Crenshaw Women's Center
Update: On February 2, 2022, the Los Angeles City Council voted in support of January 18, Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee amendments that changed the scope of this Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination for the Crenshaw Women's Center to a "site of" commemoration only, removing the historic building from the scope of the designation.
PLUM and the council office chose to accept the property owner's assessment that the building was not historic rather than accept the Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) recommendation, the analysis provided by City Planning staff in the Office of Historic Resources, and findings presented with SurveyLA.
The Conservancy spoke in opposition to this action as we believe such actions and amendments set a dangerous precedent for historic preservation in Los Angeles, by diminishing the value and role of culturally-significant historic places. This action represents a loss to a site representative of women's and LGBTQ+ heritage.
The Crenshaw Women’s Center was the first women’s center in Los Angeles and was a ground-breaking facility serving women in a variety of capacities. It housed the nation’s first women’s clinic, Women’s Self-Help One, and was the site of The Great Yogurt Conspiracy.
In three action-packed years, the Crenshaw Women’s Center generated an enormous amount of energy, pivotal change, and several firsts for the Women’s Rights Movement and second-wave feminism in Los Angeles and the nation.
A Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) application was prepared and submitted to the city of Los Angeles by Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney.
From 1970-1972, the Crenshaw Women’s Center was the brick-and-mortar heart of the second wave feminist movement in Los Angeles. It functioned as a safe space for nurturing the autonomy of women and organizing for the second wave of feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement. Founded by Joan Robins, The Crenshaw Women’s Center at its core provided psychological, job, abortion, and rape counseling; consciousness raising “rap” sessions; women’s liberation classes; a volunteer switchboard; and small bookstore.
The Lesbian Feminists operated out of the Crenshaw Women’s Center. They facilitated dialogue between straight and lesbian feminists. The act of straight and lesbian feminists working together was extremely profound at the time and it led to the National Organization for Woman changing their platform to include lesbians.
The Anti-Rape Squad was founded by Joan Robins at the Crenshaw Woman’s Center. They used guerilla activist tactics to change attitudes and law about rape. A rape hotline was run out of the Center and women from the Anti-Rape Squad would accompany women to the police station.
Women’s Self-Help One clinic was the first in the nation and consequently placed the Crenshaw Women’s Center at the genesis point of the women’s self-help movement. Founded by Carol Downer and Lorraine Rothman, the clinic became a model for the national movement. In 1972, the Center was raided by police. Ms. Downer had applied yogurt as a cure for a yeast infection and was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. She was acquitted and the platform and publicity of The Great Yogurt Conspiracy raised the consciousness of the nation and helped make woman’s clinics a national movement.
The Crenshaw Women’s Center is a significant and pioneering venue for lesbian education and empowerment, and as a rare example of institutional development associated with the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles.
The Crenshaw Women's Center is currently threatened with demolition as part of a proposed redevelopment project at the site.
Here’s what you can do now:
Contact Council District 10 where this building and proposed project is located. Email Chief of Staff Karly Katona at firstname.lastname@example.org, and share your concern about their actions and decision to limit preservation of the Crenshaw Women's Center to a "site of" commemoration only.