Beyond the Myth of Lesbian Montmartre

The Case of Chez Palmyre

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
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  • 1 Assumption College
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Abstract

This article focuses on one emblematic figure of lesbian Montmartre during the belle époque, the notorious restaurateur Palmyre. After managing the lesbian brasserie La Souris in the 1890s, Palmyre opened her own establishment, Palmyr’s Bar, opposite the Moulin Rouge in the early twentieth century. Palmyre’s restaurants, the second of which catered to gays as well as lesbians, feature in police, judicial, and fiscal archives as well as the visual arts, journalism, fiction, and memoir. Palmyre’s story, besides conveying a slice of lesbian life in Montmartre during the belle époque, illustrates the importance of lesbian and gay entrepreneurs and entertainers to the making of “Gay Paree.” Establishments like Palmyre’s, no less than the bohemian cabarets and giant music halls, contributed to the development of commercialized mass culture in the city, while also providing community space and artistic outlets for Paris’s gays and lesbians.

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