Happy birthday to Tegan and Sara!!
The twin sisters that make up every lesbian’s favorite indie band turn
The duo’s latest album, Love You To Death, was released in 2016 (x).
Tegan and Sara Quinn were born on
September 19, 1980 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They were both musically inclined
from an early age and began playing guitar at the age of 15. While still in
high school, they formed a band called Plunk and recorded two demo albums using
their school’s recording studio. They won the 1998 Garage Wars competition and
used the reward of studio time to record their first album under the name Sara
and Tegan, which was later changed to the catchier Tegan and Sara. To date, the
sisters have released 3 full length albums and multiple EPs.
Both Tegan and Sara are out
lesbians and have been heavily involved with various LGBT organizations and
rights campaigns throughout the years. In 2013, they won the award for Outstanding
Music Artist at the GLAAD Media Awards and performed at the Toronto Pride festival
a year later. More recently, the two have spoken out against North Carolina’s
HB2, the transgender bathroom bill, and performed at The Orange Peel concert
where proceeds were donated to the Equality North Carolina organization. In
December of 2016, the Tegan and Sara Foundation was created in order to fight
for “economic justice, health and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.”
One of the most iconic actresses
of the 20th century, Greta Garbo, was born on this day in 1905.
Despite her image in the American imagination as the eternally heterosexual
romantic lead and starlet, Greta lived a lonely, closeted life.
Greta Garbo first traveled to the United States at the age of 19 and not two years later she would be one of the most well-known actresses in the country (x).
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born
in the slum of Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden on September 18, 1905. She was
the third and the youngest child born to a working class family – her mother
worked at a jam factory and her father was a janitor. Poverty haunted her
childhood and she is remembered as having been a shy, daydreaming child who was
interested in theater and performance from an early age; a former classmate remembered
a 10-year-old Greta declaring that she wanted to be an actress when she grew up
“because it’s posh.” After leaving school at the age of 13, she began working
as a cleaner girl in a barber shop, but eventually took a job at the PUB
Department Story. It was there where Greta was picked out for her beauty and
chosen to model women’s hats. Modeling gigs turned into commercial gigs, which
eventually lead her to starring in short films.
In 1922, the director Erik Arthur
Petschler spotted one of Greta’s commercials and invited her to star in his
small comedy film Peter the Tramp.
Seeing a real future in acting, she studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s
Acting School for two years before getting shipped off to America on the request of
MGM Vice President Louis B. Mayer. After the studio forced her to straighten
her teeth, lose 30 pounds, and lean English, Greta became a superstar and
starred in over 20 silent films. In 1929, she became one of the few stars who
was able to make the jump over to “talkies” with the film Anna Christie. Over the next decade, she would star in hits such as Grand Hotel, Camille, and Anna Karenina
and would receive three Oscar nominations.
Video footage of Greta arriving at Gothenburg Harbor in 1935 overplayed with words from one of her loves, Mercedes de Acosta.
Closely associated with the line
from Grand Hotel, “I want to be alone; I just want to be alone,” Greta hated
publicity and was a recluse later in life. Many historians have theorized that Greta’s social
anxiety and depression were results of her lesbianism and the pressure placed
on her to hide that part of her life from the world. Actresses Lilyan Tashman, Mercedes de Acosta, and Louise Brooks have all admitted to having sexual
relationships with Greta, but if she had an ultimate love it had to have been
Mimi Pollack. Mimi was a Swedish actress who Greta met during her time at
the Royal Dramatic Theater and the two maintained a close correspondence for
the rest of their lives. The romantic tone of their letters is undeniable;
“’The letter from you has aroused a storm of longing within me,” “’I
dream of seeing you and discovering whether you still care as much about your
old bachelor. I love you, little Mimosa,” “’We cannot help our nature, as God
has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together.”
