Alice Austen House. Photo: Molly Flores
New York City has always been home to fascinating, strong women who have enriched its cultural landscape. That roster includes female luminaries from the LGBTQ+ community, whose accomplishments—whether in entertainment, nightlife, the culinary field or elsewhere—have made (and continue to make) a mark on the City. Tap into their talents during Women’s History Month.
Jody Williams, Buvette
Female chefs rule kitchens throughout the five boroughs. Jody Williams, of cozy French bistro Buvette, is one of those culinary trailblazers. If you find yourself in the West Village, plan to dine on casual Gallic fare or just drop by for a glass of rosé and some delicious bar bites. Williams opened Buvette in 2011 with life and business partner Rita Sodi (who owns another neighborhood restaurant, I Sodi).
Together they embarked on two more Eurocentric West Village ventures: Italian trattoria Via Carota, inspired by the 17th-century villa in the Florentine hills where Sodi once lived; and the soon-to-open Pisellino, a laid-back all-day bar serving pastries, panini, coffee and cocktails, right across the street from Via Carota.
Alice Austen House Museum
Located on the North Shore of Staten Island, this manor was once the home of pioneering female photographer Alice Austen. She grew up in it and then lived there for three decades with her life and business partner of 50 years, Gertrude Tate. Austen was a pacesetter outside of the photography world as well: among her many achievements, she was reputedly the first woman on Staten Island to own a car.
During Women’s History Month, the museum provides free women’s-history-related classes. Visit on International Women’s Day (March 8) for a conversation with Virginia Allen, a women’s rights advocate and retired nurse who is one of the last remaining Black Angels, a group of 300 African-American women hired to care for patients with tuberculosis before there was a known cure. On March 10, historian Pat Salmon will deliver a lecture on powerful women of Staten Island’s past, and an event highlighting female writers takes place on March 25.
Judy Gold, Comedian
New York City is one of the capitals of stand-up comedy, and one of its most hilarious lesbian stars is Judy Gold, the outspoken, two-time Emmy Award–winning actor and comic.
Along with specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Logo, Gold has written and starred in two critically acclaimed, Off-Broadway hit shows: The Judy Show: My Life As a Sitcom and 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, for which she won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding NY Theater. She will perform on March 3 at Pace University.
Lisa Cannistraci, Henrietta Hudson
If you’re looking for a friendly neighborhood bar without attitude that attracts a diverse mix of women of all ages, Henrietta Hudson is the place for you. Owner-activist Cannistraci opened the welcoming Village spot back in 1991; since then it’s become known for its reasonably priced drinks, talented DJs, good music, fun karaoke, drag shows and themed parties, which include speed dating and trivia.
Celebrate all through March with Homotown on Thursday nights, complete with Motown and hip-hop spun by DJ Tikka Masala. Turnt Up Fridays feature celebrity DJs, and Snatch Saturdays spotlight go-go dancers and a mix-and-mill vibe.
Becca McCharen-Tran, Chromat
A leader in the LGBTQ+ fashion world, Becca McCharen-Tran is the founder of Chromat. McCharen-Tran’s avant-garde pieces—swimwear, athletic wear, lingerie, architectural constructions—are made in the City and inspired by the strength and diversity of the women there.
McCharen-Tran is on a mission to use diverse models and to design for all body types, sizes, ages, ethnic backgrounds and gender expressions. Beyoncé, Madonna, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj have all worn custom-designed pieces.
Lesbian Herstory Archives
The Archives, established in 1974 and now located in a townhouse in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, functions as a community center and museum dedicated to preserving lesbian history. It originally resided in the Manhattan apartment of Joan Nestle and Deborah Edel, two cofounders of the project. Visitors come to browse through the digital archive of photos and videos or look through files and books relating to the history of the lesbian community. You can also conduct research, take a group tour or view the current exhibition, Queer Covers: Lesbian Survival Literature, an extensive collection of lesbian pulp fiction from 1939 through 1965.
Nancy Blaine, Local Expeditions
Those interested in a guided experience of LGBTQ+ highlights might turn to a local expert like tour guide Nancy Blaine; the veteran New Yorker offers adventures that let you dig deeper than the typical NYC landmarks to experience the City as locals do.
Her affordable two- and three-hour walking tours include an LGBTQ+ focused itinerary of the West Village as well as custom options that you can arrange with individual guides (note that some of the walking tours are on hiatus until May). Local Expeditions also gives back to the community. Guides get 70 percent of the proceeds, and 5 percent goes to a nonprofit of the guide’s choice.
Merryn Johns (@Merryn1) is editor in chief of Curve magazine and a lesbian travel champion.