Ladies who Lunch: A Potted History

Ladies Lunch form a crucial role in our annual calendar of seasonal events at each of our hotels, so we thought we’d dive into the history …

‘Ladies who lunch’, the whimsical term used to describe affluent, well-dressed women often married to successful businessmen. These ladies would gather for luncheons at upscale restaurants or social clubs usually during the working week.

The term rose in popularity across the 1950s-70s as John Fairchild published it in Women’s Wear Daily magazine and Merle Rubine introduced it in New York magazine. The social tradition reflected the shift in women’s roles and increasing financial independence whilst epitomising a glamorous and leisurely lifestyle.

‘Ladies who lunch’ was a song title in Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical ‘Company’ where the actresses portrayed rich, cynical women which branded the term with negative connotations. Historically, ‘ladies who lunch’ were widely perceived as socialites that lacked substance as they filled their time with frivolous activities like shopping and parties. Their lunches were also used to hold charity events for fundraising and networking; however, this was typically understood as a façade for attempts to boost one’s societal status.

Sondheim’s song was recently revived in a lockdown video call between actresses Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra MacDonald who sung it as a nod to their on-screen diva personas.

Today, the meaning of ladies who lunch has been reclaimed and uplifted into a more inclusive symbol of empowerment, camaraderie, and friendship. The term encompasses not only the wealthy elite but also working women and friends who gather to relax and socialise, regardless of status. Whether it’s afternoon tea, cocktails or sandwiches and a chinwag, women are welcomed to enjoy leisurely time with their loved ones. Fundraising is still be involved occasionally, however now regarded with earnest significance for good causes.

At Elite Hotels, we hold regular Ladies Luncheons across all of our venues where prosecco, a three-course meal followed by petit fours and live entertainment is provided for your enjoyment.

We bring in live speakers such as Brenda Barratt who will be giving a talk at Ashdown Park Hotel’s mid-July luncheon. We are also hosting a Christmas floral workshop with a florist from Buds That Bloom at our Festive Ladies Luncheon at The Grand Hotel in late November. Occasionally guests are encouraged to attend, for example our Autumn Ladies Luncheon at Ashdown Park Hotel is open to partners.

We are delighted to invite you to come along to our events and raise your glass with us to the Ladies who Lunch!