Mimi’s son was born, Greta even wrote that she was “incredibly proud to be a
Greta’s relationship with Mimi
would not become known to the mainstream public until 2005 with the publication of the
Swedish book Djävla Älskade Unge by Tin Andersen Axell. At the time of Greta’s
death on April 14, 1990, it would be over ten years before the
public who claimed to adore her would know a sliver of who the actress truly
On this day in 1907, the very
first black Native-American woman to break into the world of the fine arts
passed away. Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor and an artist who reached
international fame and mastered the Neoclassical style.
Edmonia surprised many of her colleagues by refusing to take on assistants and completing all of the physically demanding acts of sculpting herself, despite being only four feet tall (x).
Mary Edmonia Lewis was born on
July 4, 1844 in the town of Greenbush, New York. Her father was Afro-Haitian
and her mother was of Mississauga Ojibwe and African-American descent. Together, the family made up part of the small population of freed black families living in America at that time. Her mother was known to be an excellent weaver and artist
in her own right, while her father worked as a servant. Sadly, both of Edmonia’s
parents had passed away by the time she was 9-years-old and both she and her
half-brother went to live with their aunts near Niagara Falls. She eventually enrolled
at New-York Central College, McGrawville in 1856, but left after three years
and ended up studying art at Oberlin College.
After college, Edmonia moved to
Boston and decided to specialize in sculpting after being struck by the beauty of a public statue of Benjamin Franklin. Finding a mentor was difficult at first
because many of the premier sculptors in Boston were not welcoming to a black Native-American
woman entering their field, but once Edward Augustus Brackett agreed to take
Edmonia on as an apprentice, she began working for some of the most famous
abolitionist of the day, such as William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner. In
1866, she made the move to Rome, Italy and opened up her own studio. It was in
Rome where Edmonia’s career was able to flourish; by 1873, she was being paid
up to $50,000 for commissions and was even invited to present at the 1876 Centennial
Exposition in Philadelphia.
Death of Cleopatra, which Edmonia presented at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, caught both the public’s eye and their attention; while Cleopatra had been the subject of many other (white male) sculptors’ works, it was shocking to see a black woman take on the task of depicting one of the most famous black women in history (x).
In Rome, Edmonia was a member of a
circle of fellow expatriate artists, more specifically, of Charlotte Cushman’s
circle of women artists. The majority of the women in Edmonia’s circle were
lesbians, with Charlotte and her partner Emma Stebbins as the head of the pack,
and for this reason, most historians have concluded that Edmonia herself must
have been a woman who loved other women. Her proclivity for “men’s clothing” and
dressing against 19th century gender mores is just further proof that
Edmonia was most likely involved in a LGBT culture of some form or another.
Tragically, after finding a lump in her breast, Edmonia was forced to leave her
friends and what little hub of community she had found in Rome and move to England for medical treatment. She passed away from
Bright’s disease September 17, 1907 and was buried at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic
Cemetery in London.
One of the only woman mountaineers of her day, Freda Du Faur, was born on this day in 1882. Originally from Australia, Freda eventually became the very first woman to climb New Zealand’s tallest point, Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1910.
After completing the climb of Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook, Freda wrote: “ ‘I was the first unmarried woman to climb in New Zealand, and in consequence I received all the hard knocks until one day when I awoke more or less famous in the mountaineering world, after which I could and did do exactly as seemed to me best” (x).
Emmeline Freda Du Faur was born on September 16, 1882 in Croydon, Sydney, New South Wales. Her father was a notable land owner and patron of the arts and Freda, as she was called, was a product of his second marriage to a woman named Blanche Woolley. She attended a girls’ grammar school as a child and was raised with one fate in mind – to become the wife of a wealthy man and mother his children – but, it is speculated that Freda developed a passion for the outdoors and mountaineering while visiting her family who lived close to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Freda enrolled in nursing school for a while, but thanks to an unexpected large inheritance from her aunt, she was eventually able to abandon her detested nursing lessons and start her career as an athlete and adventurer.
