Crenshaw Women’s Center
The first women's center established in Los Angeles, the building was a site of organizing and community building for both straight and lesbian women.
City Council amended the Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination scope to a “site of” commemoration, marginalizing this historic place and paving the way for its demolition. In late 2023 it sustained significant damage due to fire.
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.
Nominated as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) in 2021, City Council chose to accept Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and the Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committee limited scope of the HCM nomination to a “site of” commemoration only. This removed the historic building from the scope of the designation to allow for redevelopment of the property.
In late 2023 it sustained significant damage due to fire.
About This Place
About This Place
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 Conservancy was a vocal opponent to the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee and the CD 10 office’s decision 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 by SurveyLA.
We continued to advocate against the “site of” commemoration for the Crenshaw Women’s Center proposed by PLUM and approved by City Council. We believe removing protections from Historic-Cultural Monuments sets a dangerous precedent for historic preservation in Los Angeles by diminishing the value of culturally-significant historic places and enabling their demolition.