Distaff New Orleans First Issue

Distaff New Orleans First Issue

Distaff New Orleans dropped their first issue in February, 1973.

distaff new orleans

Distaff New Orleans

In December of 1972, a group of women journalists, writers, and others came together to produce a feminist publication. They dropped the “preview edition” of Distaff, a journal for women. The preview generated sufficient interest (and subscriptions) that the team published their first issue the following February. This issue’s editorial describes Distaff New Orleans as a “feminist newspaper collective.” The newspaper covered local, national, and international stories. Additionally, Distaff New Orleans offered the reader art and verse.

Journal for Women

We discussed the history and background of Distaff in our post of 20-Jan-2021. This initial issue rolled out to initial acclaim and thoughtful discussion. While producing a print newspaper (later generations would likely call this publication a “zine”) presented challenges, the staff published for over a year. They ran out of funds in 1974.

Abortion and Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade and the larger issue of abortion rights in the United States occupied the thoughts of many in the early 1970s. While the actual Roe case hits the federal courts in 1970, its journey to the Supreme Court progresses to the final decision in 1973. Distaff embraced reproductive rights fully in February, 1973. The issue included several articles covering abortion from both local and national perspectives.

Drawing and verse

So, Distaff New Orleans opened true to the spirit of its preview edition. While the collective presented the heavy national topic of the time, they also offered local stories, along with art, written and drawn. This combination of verse and illustration appears on page 4:

I am a woman
lost in the maze
of myself.
be my mother
help me
build my wings
and fly.

(the verse and angelic drawing are signed with initials,)

Additionally, there’s art throughout the issue.

Local Takes

Mary Gehman’s article on page two discusses maternity leave for teachers in Orleans Parish Public Schools. Almost fifty years later, the convoluted mess that entangled tenured teachers in 1973 is settled law, with the Family and Medical Leave Act. While Catholic teachers agree to “morality” clauses, federal law shuts much of this down in public schools. Gehman’s 1973 take demonstrates the evolution at its origins.


Terry in a Tender Mood – #MBMonday

Terry in a Tender Mood – #MBMonday

Terry in a Tender Mood – T-P Leisure section ad, 28-Jan-1979.

terry in a tender mood

Terry in a Tender Mood

Maison Blanche’s ad on the front page of the Metro Section of the Times-Picayune on 28-January-1979 promotes “Terry in a Tender Mood.” While ads from earlier decades featured drawings from the store’s Art Department, MB used photographs by 1979. I don’t know when this change happened, so if you do, let me know in comments!

Maison Blanche in 1979

Late January often brings chilly weather to New Orleans. This ad presents the feelings we find when marking Imbolc/Canndlemas. We look to warmer weather in many places. Retail therapy brings the promise of fewer layers of clothing! From the ad:

Revealing an unexpected taste for the romantic in dresses, softly subtly feminine. Today’s supple fashion terry takes beautifully to full-blown sleeves, slightly wider tops, gracefully moving skirts, goes to dinner, informal parties, remains cool, calm, collected, all summer. From Melissa Lane, off-white, accented in a new manner with camel, underscores new sleeve interest; sizes 8 to 18. 40.00. Miss MB, all stores. Penny Young uses terry with slenderizing fullness–both top and bottom–refreshing colors: celery or mauve. Sizes 14 1/2 to 24 1/2. 45.00. Better half-sizes, all stores.

You can tell this copy hit the public long before Twitter!


MB Stores in 1979

Maison Blanche operated five stores in 1979. Canal Street remained the flagship. Two stores served Metairie/Jefferson, Airline Village and Clearview Shopping Center. Westside in Gretna enabled west bankers to avoid the bridge, and The Plaza in Lake Forest served Da East.

MB offered parking validation for Canal Street shoppers. While the malls appealed to suburban residents, Canal Street presented a number of shopping opportunities. The store’s buyers placed new merchandise and product lines at Canal. So, they walked out of their offices to the retail floor and watched how those products performed. if a line worked at Canal, move it out to the other stores. I’m sure “Terry in a Tender Mood” didn’t stay at Canal Street only for long.