In 1908, Freda traveled to New Zealand and met the man who would become her mentor, Peter Graham. Peter elevated her knowledge of mountain climbing and taught her the nuances of ropework as well as snow and ice climbing. On December 19, 1909, along with Peter’s assistance, she took on her first major project and ascended Mount Sealy in the Southern Alps. In a period where mountaineering was seen as a hobby rather than a career and in which women were expected to remain in the domestic sphere, Freda quickly became an athletic champion. In December of 1910, she reached the height of her career by becoming the first woman to ever complete a climb of Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Her subsequent notable climbs include New Zealand’s Mount Tasman, Mount Dampier and Mount Sefton.
Freda photographed next to her tent and camp supplies during a routine climb (x).
In preparation for her climb of Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook, Freda returned home to Australia to further study her craft at the Dupain Institute of Physical Education in Sydney. It was there where she first met her trainer and eventual partner, Muriel Cadogan. When Freda began to turn her sights to the peaks of Europe, she and Muriel moved in together in an apartment in the London suburb of Boscombe. Tragically, Muriel suffered a nervous breakdown and when Freda attempted to admit her into a mental facility, both Muriel and Freda were admitted and were eventually separated against their will. After Muriel passed away in June of 1929, Freda was overcome with grief. Despite being released from the mental facility and taken back to Australia with her family, her confusion and sadness at Muriel’s death led to Freda committing suicide via monoxide poisoning on September 11, 1935.
For years, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Manly Cemetery until the site was discovered in 2006 and a plaque was added to commemorate her athletic legacy. Today, the Du Faur and Cadogan Peaks in the Southern Alps are dedicated to the lost mountaineering legend and her lover.
On this day in 1974, lesbian golf player Sandra
Haynie won the LPGA Charity Golf Classic in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
Sandra would eventually win all three editions of the tournament until it
closed in 1975.
Sandra Haynie was given the LPGA Player of the Year award in 1970 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977 before completing her last full season in 1989 (x).
Sandra Jane Haynie was born on June 4, 1943 in Fort Worth,
Texas. She began her professional career in the LPGA when she was only
18-years-old and she won her very first title championship just a year later
when she took home the first place trophy at the 1962 Austin Civitan Open. Beating
out Jane Blalock at the 1974 Charity Golf Classic would mark her second time
winning the event and her 35th LPGA event overall; by the end of her
career, Sandra had competed in 42 events and had won 4 major championships –
two LPGA Championships in 1965 and 1974, the U.S. Women’s Open also in 1974,
and the Peter Jackson Classic in 1982. Now a retired professional, Sandra is an
out lesbian and a cherished member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
On this day in 1934, the American writer, artist, and social
activist Kate Millett was born. The author of the classic feminist text Sexual Politics, Kate enjoyed a long career as a speaker and writer on the topic of lesbian-feminism.
Katherine Murray Millett was born on September 14, 1934 in
Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her father was an engineer and an alcoholic and Kate
recalled living in terror of him, as he frequently beat her as a child. He
abandoned the family when she was only 14-years-old, “consigning them to a
life of genteel poverty.” Her mother worked two jobs to help support Kate and
her two sisters. In 1956, Kate graduated from the University of Minnesota and
then went on to study at Oxford University. In
1958, she became the first American woman to graduate from Oxford with a
first-class honors degree in English literature.
Kate on the cover of the May/June 1977 edition of The Lesbian Tide magazine. The headline reads “Millett’s Passions” (x).
After leaving school, Kate became a teacher and taught at
several universities both in American and abroad. It was during her time living
in New York City and teaching at Barnard College that she joined the second
wave feminist movement. Before long, she had become a leading committee member
in the National Organization of Women (NOW) as well as a member of the New York
Radical Women and the Radicalesbians. In 1970, Kate’s PhD dissertation, Sexual Politics, was published and made
a huge splash in the world of feminist theory. The book quickly became a
bestseller and included feminist literary critiques of popular straight male
authors compared to that of gay authors.
Kate Millett reads from her novel The Basement at a meeting of The Woman’s Salon in New York, December 17th, 1977. Photograph: Marilynn K Yee/The New York Times (x).
Kate officially came out when she was giving a talk at
Columbia University and a student asked her, “Why don’t you say you’re a
lesbian, here, openly. You’ve said you were a lesbian in the past.” Kate
responded, “Yes I am a lesbian.” She ended up writing over 10 books during her
lifetime, both about theory and fiction books. She married a man while teaching in Japan in
the 1961, but the two divorced in 1985 and she later married a woman named
Sophia Kier. Tragically, Kate passed away just last week on September 6, 2017
after suffering from unexpected cardiac arrest while celebrating her birthday
with friends and family.
The French actress turned American femme fatale, Claudette
Colbert, was born on this day in 1903. The possibly bisexual performer had a
successful acting career that lasted over two decades.
Two of Claudette’s most scandalous roles were in The Sign of the Cross (1932) and Cleopatra (1934) where she appeared topless and semi-nude, respectively (x).
Émilie “Lily” Claudette Chauchoin was born on
September 13, 1903 in Saint-Mandé, France. In an ironic twist of fate, she was
nicknamed Lily by her family after the New Jersery-born actress Lillie Langtry
and the family would later migrate to New Jersey themselves. Claudette attended Washington Irving High School and
became heavily involved in their theater program, but still set out for Art
Students League of New York after high school with her sights set on becoming a
fashion designer. It wasn’t until she scored a small role in the Broadway play The Wild Westcotts in 1923 that
Claudette started to seriously pursue acting.
With her sights now set on acting as a career goal, Lily
Chauchoin became Claudette Colbert; Claudette from her middle name and Colbert
from her maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She started out with a five-year
contract with Broadway producer Al Woods, but eventually made the transition
over into films in 1929 with The Hole in
the Wall. She found her niche and became a household name in 1932 when
Cecil B. DeMille cast her as the femme fatale in his historical epic The Sign of the Cross. To Claudette’s dismay,
she would then become known as one of the leading femme fatales in Hollywood
and for her overly sexual roles. By 1933, she had starred in over 20 films and
was ranked as the 13th biggest box office star in America. A year later, she would win the Academy Award for Best Actress for It Happened One Night.
Claudette and one of her supposed lovers, Marlene Dietrich, on the slide during Carole Lombard’s party at Venice Pier Amusement Park, June 1935 (x).
Claudette was married twice; first to a man named Norman
Foster who was a director and her Broadway costar, but after they divorced she
wed a UCLA surgeon named Joel Pressman. Despite both her marriages being seemingly legitimate and loving, rumors of Claudette’s affairs with other actresses such
as Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich followed her for her entire career. Most
notably, Claudette had a very public intimate relationship with the out lesbian
artist Verna Hull in the 1950s. Although Claudette denied the rumors that she
was bisexual or a lesbian, she and Verna rented a home together in New York City
and even had neighboring vacation homes in Barbados. The relationship ended abruptly
and on bad terms in the early 1960s after the death of Claudette’s husband.
When Claudette passed away on July 30, 1996, she left her entire estate to
another woman named Helen O’Hagan, who she instructed in her will to be treated
“as her spouse.”
On this day in 2014, the movie Pride was first released in the United Kingdom. With solidarity as its thesis, the film tells the real-life story of how the members of the 1984 Miners’ strike found unlikely allies in a group of LGBT activists from London.
The movie opens on a scene of the 1983 London Pride Parade. A 20-year-old kid named Joe wanders scared but curious through the crowd, and before long we are introduced to our scrappy group of underdogs. Mostly based on real life counterparts, Mike, Jeff, Steph, Gethin, and Jonathan are led by Mark Ashton with the iconic book store Gay’s the Word serving as their headquarters. After Mark sees news coverage of the Miners’ strike, he has the idea that he and his friends should start collecting money to send to the protesting miners. The small mining towns at the center of the strike are the very conservative hot beds that our lesbian and gay main characters have worked their whole life to leave and forget, and so Mark is initially met with push back, but before long, Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) is up and running.
