NYC’s Delmonico’s Was the First US Restaurant to Let Women Dine Unaccompanied

150 years ago women were unable to dine without the company of a man
The Sorosis Club
Museum of the City of New York

The Sorosis Club at Delmonico's in 1902

One hundred and fifty years ago, New York City’s Delmonico’s hosted a lunch banquet for a ladies’ social club. Today, in the era of the women’s-only Wing and the Women’s March, this might not sound noteworthy, but this meal was the first time a U.S. restaurant hosted women who weren’t “chaperoned” by men.

The Sorosis Club was founded in April 1868 after women were barred from the New York Press Club’s dinner honoring Charles Dickens. In response, journalist Jane Cunningham Croly organized a prix fixe meal at the now-storied establishment, where each guest paid $1.

According to Delmonico’s lore, the event was organized in partnership with Lorenzo Delmonico, and “the women were treated with such consideration that they chose Delmonico's as their regular meeting place thereafter.” But competing accounts portray the event as more of a protest.

Either way, a precedent was set and women’s professional clubs sprang up across the country.

To honor the boundary-breaking meal, the same Delmonico’s invited 150 women in media, film, and busines to an anniversary Ladies’ Luncheon. James Beard Award-winning chef Gabrielle Hamilton, of New York City’s Prune, prepared modern version of the dishes from the 1868 menu, including a cold-poached mackeral and a brûléed rice pudding. But despite this anniversary, Delmonico's isn't the oldest eatery in the state

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