Category: 20th century



🔥 In 1978 Annie Lebowitz spent four days photographing Joan Armatrading at home for her album TO THE LIMIT. #lesbianculture #joanarmatrading #annieleibovitz

DECEMBER 4: Anna Vock (1885-1962)

Anna Vock, the trailblazing lesbian journalist and LGBT activist from Switzerland, passed away on this day in 1962.

One of the only known photographs of Anna Vock/”Mammina” (x).

Anna Vock was born on January 13, 1885 in Anglikon, Aargau. Little is known about her childhood or early life, but she made a name for herself in adulthood as one of the leading lesbian voices in LGBT community organizing and activism in Switzerland. Although lesbianism was not nearly as criminalized and monitored in the 20th century as gay men’s sexuality was, Anna frequently came under fire for her work in lesbian specific journalism. She was often followed by Swiss police and even arrested for a period. 

Her activism began with the underground lesbian organization Amiticia, which Anna found together with her friend Laura Thoma in 1931. The goal of the organization was to create an organized coalition of Swiss lesbians and reach out to those lesbians who did not live near the nation’s urban centers to let them know that they were not alone. Anna was the official secretary for Amiticia and oversaw its advertisement in the popular German lesbian magazine Garconne. The advertisement read, “Sisters of Lesbos, you too have a full right to love and its freedom.” Anna would also be the first lesbian to join the gay organization Excentric Zurich Club (EZC), resulting in other lesbians following her lead and their full integration into the organization. 

One of the first editions of Der Kreis published without Anna’s pen name on the masthead was the December 1943 edition (x).

In 2014, a fictionalized film about the history of the organization titled Der Kreis/The Circle was released. Watch the trailer here

Anna was also one of the first writers for Switzerland’s very first LGBT specific magazine, Der Kreis (The Circle, 1942-1967). She worked primarily in the women’s section of the magazine and in the personal ads, but eventually worked her way up to becoming the editor-in-chief and head publisher by 1933. Although Anna worked under the pen name “Mammina,” the tabloid magazines Sheinwerfer and Guggu unearthed her real name and published it along with her home address for the all the public to see. This resulted in her being fired from several jobs and being arrested on suspicion of “communist activity” and “acting as a pander” on account of Der Kreis’s personal ads. 

Although Anna was eventually released from prison after a relatively short sentence, she never returned to her editing position at the magazine. When Karl Meir took over as editor-in-chief of Der Kreis in Anna’s stead in 1943, he published the “obituary,” “Farewell, Mammina. Your name will remain forever united to our cause in Switzerland. You prepared the ground on which we must build. Hopefully we will succeed.” The undeniably life-saving magazine Anna help found eventually outlived its creator, with Anna passing away on December 4, 1962 at the age of 77.


NOVEMBER 21: Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976)

The influential painter and illustrator Jeanne Mammen was born on this day in 1890. Jeanne’s work is most famous for being apart of the New Objectivity and Symbolism artistic movements, as well as for depicting a specifically lesbian perspective of women’s bodies and the Berlin nightlife of the Wiemar Era. 

A self-portrait by Jeanne Mammen c. 1926 (x).

Jeanne Mammen was born on November 21, 1890 in Berlin, Germany. Her father was a wealthy merchant and was able to afford for Jeanne to live out her youth and be educated at a school in Paris. She would eventually go on to advance her artistic studies in both Brussels and Rome. In 1916, her family was facing internment by the French government and so her parents fled to Amsterdam while Jeanne moved back to Berlin. On her own for the first time in her life, Jeanne’s first years as an adult in Berlin were incredibly influential on her life and work. Due to the fact that the French government had confiscated all of the Mammens’ property, she struggled to make ends meet and ended up interacting with people of varying class background for the first time in her life. 

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Jeanne threw herself into Berlin’s LGBT social and artistic scene. She found work illustrating movie posters and caricatures for satirical magazines, but her true passion was her watercolors and illustrations of the lesbian nightclubs and Bohemian bars she frequented in her daily life. Throughout the 1930s, she published what is now considered some of her most important work – a series of 8 lithographs for Pierre Louÿs’s lesbian poetry collection, Les Chansons de Bilitis. When her artwork of women was displayed at a 1933 exhibition, Nazi officials interrupted the event and deemed Jeanne’s work as “degenerate” and “Jewish.” She was forced to revert back to advertising and abandon the leverage she had been making as a distinctly lesbian artist. 

One of Jeanne Mammen’s iconic depictions of Berlin’s popular lesbian clubs, She Represents, c. 1927-1930. Historian Richard Meyer writes, “She Represents, for example, was first published in Curt Moreck’s 1931 Führer durch das ‘lasterhafte’ Berlin (Guide to Immoral Berlin), a delightfully lurid handbook to the sundry, primarily nocturnal, diversions on offer in the metropolis. Mamman’s picture appeared under the heading ‘lesbian locales’, in chapter six of the guidebook, a chapter that also featured sections of ‘get together spots for homosexuals’, ‘night baths’, and ‘here are the transvestites’.” (x).

