A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 30, 2004
Bag Lady
Lily Tomlin got the character of the "bag lady" exactly right. Her performance should be available on video somewhere.

The Historical Dictionary of American Slang has: "Orig. N.Y.C. a homeless woman who carries her belongings in bags, typically paper shopping bags. Now colloq."

(Oxford English Dictionary)
bag lady orig. U.S., a homeless woman, often elderly, who carries her possessions in shopping bags; = shopping-bag lady s.v. SHOPPING vbl. n. 2.
1972 S. R. CURTIN Nobody ever died of Old Age vi. 85 Letty the *Bag Lady..would pack all her valuables in two large shopping bags and carry them with her.

20 January 1973, Washington Post, pg. 32:
These old women are called bad ladies because they never leave their rooms for a minute without putting all their possessions in a couple of large paper shopping bags to carry along wherever they go.
(Review of Nobody Ever Dies of Old Age by Sharon R. Curtin - ed.)

16 December 1976, New York (NY) Times, pg. 44:
About New York
Sidewalk World if the Shopping-Bag Women

(Library catalog record)
Title: Shopping bag women of Manhattan /
Author(s): Hand, Jennifer.
Publication: [New York, N.Y. : s.n.],
Year: 1982
Description: v, 173 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Descriptor: Homeless women -- New York (State) -- New York.
Note(s): Typescript./ Includes bibliographical references (leaves 168-173)./ Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--New School for Social Research, 1982./ Reproduction: Photocopy./ Ann Arbor, Mich. :/ University Microfilms International,/ 1985./ 23 cm.
Responsibility: by Jennifer Hand.
Material Type: Thesis/dissertation (deg)
Document Type: Book
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Thursday, September 30, 2004 • Permalink