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 May 28, 2018
Main Stem Femme (a Broadway girl)

Syndicated newspaper columnist Walter Winchell (1897-1972) introduced the term “main stem femme” in Life magazine on June 4, 1928, in an article titled “Along the Main Stem.” “Main stem” was a popular nickname for Broadway, and a “main stem femme” was a woman who either worked on Broadway or enjoyed going to Broadway shows.

The term “main stem femme” was rarely used after 1940 and is of historical interest today.

“Main Stemmer” is a similar term, describing either sex.


Google Books
4 June 1928, Life (New York, NY), “Along the Main Stem” by Walter Winchell, pg. 11, col. 1:
The latest crop of shows has been so bad that most of us are finally getting some exercise by walking out on them, and when a Main Stem femme tells you that she has a “V. C.” for a guy she doesn’t mean “Vice-Consul” or “Victoria Cross” but a Violent Crush for him.

22 July 1928, New York (NY) Times, “‘Show Girl’ and Other Recent Works of Fiction,” Book Review, pg. 6, col. 1:
HERE is a summer open sesame to that most mysterious and tenuous of all terrains, that land of what Walter Winchell calls the moom picher and the main stem femme. “Show Girl” takes you to Broadway, which is not a street, but emphatically a state of mind.

14 April 1930, Scranton (PA) Republican, “On Broadway” by Walter Winchell, pg. 9, col. 2:
And definitions of a Main Stem Femme: “When she has a lotta coin she plays the market. When she has a little dough she plays the ponies. When she’s broke she plays the men.”

23 July 1933, Minneapolis (MN) Sunday Tribune, “Highlights of Broadway: From the Circle to the Square” by Jack Lait, magazine sec., pg. 10, col. 1:
“INDISCREET GIRL”
Illustration from Bernard Sobel’s New Stage-girl Novel of That Title, (...) and So Makes and Intriguing Story of a Main Stem Femme.

24 August 1975, Springfield (MA) Sunday Republican, “A Gloozzery of Wword Wwedings” *Walter Winchell glossary—ed.), pg. IT14, col. 5:
Main Stem Femmes...Broadway girls

30 August 1984, New York (NY) Times, “The Magic Is Faded, but the Ghosts of Broadway Past Still Haunt Times Sq.” by Martin Gottlieb, pg. B1, col. 3
Final curtains had come down hours before on the musicals that were transforming popular American theater, on the plays turned out regularly by Eugene O’Neill and Maxwell Anderson, and on the vaudeville reviews featuring Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and an array of what Winchell labeled Main Stem Femmes.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Monday, May 28, 2018 • Permalink