This Women’s History month, we wanted to introduce you to some lesser-known women in history: the Women of Sexual Wellness History. First up, Dell Williams!
While you may not have heard of her, Dell Williams is one of the reasons shops like Nox exist. A successful advertising executive in her early 50s and recently divorced, Dell met Betty Dodson (more on Betty soon) at a yoga retreat. She was inspired to attend one of Betty's Body/Sex Workshops in order to take her sexuality into her own hands. As she would later put it in her memoir Revolution in the Garden, Dell put it plainly: "Women had the vote, but we still didn't have orgasms."
Newly inspired and more comfortable in a brightly lit department store than a seedy ‘adult’ shop, she marched over to her local Macy’s in search of the Hitachi Magic Wand that Dodson had been praising. In an all-too-relatable ordeal, Dell experienced a humiliating encounter with a nosy and demeaning salesman that left her mortified. Sure that there had to be a better way for women to get their hands on the limited vibrators available at the time, she founded the revolutionary Eve’s Garden in New York in 1974.
Widely described as the very first sex shop for women, Eve's Garden got started at Dell William’s kitchen table as a mail order catalog offering women vibrators and books to encourage sexual freedom, all mailed discreetly to their homes. (Sound familiar?) In her own words, Dell's goal was to help women 'define, explore and celebrate' their sexuality, with a revolutionary focus on their comfort.
A print ad for Eve's Garden from Ms. magazine
As its popularity grew, Dell left her highly lucrative advertising career to take Eve’s Garden out of her home and into a storefront, marketing the shop as a "feminist sexuality boutique and mail order catalog created by women for women and their partners." Inspired by feminist bookstores, health food stores and other retail spaces operated by women, Eve’s Garden became a space where women could openly discuss and learn about their sexuality in a safe, but public space.
While a woman in her 50s may not seem like the likeliest candidate for the pioneer of a sexual revolution, Dell was in the midst of a powerful sexual awakening that ultimately led her to her calling with Eve's Garden. She spent the next forty years promoting women’s rights, sexual freedom and the female orgasm before passing away in 2013, 92 years young. Dell Williams was a revolutionary who graciously opened the door for all the stores that would follow, from Babeland and Good Vibrations to our very own Nox.
So, let’s raise a glass (or a vibrator) in honour of Dell Williams, a Woman of Sexual Wellness History!