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100 Years of the Sex Workers’ Rights Movement

On January 25th, join the Tenderloin Museum and the Center for Sex & Culture to celebrate the 100th anniversary of San Francisco's 1917 sex worker march. On January 25th, 1917 Reggie Gamble and Maude Spencer, two madams of the Uptown Tenderloin vice district, organized a demonstration against the planned Valentine's Day eviction of San Francisco's brothels. Targeting anti-vice reformer Rev. Paul Smith, nearly 300 prostitutes stormed the reverend's church and took over the pulpit, demanding that the congregation hear their concerns. Reggie Gamble's speech, which was covered by every one of the city's major newspapers, demanded economic justice and a halt to the looming evictions that threatened to displace the thousands of sex workers that lived and worked in San Francisco's vice districts. The 1917 march, the first of its kind in the United States, sits alongside the protests at San Francisco's Compton Cafeteria and the New York's Stonewall Inn as important historical events reclaimed by communities, and an important milestone in the struggle for sex worker’s rights.

Help us set the tone for the new year in celebrating the centennial of this vital piece of Bay Area history. Our program will begin at the Tenderloin Museum, where authors Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus, co-editors of Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute, will give a talk examining the history of sex work in San Francisco from 1849-1917. Afterwards, members of the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), the US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS), and Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP Bay Area) will address where we are at 100 years later in the continuing fight for sex worker’s rights. Following the presentations will be a march to the site of the original protest, at Leavenworth and O’Farrell Streets, where Reggie Gamble's 1917 speech will be read by Carol Queen (founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture), along with speeches by some of the leaders of today’s sex worker’s rights movement. Following the march, we will gather to celebrate this centennial at the Gangway bar, located at 841 Larkin St.

100 Years of the Sex Worker’s Rights Movement will begin on Wednesday, January 25th at 5:30pm at the Tenderloin Museum. A $10 suggested donation will be taken at the door (no one turned away for lack of funds). Refreshments will be available. The procession to the original protest site, just two blocks from the Tenderloin Museum, will leave at 8:15pm. If you plan on attending the march, warm clothes, candles, and signs are encouraged.