In the 1940s, Jeanne experimented with Cubism but did not begin exhibiting her work once again until after World War II. In her later years, she focused on collages and designed the sets for the well-known cabaret Die Badewanne. She would pass away fairly unknown on April 22, 1976, but her work began to be rediscovered and admired by German artists in the 2010s. In 2013, her more abstract pieces were featured in an exhibition during Berlin Art Week titled “Painting Forever!”


NOVEMBER 20: Marianne Breslauer (1909-2001)

The famous photographer Marianne Breslauer was born on this day in 1909. Today, Marianne is most well-known for her contributions to the artistic richness of Germany’s Wiemar Era as well as her relationship with the Swiss journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

A self-portrait by Marianne Breslauer (x).

Marianne Breslauer was born on November 20, 1909 in Berlin, Germany. She inherited an artistic legacy from her parents, her father being the architect Alfred Breslauer and her mother being Doris Lessing, the daughter of the famed art historian Julius Lessing. She began taking photography lessons at age 18 and began to plan for a career as a photographic journalist. Her main inspirations were the well-known German portrait photographer Frieda Riess and the Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Although she had lived and studied in Berlin for all her life, Marianne moved to Paris in 1929 to study under Man Ray. She only stayed briefly, however, and was back in Berlin a year later. Throughout the 1930s, her work was published in esteemed German magazines such as Frankfurter Illustrierten, Der Querschnitt, Die Dame, Zürcher Illustrierten, and Das Magazin

Despite being married to a man named Walter Feilchenfeldt, the center of Marianne’s life was a fellow woman photographer named Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Many historians refer to the two women as simple being “lifelong friends,” but the truth of their relationship was probably something closer to that of lovers. Marianne traveled extensively throughout Europe during her life and created a network of kindred spirits, which is to say, fellow wlw artists. She even became known for her photographs of butch women/”tom boys” throughout the 1930s. It was through one of these lesbian artist friends, Ruth Landshoff, that Marianne and Annemarie were first introduced. The two photographed each other frequently and even traveled to the Pyrenees together in 1933. Annemarie would tragically die in a biking accident in 1942, but Marianne’s legacy would continue to be intertwined with the person she once described as “Neither a woman nor a man, but an angel, an archangel.”

One of Marianne’s multiple photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In this shot from 1934, Annemarie (left) lies on beach towels with a friend in Potsdam (x).

With the increasing antisemitic climate of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, Marianne’s publishers began pressuring her to publish her photographs under a pseudonym so as to conceal her Jewish identity. When she refused, she, her husband, and children were forced to leave German and emigrate to Amsterdam and then later Zurich. In her later years, Marianne and her husband opened up their own art gallery specializing in French paintings and 19th century art. She took over the business on the occasion of her husband’s death in 1953 and would eventually pass away herself on February 7, 2001.


NOVEMBER 10: Marion Morgan (1881-1971)

Famed screenwriter and
choreographer, Marion Morgan, passed away on this day in 1971. She is most
well-known for being the longtime partner of the out lesbian director Dorothy

An undated portrait of Marion Morgan (x).

Marion Cahill was born on January
4, 1881 in Paterson, New Jersey. Little is known about her early years aside
from the fact that her father was an attorney and she was raised in an upper-middle-class household. In 1900, Marion married a man named Matthew A. Morgan and
became Marion Morgan. The two had ason named Roderick before separating in
1905. In 1910, Marion left New Jersey to have a fresh start with her son in Long
Island, California. She was able to find a job as a P.E. teacher at Manual Arts
High School in Los Angeles, which eventually evolved into a position as a
choreographer for the Orpheum Circuit, a popular chain of Vaudeville theaters, and then a studio of her own.

Marion first discovered her
passion for choreography when she was offered the position as a dance
instructor for a summer program at the University of California, Berkeley. From
there, she was hired by the Orpheum Circuit as a full-time choreographer and spearheaded
a troupe of 25 dancers. Marion traveled back and forth between Los Angeles and
New York City with her troupe performing interpretive dance routines that were
often based on Egyptian or classical Greek and Roman themes. She cultivated a reputation
for being very strict with her dancers; she required all of her dancers to be vegetarian
and would often require them to study classic literature so that they could
understand the source material for their routines.

Marion (right) photographed with her partner Dorothy Arzner in 1927 (x).

