Lucy Komisar

Lucy Komisar has been a resident of Greenwich Village for decades. Having grown up in the Bronx and Long Island, she then moved to Manhattan when she was a student at Queens College. She became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and briefly lived in Mississippi while she served as editor of the Mississippi Free Press.

This piqued her interest to work as a journalist, through which she has covered various political issues throughout her career, from the now-famous Mattachine Society Sip-In at Julius’ Bar, to movements to overturn repressive governments in countries throughout the world, to financial corruption within New York City and abroad. She is the author of books on the feminist movement, the history of American welfare, and former president of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino. On her website, The Komisar Scoop, she publishes work that exposes corporate crime and corruption, as well as theater, art, and travel.

Komisar was also a national vice president of the National Organization for Women in 1970–71. In this role, she was instrumental in getting the federal government to add women to employment affirmative action goals and timetables that resulted in new requirements for the Federal Communications Commission to hire women in jobs related to radio and television. She also testified in support of a New York City law to outlaw the exclusion of women from men-only establishments. On the day the law when into effect, Komisar entered McSorley’s Old Ale House, and––after some dispute and commotion––was its first woman customer under the city’s new regulations to be served a beer.

Transcript of Audio Clip:

“My name is Lucy Komisar. I’m a freelance journalist. I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Long Island, then moved to Manhattan while I was still in college. Very quickly, after a little bit of time on the Upper West Side, I moved to Greenwich Village, where I have been ever since, for decades.” 

“Well, this was about ’69, ’70 — I testified before the New York City Council on a bill that was sponsored by Greenwich Village councilwoman, Carol Greitzer, to end discrimination against women in bars and restaurants. There were bars and restaurants that were men-only, including those that pretended to be private clubs.

“Then one day — it was August 10, 1970 — Grace Lichtenstein of the New York Times, who I knew because she was a fellow journalist, she phoned me and said, ‘Is anyone from NOW going to McSorley’s?’ It was a famously male-only bar in the East Village, ironically owned by a woman. This was the day that the public accommodations law went into effect. I told Grace, ‘The NOW women are at the Statue of Liberty for a demonstration supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, and I stayed home because I have to work on an article.’ She said, ‘Lucy! I have to write a story!’

“As a favor, I agreed to meet her at four o’clock for a beer at McSorley’s. She was not there at the appointed time. I had to push myself in against a bartender holding the door shut. I was stronger. One of the patrons came over to hassle me. He tipped over his beer mug and spilled some brew on the front of my purple jumpsuit. I still have it as an historic memento. I think it belongs in the Smithsonian. To deflect him, I grabbed his glasses and threw them across the room. He bolted for the specs, and the incident was over …

“Now, Grace arrived sometime later with her photographer, and I left not long after that. There were no other reporters. The photo got around, and the next day the New York Daily News had an editorial page cartoon of the Statue of Liberty wearing my jumpsuit. I filed a legal complaint against the bartender who tried to prevent my entrance, which was by then now a violation. At court I settled for his $500 contribution to the NOW Legal Defense Fund. End of story.” 

Full Oral History

The full transcript of this audio begins on page 8 of the Oral History Document found here.