When thinking about what to write I was listening to the well known Santana hit. But in my mind it soon became the title of this post. Actually, I don’t have a pipe smoking woman. My girlfriend Ellen tolerates me puffing away indoors but that’s it. However, I do like women who smoke the noble briar (or meerschaum, or clay, or morta etc. You know what I mean).
So yes, there are women pipe smokers, but they are rare. Hell, people look strange when I walk the streets puffing away. Imagine how they would look when a woman walked in my place. For me it demonstrates an independent mind, thoughtfulness and an excellent “I do what I want and I don’t care” attitude when a woman smokes a pipe. Lots of respect for them. Nowadays we men are sometimes having a difficult time but a pipe smoking woman really has to swim against the tide. But that was not always the case..
Female smoking was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Respectable, upper class women were commonly seen smoking pipes in public. Many famous paintings exist of noble women in that period puffing away from a clay pipe. The middle classes were also eager to enjoy this new pastime as well.
So Dutch, French and English women all enjoyed the so called “Indian Weed”. Of course in the then fashionable clay pipes which for centuries were the favourite way of enjoying tobacco. Such pipes were usually white, with small bowls and long stems. An elegant pipe for elegant women. Sadly around the 1850’s (when pipe smoking in general became associated with the working class) female smoking began to decline, at least in public. The acceptance of female smokers seemed to vary between regions at this time. Especially in Victorian England with its puritan views female pipe smoking was not done. But it is believed that many women kept their old habits. It is more than likely it was done in secret while they outwardly treated the act as a disgrace..
However, in rural areas such as the Highlands of Scotland and in Ireland women smoked without shame. Women in the Hebrides smoked well into the 1930’s due to the cultural isolation just as Appalachian women in the USA did. They did not know better because they lived in societies without contact with urban centres.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s women pipe smoking was promoted as can be seen in this short film. Also pipes were made especially for women, see the picture on the left. But it never took off. Cigarettes and an occasional small cigar became the choice for smoking women. This while I believe the pipe to be a feminine object. The smoothness, the fine curves.. It is probably more feminine and civilized than the mini penis represented by cigarettes or the phallic cigar.
There are (of course) also women pipe makers. From which Anne Julie and Manduela are the most well known. And recently I received some information that German tobacco manufacturer Planta has a female master blender! Talking about tobacco, Samuel Gawith made a flake especially for women: Firedance Flake.
On the Dutch pipe smokers forum we have one active pipe smoking woman: Monique. She is a strong, independent and creative woman (a gold and silver-smith). Despite setbacks in her life she keeps on going with a fierce determination. I asked her some questions:
How long do you smoke pipe?
Almost a year and before that I smoked little cigars for years.
How did you began smoking the pipe and did you have pipe smoking examples/inspirations?
I began because of my son Floris (forum nickname Godewinus). He showed me the videoclips (fellow forum-member) Janneman made. I was instantly fascinated, I tried it immediately and got touched by the beautiful briar pieces of art and wonderful tobaccos! Besides that it was delicious and it gave me some kind of peace. Making time to enjoy a nice tobacco. Also because for centuries tobacco is consumed this way. Since then a beautiful world opened up for me. I can even combine it with my passion as a gold and silver-smith.
What are your favourite pipe shapes?
That is a very broad interest. I am being touched by “out of the box” designs. Like those of Roger Wallenstein and Elie. For me it is a feeling of holding the pipe, touching it and seeing it. Of course it also appeals to me if a pipe has nice silver-work. I guess some kind of a ladies blingbling thing hehehe. Because of that I also like Italian pipes like Ser Jacopo. They have the great Leonardo pipe with a double-walled bowl and the Picta series containing wonderful silver-work. The same goes for L’ Anatra.
I also went on my own to the Inter-Tabac fair in Dortmund, Germany, to look at all the pipes, tobaccos and silver-work. Very inspiring! I talked to Poul Winslow and got a tin Winslow 2 from him. I had a great day over there!
What are your favourite tobaccos?
- DTM Memories of Tuscany
- Peterson Holiday Season 2011 and 2012
- Winslow 1 and 2
- Winslow Harlekin
- W.O. Larsen Classic
- W.O. Larsen Golden Dream
- W.O. Larsen Indigo
Do you get a lot of comments when smoking in your direct environment or on the streets?
Oh yes! A lot and with lots of disbelief! Many people do not understand that you smoke pipe being a woman. But after a while it gets normal. And besides, I really don’t care. Strange looks, important? Not!
I don’t really smoke on the streets. I smoke in company, at home or on meetings. But still at meetings people look strange to me. The “out of the box” thinkers understand it.
Also I am not a girly-girl. I used to climb in trees and did not play with dolls. I have got more male friends then female friends and I prefer working with men. Women often have a terrible tendency to nag and whine.. So I think that the more “though” woman dares to smoke pipe. The Dutch forum is absolutely really nice and gives me beautiful friendships and lots of inspiration.
So to all the women out there I would like to use the words of Monique: Think out of the box.