The Public Interest

Men’s clubs, women’s rights

Roger Starr

Fall 1987

THIRTY YEARS AGO, and for at least thirty years before that, men’s clubs were the butt of sardonic and yet, on the whole, gentle humor among sophisticated men and women. In New Yorker cartoons, occasionally in movies, sometimes in magazine advertisements, the public was invited to peer through the plate glass windows of the clubs to see a vanishing world captured for an instant before its final extinction. In it elderly gentlemen snoozed away their days while meticulously trained manservants kept cigar ashes from burning their striped trousers. The power of these obsolete captains of industry and finance had been so eroded by waves of populism generated by the century of common men that it was possible to look at them with tolerant wonder and the sense of security with which one looks at stuffed dinosaurs in a museum.

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