Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blavatsky at the Dorothy Restaurant

The blog, Lost Womyn’s Space, covers the Dorothy restaurants in London started by Isabel Cooper-Oakley, one of Mme. Blavatsky’s pupils in the 1880s. Citing Franny Moyle’s Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde, it says:

Dorothy’s was the initiative of one Mrs. Cooper-Oakley, another of London's leading feminists, who also ran a milliner's business in Wigmore Street called Madame Isabel’s. It was an innovation, a restaurant for women only. Although dining for upper- and middle-class women was already available at the various women’s clubs, and although some conventional restaurants provided ladies’ dining room discreetly in upper storeys or side-rooms, Dorothy’s was a bold modern proposition. Its door was right on the street, and it was open to all classes of women, from shop assistants to duchesses. Offering cheap wholesome fare for all, Dorothy’s liberated the former from having to eat a bun in a shop and offered the latter a new kind of experience. You just bought an eightpenny dining ticket on entrance, took a seat at one of the tables and waited for your 'plate of meat, two vegetables and bread' to arrive. For an extra couple of pence you could also get pudding, and for a further penny tea, coffee or chocolate.

There are some interesting links to Blavatsky in the account. At the opening of the restaurant at 448 Oxford Street on June 21, 1889, among those present were Mme. Blavatsky, Countess Wachtmeister, and other theosophical lady notables.

Background on Isabel Cooper-Oakley is provided at the blog The Oakleys of Salop and London. After her marriage to Alfred Oakley in January 1884, he added her surname to his, becoming Cooper-Oakley. She died in Budapest, Hungary, on March 3, 1914.

The presence of Constance Wilde, wife of Oscar Wilde, as part of the London theosophical scene, has already been noted by us here.

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