Forrest House was a YWCA-owned Victorian building at 1225 Barrington Street that was turned into a women’s centre in 1977.
Known as “A Woman’s Place” it housed various women’s groups & women only workshops on feminism, assertiveness, sexuality, self-defence, rape counselling, women in politics, math, cars & more.
An undated Woman’s Place leaflet reads: “The new role or fourth dimension portrays woman as a person herself using her abilities in changing the world in contrast to the three dimensional role of woman as wife, mother & housewife, an essentially passive & dependent role in a timeless world.”
Many bisexual, lesbian, and Two-Spirit women felt most comfortable organizing with other women in the feminist movement on issues such as access to abortion, sexual assault, and employment and pay equity.
As lesbian feminist Diann Graham said in Before the Parade “I think there were the lesbian feminists that tended to work with women on the issues the women’s movement was working and there was another whole group of lesbians who saw their allies as gay men. I think both tracks were equally as engaged and involved in the changes we have seen in our lifetime.”
Frightened of being labeled “man-hating feminists”, some 1970s women’s groups distanced themselves from women who loved women. Forrest House was no different.
Bisexual and feminist activist Lynn Murphy sat on several Forrest House committees and remembers being told there was “too much obvious lesbian activity” at Forrest House. The lesbian and bisexual women withdrew their labour, and were eventually asked to come back as they made up a large proportion of the volunteer base.
Several lesbian women went on to work within the house, and became point people for other lesbians or questioning women who came, and the house even hosted a lesbian drop-in.
Forrest House also existed before Halifax had women’s shelters and A Woman’s Place was part of the committee that founded women’s shelter Bryony House. Bryony House exists to this day.
View materials from Forrest House on the Rise Up digital feminist archives here.
Photo credit: Rebecca Rose.
This listing was created by Rebecca Rose on July 4, 2023. Rebecca Rose (she/her) is a Cape Breton-born, and Dartmouth-raised queer femme writer and activist. Rebecca’s book Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Communities (1972-1984) – published by Nimbus Publishing – is a narrative non-fiction account of 1970s and 80s 2SLGB (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual) Halifax. In 2021 Before the Parade was one of three books shortlisted for The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award.