What Was Heterodoxy?

A 1910s-1930s Group for Unorthodox Feminists

Artists in Macdougall Alley, Greenwich Village: print, 1910
Artists in Macdougall Alley, Greenwich Village: print, 1910. GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The Heterodoxy club of New York City was a group of women who met on alternate Saturdays in Greenwich Village, New York, beginning in the 1910s, to debate and question various forms of orthodoxy, and to find other women with a similar interest.

What Was Heterodoxy?

The organization was called Heterodoxy in recognition that the women involved were unorthodox, and questioned forms of orthodoxy in culture, in politics, in philosophy—and in sexuality.

  Although not all members were lesbians, the group was a haven for those members who were lesbians or bisexual.

Membership rules were few: Requirements included an interest in women’s issues, producing work that was “creative," and secrecy about what went on in the meetings. The group continued into the 1940s.

The group was consciously more radical than other women’s organizations of the time, particularly women’s clubs. 

Who Founded Heterodoxy?

The group was founded in 1912 by Marie Jenney Howe. Howe had been trained as a Unitarian minister, though she was not working as a minister.

Notable Heterodoxy Club Members

Some members became involved in the more radical wing of the suffrage movement and were arrested in White House protests in 1917 and 1918 and jailed at Occoquan workhouse. Doris Stevens, a participant in both Heterodoxy and the suffrage protests, wrote of her experience.  Paula Jacobi, Alice Kimball, and Alice Turnball were also among those protestors who had connections with Heterodoxy.

Other notable participants in the organization included:

  • Doris Stevens
  • Rose Pastor Stokes
  • Margaret Widdemer

Speakers at group meetings, who were not members of Heterodoxy, included: