The Grace Dodge Hotel in Washington DC was created to become a haven for women workers during World War I. Although the construction of the seven story building was not completed until after the war, in 1921, the hotel was a strongly woman-only space, even if for only a brief part of its history. Nevertheless, it is no surprise that Margaret Sanger chose to stay here overnight on January 3, 1926.
The Grace Dodge Hotel has an interesting and unique history rooted deeply in women and politics. The owner of the hotel, Grace Hoadley Dodge, was a wealthy philanthropist and president of the YWCA.
In fact, the hotel was run by the YWCA for many years. Dodge committed much of her time and money toward helping employed women. It follows that the hotel, located at North Capitol and E Streets, NW, was targeted toward business women, workers, and tourists. It also accommodated mothers traveling with their young children, offering suites with cribs and “sanitary appliances for heating the milk bottle in a hurry”.
In honor of the grand opening of the hotel, Grace Coolidge, wife of president Calvin Coolidge, visited the Grace Dodge Hotel in October 1921. While there, she remarked on its special ability for holding women’s conventions and its homey atmosphere. The Washington Post commented further that even the layout of the hotel supported strong female discourse,“There’s a parlor on every bedroom floor, where women may hold conclaves undisturbed by any blundering male, for men are absolutely taboo above the street floor”.
The price to stay at the Grace Dodge Hotel ranged from $1.50 to $4.00 per night in 1921, which with inflation is about $20 to $53 today. The Grace Dodge held some historically unusual and progressive rules. The staff was originally exclusively women. Tips were strictly against the hotel’s policies since the staff was paid a fair wage and did not board or take free meals. There was also a ban on the sale of tobacco products in the hotel.
By the time Margaret Sanger stayed here, the Grace Dodge had already been accepting male guests for nearly two years. While she was in DC, Sanger gave a speech at the Baltimore Open Forum, a weekly open forum on topics related to politics, art, and current issues that boasted many other prominent speakers, including W.E.B. Du Bois.
During her speech, Sanger argued that birth control could be a means to avert infantile deaths, and that “Birth Control does not mean no children. It means bringing into the world only such children as are wanted by healthy parents”.
Although the uniquely progressive aspects of the hotel diminished with time, The Grace Dodge Hotel, later shortened to The Dodge Hotel, remained open until its demolition in 1972.
For more information on the Grace Dodge Hotel, visit:
To read Sanger’s full speech at the Baltimore Open Forum, click here.