It may be an uncommon sight but there have always been a diverse variety of women who have indulged in the finer pleasure of enjoying a good cigar.
It may be an uncommon sight but there have always been a diverse variety of women who have indulged in the finer pleasure of enjoying a good cigar. This has been true through the ages and in a variety of cultures throughout the world.
Mayan women, for example, were recorded to have smoked as much tobacco as their male counterparts. In fact, the word cigar derives from the Mayan “sikar” which means, “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves”
Anthropologists have found that the earliest recorded evidence of women smoking a cigar is in fourteenth-century Aztec culture. Midwives and female doctors would commonly smoke tobacco for medicinal and spiritual purposes.
One particular illustration from the period portrays an Aztec woman being handed smoking pipes and flowers before a feast. The Old World would discover dried tobacco when in 1492 the explorer Christopher Columbus was offered some as a gift from the American Indians he encountered.
Sailors would routinely bring tobacco back to Europe and the plant would go on to be grown throughout the continent as its popularity increased. In 1735 a British traveler to Costa Rica named John Cockburn observed, “These gentlemen gave us some seegars (sic)...these are leaves of tobacco rolled up in such a manner that they serve both for a pipe and for tobacco itself. These, the ladies, as well as gentlemen, are very fond of smoking.”
The secret relationship between women and cigars continued through the turn of the century when the writer Rudyard Kipling used the first example of stereotyping men and women with cigars.
In his 1899 short story, “The Betrothed”. Kipling was infamously recorded saying, “A woman is only a woman but a cigar is a smoke.”
Despite the new stereotype women continued to enjoy cigars and many prominent figures of the fairer sex did also. At the Frisky Pom-Pom Club in Hollywood where the burlesque shows were famous, Marlene Dietrich enjoyed smoking cigars while in the audience.
She started smoking cigars in Berlin during the Roaring Twenties. Berlin at that time had many female-only cigar clubs where women enjoyed a good cigar smoke while discussing the changing times.
These clubs were often frequented by those who were considered to live a hedonistic lifestyle and included authors, musicians, painters, and other artists. In the United States where puritan values were still upheld, secret cigar clubs began to spring up in large metropolitan cities.
Generally, the cigar clubs were considered the privilege and property of men which meant women had to smoke in private and rebel against the stereotype. These women recognized that cigar smoking was their right as independent, thoughtful adults.
Today, it is believed that women make up a higher proportion of cigar smokers than initially thought. There is a significant, albeit hidden market that encompasses many women who enjoy cigars.
Women who enjoy cigars are in every part of the world and attend the same cigar clubs, tastings, events, and trade shows that male enthusiasts do. They are equally knowledgeable and know exactly what they want to smoke.
No stereotype can prevent these women from enjoying a wide variety of flavors, strengths, and sizes. Some of these women even run successful cigar shops and clubs. As Lindsay Heller, a New York tobacconist noted, “We are smoking the same size and strength as those marketed to men. As a woman, I find it an insult to be marketed to differently.”