NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - You've heard the term 'ladies who lunch'? 150 years ago in America, women couldn't eat in restaurants on their own, until one New York institution let them in. Consider it the first all-female power lunch and it happened in the 1860's.
Valerie Paley, Chief Historian of the New York Historical Society and the Director of the NYHS Center for the Study of Women's History (set to open in 2017) calls New York a city of opportunity. And says a lot of firsts having to do with women's history happened right here.
One of those firsts, is being celebrated this month, at Delmonico's in Manhattan's Financial District. It was the first restaurant in American to serve women, independent of men, in April of 1868.
Paley says in the 1860's, women couldn't be out and about unchaperoned. Those who were unchaperoned were thought to be prostitutes, because Paley says, they generally were. She says it was groundbreaking for Delmonico's to open a separate room for women to dine alone.
Carin Sarafian, Sales & Marketing Director for Delmonico's Restaurant Group, says it all started because women were refused the right to attend an all-male press club lunch.
Charles Dickens was being honored at that lunch and women wanted to go. The organizer of the club was a woman, and Sarafian says, she approached Delmonico's to ask if they would host a separate luncheon just for women. That was April 20th, 1868.
148 years later, Delmonico's is serving the same dishes it offered that day and on menus throughout the 1800;s: Sea Trout with a pickled cucumber salad on top and roasted asparagus with hollandaise and shaved black truffle.
Today Delmonico's considers itself a lunch and dinnertime destination for a host of powerful women.
Sarafian says Jodie Foster dined with them several times while directing a movie in town. Amy Schumer was also in recently.
Whoopi Goldberg dined at Delmonico's and did a piece on the restaurant on The View.
Sarafian says Delmonico's has also played home to a long list of firsts. It was the first restaurant in America, opening in 1837. It's the first restaurant to have table cloths, a wine list, and a menu. It's also the birthplace of several American classics: Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, and of course, the Delmonico's steak.
They even have the very first cookbook ever created. Eating at Delmonico's is practically like dining in a museum.
There's another incredible upcoming first for women, at the New York Historical Society. Valerie Paley, featured in this story is the head of their new Center for the Study of Women's History, the first of its kind in the country, set to open in March of 2017.