Although Pride is not a huge blockbuster or the next film in the long anthology of comic book films, it is still worth avoiding spoilers over; watching the two worlds of gay London and small town Wales collide and eventually become both political allies and friends is a wholesome experience like no other. The sorrows and successes that follow these real life figures – all with anthems such as Solidarity Forever by Pete Seeger and There is Power in a Union by Billy Bragg playing in the background – will most likely have any LGBT person sobbing by the time the credits are rolling. Go watch Pride, then go follow the LGSM twitter account to learn more about the true story of the film. You can also now buy the recently released Pride: The Book by Tim Tate!
Happy 69th birthday to Jewelle Gomez!! The lesbian
poet, literary critic, and playwright was born on this day in 1948.
In a 2012 interview with Curve Magazine, Jewelle said, “
Everything I write, and my activism as well, centers around creating community, the responsible use of power, and the feminist understanding that we’re all connected, and that includes our oppressions” (x).
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 11, 1948, Jewelle
Gomez was the daughter of a nurse and a bartender, but she ended up being
raised by her great grandmother. Her great grandmother, Grace, was born to a
black mother and an Iowan father, and so Jewelle’s childhood was imbued with
both black and Native American culture. In high school, she was heavily
involved in the world of black activism and the Civil Rights Movement. After
she graduated, she moved to New York City and began working as a stage
manager in off-Broadway theater production. During this time in New York, she
also began to develop her lesbian identity and became involved in LGBT
activism. Some of her very first writings began to appear in Conditions, a popular lesbian-feminist magazine
of the 1960s.
To date, Jewelle is the author of seven books, most
notably the novel The Gilda Stories,
which became a two-time Lambda Literary Award winner in 1991. She created the very
first anthology of black speculative fiction in 2001 titled Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative
Fiction from the African Diaspora and has worked extensively in television
and theater in addition to her work in the literary world; Jewelle was on the founding board
of GLAAD back in 1984 and also worked on the staff of the very first weekly
black television show, Say Brother,
in 1968. Her latest work was a play about
the life of James Baldwin, Waiting for
Giovanni, which premiered at the New Conservatory Theater in 2010. Today,
Jewelle serves as the Director of Grants and Community Initiatives for Horizons
Foundation, which is one of the oldest LGBT foundations in America.
Happy 82ndbirthday to Mary Oliver, who was born
on this day in 1935!! Having published over 40 poetry collections and
nonfiction books in her lifetime, Mary is a lesbian icon of the literary world.
As of 2017, Mary Oliver has won over 11 prestigious poetry and book awards (x).
Mary Oliver was born on September 10, 1935 in a suburb of
Cleveland, Ohio called Maple Heights. Her father was a high school teacher and
athletic coach while her mother was a stay-at-home wife. She recalls having
written her first poem at the age of 14. When she was 17, Mary visited the home
of the late great poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz, New York, which
greatly affected her outlook on her own writing and the study of literature as
a whole. In the 1950s, she attended both Ohio University and Vassar College but
eventually dropped out of both before she could receive a degree.
Her first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, was published in 1963 when Mary was only
28-years-old. The collection was a critical and commercial success and by the
time her fifth poetry collection, American
Primitive, was published, she was nominated for and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Mary work is grounded in nature and she has been compared to naturalist writers
such as Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. Her home state of Ohio as well as
her “adopted home” of Provincetown Massachusetts, where she lived with her
partner for over 40 years, are both featured heavily in her work.
Mary photographed with her partner Molly Malone Cook at the couple’s home in Provincetown, Massachusetts (x).
Mary met Molly Malone Cook in the 1950s while visiting
Austerlitz for a second time. The poet and the photographer hit it off
immediately; Mary has written that she “took one look and fell, hook and
tumble.” The two lived together until Molly’s death in 2005. After Molly’s
passing, Mary compiled her partner’s photographs of the life they had shared together
and published a book titled Our World.
Despite feeling “very, very lonely” after Molly’s death, in a 2011 interview
with O Magazine, Mary revealed that she has been continuing her writing and is “happier
now than she’s ever been.”