Ladies withdrawing after dinner leaving gents to their port and cigars

When did this custom die out? Just seen it in a 1929 American movie (The Lost Zeppelin) and I’ve seen it in many early US and British movies, right up to the 40s and even 50s. So when did it finally give up the ghost? Or is it still practised in some quarters?

This was only ever common practice among a small sliver of the population. But that practice mostly died out in the 1920s.

Depends on exactly what you mean by “custom”. If you mean the women literally going into a different room while the men drink and smoke cigars, I’m sure that died out long ago, even in the social class that followed the custom. On the other hand, if you are simply referring to men and women engaging in separate activities/conversations after dinner, I’m sure that goes on today - just come to my house on Thanksgiving and see all the men in the living room watching football while the women are in the dining room talking.

My understanding is that practice was in large part instituted to allow the women to use the toilet after dinner without throwing it in the faces of the male company that women did that sort of dirty, dirty thing.

Alan Hollinghurst’s ‘The Line of Beauty’ has it happening in London in 1983, at a formal dinner party in the home of a Conservative MP.

This. I don’t remember Ralph and Ed retiring to drink port while Alice and Trixie went elsewhere :wink:

I’m sure the real reason we “withdrew” was because of the stink and not because we were meekly following their mandate to do so, although I’m also sure that we appeased their egos by allowing them that fantasy.

There’s a couple of movie scenes where this happens:

In Giant, Liz Taylor insists on staying when the ladies excuse themselves, which causes no end of embarrassed silence among Rock Hudson’s friends. (Unless, knowing Rock, they had something else planned besides cigars…)

In the movie Gung Ho, which is set in the NINETEEN Eighties, the Japanese wives excuse themselves after dinner, so their husbands can talk business about car production. This upsets Michael Keaton’s American wife as well it should.

I don’t know, was this old custom a thing in Japan?
On a separate note, perhaps this custom explains why women are always going in groups to the ladies’ room.

Today we go out on the patio to burn one and down a few beers while the girls do the dishes. How is that any different.

According to an episode of The Supersizers…. in 17th century England urinals were placed in the dinning room for the convenience of male guests after dinner, hence why ladies would withdraw to another room after the meal.

Another one would be Titanic, though it’s the opposite of the OP. After dinner in the first-class dining room, it’s the men who withdraw for port and cigars. Jack is invited to join them, but declines, and goes back to the third class part of the ship.

If you stretch the OP’s description of after dinner events just a tad, that would describe my family’s routine on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year, ca. 1950-1970.

I’d imagine slight variations of the practice exist all over the place, though less formally. When my wife and I have friends over for drinks and dinner it’s mostly the women she went to grad school with and their husbands. Since they’re all working in similar fields, after dinner they tend to congregate together to talk about work, what’s going on in the lives of the professors they still keep in touch with, news relevant to their fields, etc. The guys sit around and basically talk about whatever interesting things they’ve seen or done recently.

In the old houses I’ve seen, there was a library and a pool room on the ‘male’ side of the house. This suggests to me that the practice of having rich men stay in the dining room, as seen in the movies, was something shown in the movies. To avoid having to follow the men into the library or to the pool table.

Also, the ‘library’ didn’t have more than a book or too. It’s just what the room was called where the men gathered to have port and cigars after a meal. And the cigars offer part of the explanation for why the women were somewhere else.

The traditional formal-dinner custom of ladies withdrawing to the drawing-room while the men stayed on (or moved elsewhere) for port and cigars, before “joining the ladies”, is still considered usual although not mandatory practice in Amy Vanderbilt’s Etiquette as of 1957:

To the best of my knowledge, this custom is extinct today, although according to this book review, it was not yet totally extinct (or at least it was considered plausible in realistic fiction to present it as not quite extinct) in Washington social life in 1977:

Same here. When the extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) would get together for holiday dinner at my grandparents’ house, after dinner the men and children would go for a walk while the women would clear the table and wash the dishes.

This was completely unfair of course but i don’t recall anyone questioning it, at least not in front of us kids. Whether there were private discussions or arguments I can’t say although I know that society as a whole was certainly beginning to discuss such things.

What I recall is that in any family event in the 40s and 50s, whether a seder, wedding dinner, bar mitzvah, or even sitting shiva, it always ended up with the men going off to play pinochle and the women washing up and then having a yakfest.

“and then”? Women in your family can’t yak while cleaning?

…and there are hundreds of 19th century (European) novels where this happens, at least. As noted above, they represent a very specific social class.

I’m 63 and I can remember in my 20’s and 30’s being invited to parties where all the guys and gals would gather in separate rooms. I hated it. I always had more fun with a mixed crowd.