A History Lesson With Booze ®

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby and The Sullivan

This week back in 1908, women in NYC were barred from smoking in public. Hear how they won back the right to slowly kill themselves, then celebrate your right to partake of another vice

Hortense David, one of the women Communards in the Paris Commune of 1871. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Before there were non-smoking laws, there was male chauvinism.

Case in point? “The Sullivan Ordinance.” Named after the guy who dreamed it up — New York City Alderman Tim Sullivan — it made it illegal for women to smoke in public. Because that was “unladylike.”

Not everyone agreed. At a hearing the day the law passed? A doctor said he’d rather see a law forbidding men from smoking near a woman. And a bunch of actresses showed up to demand a speed limit for cars. That way gals wouldn’t have to run across the street. Which they found unladylike.

Those ideas didn’t fly. But the Sullivan Ordinance did. And the next day, a cop arrested one Katie Mulcahey for lighting up. He reportedly exclaimed:

“Madam, you mustn’t, what would Alderman Sullivan say!?!”

To which she replied, “Well, I am. And I don’t know.”

Katie couldn’t afford the $5 fine. So the court tossed her in jail. Which, everyone suddenly realized, was kind of ungentlemanly.

Two weeks later, the Sullivan Ordinance was revoked. And women were free to get just as many smoking-related diseases as men.


The Sullivan

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Drafted by bartender Lauren Davis of the Raines Law Room speakeasy in New York’s Flatiron District:


  • 1/2 ounce Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes
  • 3/4 ounce Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 2 ounces Dorothy Parker gin

In a glass, mix ingredients, add ice, stir, and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a flamed grapefruit twist – for a little smoke and fire. Distribute equally among people of both genders, and inhale.