925 photo reveals.

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2 Responses to “When women weren’t allowed to smoke in public”

  1. Tweets that mention When women weren’t allowed to smoke in public « Ephemeral New York -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Post New York, You Post NYC. You Post NYC said: When women weren't allowed to smoke in public http://ow.ly/1bdqiP […]

  2. Chicken Underwear Says:

    I don’t think anyone should be allowed to smoke in public

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