Distaff Women’s Journal 1972

Distaff Women’s Journal 1972

Distaff Women’s Journal presented a “preview” edition in 1973.

distaff women's journal

Distaff Women’s Journal

The preview of Distaff Women’s Journal dropped in New Orleans in December, 1972. A “distaff” is a spindle, or stick that is used to assist in spinning fiber into yarn or thread. Over time, the definition expanded to encompasses women’s work in general, since spinning yarn was never considered a “man’s job.”

Distaff Women’s Journal developed from the political writings of Barbara Scott, a lesbisan activist and bar-owner. She ran for the Louisiana House of Representatives, advocating for the creation of a journal/newspaper covering women’s/feminist issues. Page one of this preview issue included an interview with Brenda Davillier, a black woman who sought a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1972.


Distaff Women’s Journal operated with an all-woman staff. They solicited writing from women. Mary Gehman assumed the role of Distaff’s principal editor. Gehman worked as a journalist at the city’s afternoon paper, the States-Item. Local feminists comprised the staff and contributers. Some of those women were Pat Denton, Clay Lattimer, Phyllis Parun, Suzanne Pharr, and Darlene Olivo. The masthead of this issue lists the publication’s office as being on Ursuline Street.


Distaff Women’s Journal offered a range of content, from news and news-adjunct articles to short features, movie reviews, and verse. Page 8 of the preview edition contains a poem and a black-and-white drawing. Neither are titled nor attributed to writer and artist. Below is a transcription of the poem from the page’s image:

Woman, thou art
the cool earth
upon which I
rest my cheek
fevered still by
the slap of
humanity. In
the warmth of
thy acceptance
am I nurtured and
in the energy of
thy love do I
become a part
of all things.
Woman, I weep
for thee that
others could not
have known tee.
That thy days were
not forever bathed
in golden light,
thy faith not forever


Distaff debuted its first issue in February, 1973. The publication was out of money and ceased production in 1974. The staff attempted a revival in 1975. Distaff shut down permanently in August, 1975.

The image

The Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University maintains an archive of Distaff Woman’s Journal.

Don’t forget NOLA BOOK CLUB’s first gathering (via Zoom), tomorrow 21-Jan, at 6pm CST!

Discussing African-American Literature #BOSHSunday

Discussing African-American Literature #BOSHSunday

Discussing African-American Literature at Brother Martin in 1975.

discussing african-american literature

Brother Martin teachers discuss creating a “Black Literature” class with students in 1975.

Discussing African-American Literature

Brother Francis David, SC, Mr. Guy Nelson, and Brother William Boyles, SC, discussing the development of a “Black Literature” class at Brother Martin High School, in 1975. The number of black students at the school grew steadily since the early years.

At this time, Mr. Nelson wasn’t the stalwart backbone of the English Department he became in later years. He was one of the “young” teachers. Brother Francis was one of the experienced teachers in the department, having taught everything to English 8 on up. Brother Boyles was chair of the Social Studies department prior to the 1975-76 school year. He moved into the administration, as Director of Student Activities that year. I think that might be Ms. Anita Breslin, sitting in the front, but obscured by the first student on the right. It’s hard to identify the students from the back, but if anybody recognizes someone, let me know.

Racial Issues

While in 1975 I would’ve given you my opinion on just about anything, I learned a bit more as time went on. The school was, like many places in New Orleans, socially segregated. The number of black students from the legacy schools wasn’t many. That changed as coaches got the green light to recruit black athletes. At the same time, black families struggled with the decision of where to send their sons. St. Augustine High School was and still is an all-black school for boys. By the 1970s, black families had options. Some liked the idea of their boys attending an all-black school, while others thought the experience of an a racially-mixed school was a better idea. Athletes had different criteria, based on college choices.

