Women’s Week in Provincetown
In 1984, a few of women innkeepers in Provincetown, Massachusetts got together to find how to entice summer guests back during the seaside town’s offseason. Back then there was no email and social media so they wrote letters to the people who had stayed with them in the past and invited them to return to Ptown during the autumn months and especially to a clambake weekend. This was “Women’s Weekend,” and over the next thirty years it has continued and even was responsible for other lesbian gatherings in Provincetown. Ultimately, “Women’s Weekend” became one of the most popular lesbian events in the world.
Andrea Meyerson’s “Clambake” is a new documentary that is about that very weekend and how it made Provincetown into the lesbian destination that it has become. Meyerson chronicles the history of Women’s Weekend using archival footage and archives, interviews with celebrities and founders, and current events and performances and she gives is a fascinating and often funny look at what is possible when a few people with innovative ideas try something new. Actually the event is two years older now since the film was made in 2014. Women’s Weekend has become one of the oldest noncommercial women’s event in the United States. Even more important than that is the fact that Ptown offers a safe and very welcoming environment for women to come together and enjoy each other’s company. I doubt that at that first meeting anyone could have imagined what this would become.
There is something magical about Provincetown and it has its own sense of history in that it is where the Pilgrims landed when they came to America before they went to Plymouth. In its early days, Ptown was a Portuguese fishing community. Artist began to movie there and they began the unique artist’s colony that exists there still today. Not long after that gay people began coming to Provincetown and they made the town into one of the very popular tourist destinations and as many at sixty thousand people come there during the summer months. What makes the town so special is that everyone can be themselves and all are welcomed.
In the film, director Meyerson speaks to many of the original women innkeepers who are responsible for the first Women’s Weekend and we learn that they were worried that no one would come. In actuality there were some 200 women who came to that first weekend and they almost ran out of food. Listening to these interviews, we sense the passion they share as innkeepers. We also learn that they are not afraid of work and many hold other jobs in addition to running beds and breakfasts.
One of the things I noticed on my first trip to Provincetown is the wonderful sense of camaraderie that exists there and the respect that each person has for the other. We do not have many places like Ptown in the United States and that is what makes it so special. Many of the very same women who organized this event are also those who worked so hard when the AIDS epidemic hit this country. In Ptown they mobilized to help in any way they could and this was so very painful especially when AIDS devastated the gay community that was there.
The female performers that go to Provincetown never hesitate to sing the town’s praises and they love to perform in front of the large crowds that gather to see them. Above all else, Meyerson has shows us the joy that abounds in the town and the wonderful sense of community that exists there. Women’s Weekend has become so popular that now there is an almost hundred page guide to the events that take place during that time. One of the highlights of my life is my first visit to Provincetown and this movie shows us why those who come to Ptown come back again and again.