Must Our Struggle Last Another Century? 102 Years Since America's First Sex Worker Rights Protest
Prostitution has always been a hot-button issue in San Francisco, but how often do we hear from sex workers themselves? On Thursday, January 24th, join the Tenderloin Museum and St. James Infirmary to celebrate the 102nd 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, is an important milestone in the struggle for sex workers’ rights, and helps illustrate the ways in which San Francisco policy creates crises of street prostitution and criminalization.
Help us set the tone for the new year in celebrating this vital piece of Bay Area history. 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, representatives from St. James Infirmary will address where we are at 100 years later in the continuing fight for sex workers’ rights.
$10 suggested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds. Half of door proceeds will go directly to support St. James Infirmary.
Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus are both artists, writers, and activists based in San Francisco. They are concerned with examining the rich and shifting landscapes of Bay Area history, culture, politics, and ecology. Their first book, Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute (Heyday Books, 2016) won the 2015 California Historical Society Book Award.
St. James Infirmary is a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers and their families. We exist to provide free, compassionate, and non-judgmental healthcare and social services for Sex Workers (current or former) of all genders and sexual orientations while preventing occupational illnesses and injuries through a comprehensive continuum of services.