If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: when women come together to support and empower one another, it’s nothing short of magic. The resilient strength of female solidarity has been a beacon of energy and creativity throughout history, transcending the boundaries of space, time, and culture. There has always been something spectacular and sacred about women holding space for themselves. Women’s clubs rose to prominence in the early 1900’s, in the looming shadows of the suffragette’s movement, when many women were craving communities, careers, and connections outside of their homes and attempting to redefine what it meant to be a woman in our society. As we hurtle towards an uncertain future, learning from the past feels more important than ever, which is why it felt like fate when we discovered that one of our favorite hotels, DTLA’s Hotel Figueroa, boasts a rich history deeply rooted in the women’s movement in Los Angeles.
The recently revamped boutique hotel, which has quickly become our go to for everything from poolside events to a low key afternoon cocktail, has a history of serving and supporting women entwined in its DNA: it opened in the heart of DTLA in 1926 as an exclusively women’s hostel. Founded by the YWCA, the hotel was one of the first of its kind to be “operated by and for femininity.” It was a safe haven for female travelers, with the top nine floors reserved exclusively for professional women.
During a time where women were consistently confined to domesticity and constantly reminded that they couldn’t have it all, Hotel Figueroa offered amenities for the modern businesswomen, including a beauty salon, swimming lessons, bridge tables, and weekly musical performances. The women’s rights movement was in full swing, yet equality was heard more in theory than felt in everyday practice, and women were still not allowed equal participation as men in society, in a myriad of small and frustrating ways.
Hotel Figueroa gave women the freedom to live uninhibited lives among other likeminded women, and this paradise of feminine energy attracted professional women from all over the world, turning the coffee shop and salons into diverse and intellectual women’s collectives that produced powerful art and activism alike.
Housing many women who felt fed up with the way the deck seemed stacked against them, the hotel fully embraced its social conscience, holding press conferences and political rallies against sexism, racism, and other social issues. Within the walls of the Hotel Figueroa, progress was possible.
One of the driving factors behind Hotel Figueroa’s iconic reputation was Maude N. Bouldin, the hotel’s first managing director and the only woman in the hotel world claiming that title in 1926 (#badass).
She is described as a charismatic force of nature, a fearless whirlwind of a woman who piloted planes and raced motorbikes against men in her spare time.
She embodied the groundbreaking spirit of Hotel Figueroa, a badass feminist figure who took no shit, believed fiercely in women’s rights, and made it her life’s mission to create and uphold a space that served, protected, and empowered women from all walks of life. She was decades ahead of her time, yet she never let that deter or stop her.
Many years later, Hotel Figueroa underwent a different renaissance of sorts, reopening a few months ago with a stunning Spanish-inspired remodel, yet the legacy lives on with an undeniably warm and welcoming energy mixed with a stylishly timeless feel. Although the hotel is no longer exclusively for women, subtle touches honoring its pioneering history can be found throughout, such as a permanent art collection from predominantly local women artists, including a portrait from painter Alison Van Pelt of the hotel’s patron saint, the imitable Maude N. Bouldin. Done in the painter’s signature dreamy, blurred style, Maude sits astride her beloved motorcycle, watching over the lobby and its inhabitants like a defiant and protective guardian angel.