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The Fascinating History of Female Bartenders

Last updated 5 years ago

Today, the most popular bars and nightclubs in cities around the country employ skilled bartenders of both sexes to mix drinks for patrons. Bartending has not always been an acceptable profession for women, however. Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, social codes in many areas of the U.S. held that it was unseemly for a woman to work in a bar. Read on to learn more about the history of female bartenders.

19th Century Barmaids
In the early 1800s, it was not uncommon for women of a lower socioeconomic status to find work as bartenders. In fact, a story recorded in the 1821 novel The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper suggests that a barmaid named Betty may have mixed the first cocktail. Nevertheless, Betty was not supposed to be a role model for women, and she was characterized as rather slovenly and uncouth.

Victorian Era Restrictions
The strict morals of the Victorian era affected women and prescribed which careers they could pursue, even in the United States. In the 1890s, barely one in 400 bartenders were women, and cities such as St. Louis enacted strict prohibitions against female attendants at saloons and bars.

Post-War Reactionary Laws
During World War II, when nearly every able-bodied man in the country went abroad to fight, women had to step up at home and take on many of their jobs, including bartending. When the war was over, however, a new era of social conservatism set in, and bartending once again became an unseemly profession for women. From 1945 to 1971, many states had official laws on the books that prevented women from mixing drinks or even pouring whiskey in public establishments.

Female Bartenders Today
Thanks to changing social norms over the last several decades, the days when bartending was deemed an unsuitable profession for women are now over, and some women mixologists are on the cutting edge of the industry.

If you would like to acquire the skills you need to become a bartender, call Professional Bartending Schools Of America today at (513) 542-3500 to learn more about our training programs.


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