The English Department

Brother Martin had one black teacher when I was there, Mr. James Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd taught Religion and them moved into the Guidance Department. The English Department, was the hotbed of new ideas and innovation at the time. They developed the single-semester course program, where students took two different English classes in the same year. Eighth grade and freshman English were fixed. From sophomore to senior years, we took two classes a year. For example, in my junior year, I took Science Fiction in the Fall and Major American Writers in the Spring. It made perfect sense that the English Department would be the teachers that reached out to black students the most.

st. aloysius

Liberty Bowl 1970 was Tulane’s fourth bowl appearance

Liberty Bowl 1970 was Tulane’s fourth bowl appearance

Liberty Bowl 1970 – Tulane

liberty bowl 1970

Liberty Bowl 1970

Program from the 12th Liberty Bowl, played on December 12, 1970. Tulane (8-4) defeated Colorado (6-5). 17-3. Tulane was an Independent at this time. The game took place at Memphis Memorial Stadium in Memphis, TN. It was Tulane’s fourth bowl appearance, and the first since the 1939 Sugar Bowl. The Green Wave scored two touchdowns and a field goal in their winning effort.

liberty bowl 1970

Tulane was considered the underdog for Liberty Bowl 1970. The point spread was Colorado -14. The game was 3-3 at halftime. Tulane ran back the second half kickoff 66 yards. Three plays later, they were in the house. Another touchdown in the fourth quarter made the score 17-3.

Tulane Football 1970

In a recap article published earlier this year, Tulane recapped the 1970 season. It had been dubbed the “Year of the Green”

Seniors Rick Kingrea, Mike Walker and David Abercrombie captained the 1970 team. The defense returned 10 starters from 1969 and Paul Ellis, Joe Bullard and David Hebert formed a secondary that picked off a school-record 28 passes on what was to be one of the Green Wave’s all-time great defensive units. Offensively, Abercrombie set a school record with 246 yards rushing against North Carolina State on his way to 993 yards rushing. Through the air, quarterback Mike Walker and receiver Steve Barrios connected on some big plays, as Walker set a season record for yards per completion and Barrios set a season record for yards per catch.

Kingrea later went on to the NFL. He played for the Cleveland Browns (1971-72), the Buffalo Bills (1973), and the New Orleans Saints (1973-1978).

Tulane lost to LSU that season. Tigers fans naturally lorded that over the Green Wave, in spite of their success in Memphis.

At the time, Tulane played football as an Independent. They were members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) from 1932-1965. The school joined Conference USA (C-USA) in 1996. They left C-USA in 2014 and are now members of The American Conference.


Flixible buses ended the Canal streetcar line

Flixible buses ended the Canal streetcar line

Flixible buses that ended the Canal Streetcar.

flixible buses

Flixible buses

Aaron Handy III posted this photo a while back:

“Inbound NOPSI Flxible New Look 194, assigned to Canal-Cemeteries, and a piggybacking colleague, both of the 1964 F2D6V-401-1 fleet (194 was next-to-last of the batch), waits at the corner of Canal and Carondelet Streets. May 1975.”

Those green buses are how NOPSI convinced transit riders to give up on the Canal Streetcar. In the late 1950s/early 60s, to get to downtown from Lakeview, you rode the West End bus to City Park Avenue. From there, you transferred to the Canal Streetcar. Hot or cold, rain or shine, you had to switch. In 1962-1963, NOPSI pitched the city and the public with running air-conditioned buses on West End and Canal Blvd. The commuter could board a bus near home and ride in a/c until their downtown stop. No transfer in Mid-City. No sweaty, crowded streetcar. Men in suits and women in stockings arrived ready for work. While there were activists in May of 1964 who tried to stop the conversion, they were way too late to the game. The city approved the plan, most of the ridership agreed, and all the activists could do was sacrifice the Canal line to save St. Charles (their primary goal anyway).

Going home from school

As stated in Aaron’s caption, the 1964 Flixibles were still operating in 1975. That’s when I was at Brother Martin High, 1971-1976. One of the options for getting home was connecting with the Canal Street lines. NOPSI offered the choice of taking the Carrollton line to Canal Street. The other choice was the Broad line to Canal. So, from Broad and Canal or Carrollton and Canal (next to the Manuel’s Hot Tamales stand), we connected outbound.

NOPSI operated three Canal Street lines at the time:

  • Cemeteries, which terminated at City Park Avenue.
  • Lake Vista (via Canal Blvd), which went up Canal Blvd, along Lakeshore Drive, and terminated at Spanish Fort.
  • Lakeshore (via Pontchartrain Blvd), which went up West End Blvd outbound, returning via Pontchartrain Blvd, inbound.

We chose any of the three, since they all passed the connecting corners.