[Image via GVSHP]
Barbara Shaum, the legendary local shop owner who also happened to be the first woman officially admitted into McSorley's in 1970, died last Sept. 17. She was 86.
In 1962, she opened her first handmade sandal and leather goods shop on East Seventh Street two doors down from McSorley's. She lived in an apartment behind the shop. In 1985, the landlord sold her building, and she eventually found a new workshop-storefront at 60 E. Fourth St. between Second Avenue and the Bowery, where she worked until shortly before her death.
The shop had remained open off and on until Monday, when it was cleaned out...
[Photo by Derek Berg]
We're told that while she had various apprentices through the years, she didn't leave any instructions about a business-continuity plan upon her death.
As for her well-documented entry into McSorley's, here's a feature on Shaum from The New York Times in January 2015:
At the time, Daniel O’Connell-Kirwan, the manager of McSorley’s, invited Ms. Shaum to be the first woman through its doors.
“Danny called me and said, ‘Barbara, would you come over and be the first one in?’ ” she recalled. “I said, ‘Well you got Sara on the other side,’ ” referring to another local shopkeeper, Sara Penn.
And so it was that she, and then Ms. Penn, became the first women let into McSorley’s. “I put on a big straw hat, and I walked in on Danny’s arm,” she said. “It was a big milestone.”
According to her obituary, the press attention about McSorley's troubled her. (Never mind that she said she’d been going there after hours for years.)
She wanted to be known for her own principles, for her impassioned stands on equal pay for women, on affordable rents for small businesses. She was an activist. Encouraged by Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander, she and other Lower East Side small business people of that era struggled hard against rising rents, nevertheless losing ground year by year.
Upon naming her a Village Award recipient last year, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation wrote:
Barbara Shaum has contributed to the quality of life in the East Village through her creativity and her determination to keep her small business alive and thriving for more than half a century...
Here is a short film from 2005 about Shaum and her shop...