Marion first met Dorothy Arzner in
1921 on the set for the film Man-Woman-Marriage,
which the Marion Morgan dancers were featured in. Dorothy was one of the few
powerful women directors in Hollywood and she and Marion worked together often
on such films as Fashions for Women, Get Your Man, and Manhattan Cocktail. Her breakout film was 1929′s The Wild Party. Their business relationship eventually
blossomed into a romance and they became known around Hollywood as dedicated
partners. In her later years, Marion became involved in other areas of the
theater; she graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1934 and wrote several
short stories and screenplays throughout her lifetime.

In the 1950s, Marion and Dorothy
retired and moved to Palm Springs and lived there together until Marion’s death
on November 10, 1971. Today, all of her dance archives are preserved at the
Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing


NOVEMBER 7: Edythe Eyde (1921-2015)

Edythe Eyde, better
known as her pen name Lisa Ben, was born on this day in 1921. She was a
literary editor, publisher, and musician who created the very first known
lesbian publication in America – Vice Versa – which was printed and distributed
in the 1940s.

“Edythe Eyde looking glamorous in an undated photo. Courtesy of ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.” Listen to Edythe’s interview with the Making Gay History podcast! 

Edythe was born on November 7,
1921 in San Francisco, California. She was an only child and grew up on an
apricot farm in the rural town of Frement Township, California. Her love of
music began as a young child when she entered violin lessons, which she would
take for 8 years. Although she would not become aware of the word lesbian until
well into her adulthood, Edythe had her first relationship with another girl
when she was in high school. Heartbroken after her girlfriend broke off the relationship,
Edythe attempted to open up to her mother, but her mother reacted poorly to the news that Edythe had been in love with another girl. The event
effectively ruined any personal connection Edythe had previously had with her

Edythe Eyde, c. 1950s. Lisa Ben Papers. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries (x).

After three years of saving up
money and two years of taking secretarial courses at her parents’ insistence,
Edythe finally left the nest and moved to Palo Alto. She would not stay in Palo
Alto for long and eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1945. Finally in a city
with an active gay and lesbian community, Edyth first learned the word lesbian and began identifying as so in 1946. She discovered that there were
several other lesbians living in her apartment complex and she had soon found
herself a close-knit group of friends. While working as a secretary at RKO Studios,
Edythe’s boss told her that it was important for her to look busy at all times.
In need of something to keep her fingers busy, Edythe began typing Vice Versa.

A friend photographs Edythe after visiting an ice cream struck in 1950 (x).

A fun passion project for Edythe,
she initially just distributed Vice Versa
around to her close friends, but she soon began mailing copies to her
long-distance friends and even passing them out to the patrons of the lesbian club, If Club. She personally wrote and published nine issues of Vice Versa from 1947
to 1948. She eventually lost her secretary job at RKO when the company went under and was forced to take on a new
job that left her with no free time to continue creating Vice Versa. When the lesbian
magazine The Ladder began in the 1950s, Edythe was a frequent contributor under
the name Lisa Ben, an anagram of the word lesbian. Copies of Vice Versa can
still be read today at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

Edythe smiling with her guitar in 1964 (x).

Dubbed by the Daughters of Bilitis
as “the first gay folk singer,” Edythe enjoyed a successful music career in
lesbian circles throughout her life. Her music was also featured on
several documentary films. She was honored in 1972 by ONE Archives as one of
the “fathers of the homophile movement,” was featured in the 1984 documentary
Before Stonewall
, and was also inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay
Journalists Association’s hall of fame in 2010. Edyth passed away on December
22, 2015 at the age of 94.


NOVEMBER 1: Hannah Höch (1889-1978)

The German Dada artist and one of
the pioneers of the photomontage, Hannah Höch, was born on this day in 1889.

A 1926 self-portrait by artist Hannah Höch (x).

Hannah was born as Anna Therese
Johanne Höch in Gotha, Germany on November 1, 1889. Her family was of
working-class status and although Hannah received a short education at the
Gotha Höhere Töchterschule, she was eventually taken out of school in order to
help her mother care for her younger siblings. When her youngest sibling, a
sister named Marianne, was finally old enough to care for herself, Hannah was
able to return to school. This time she chose to attend the School of Applied
Arts in Berlin. Her main passion was painting and fine arts, but she studied
the more “practical” crafts of glassmaking and graphic design in order to
appease her father.

With the outbreak of World War I,
Hannah returned home from school and joined the Red Cross; however, not a year
later she moved back to Berlin and found herself in the midst of the wartime
Dada movement. She continued her studies at the School of Applied Arts and
created embroidery patterns for ladies’ magazines so that she could have a
steady income, but her real life was lived in the bars and nightclubs of the
city where she bounced ideas off the likes of iconic artists such as Kurt
Schwitters and Piet Mondrian. One of her most well-known contributions was that
of the photomontage, which is exemplified in her 1919 piece Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the
Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany

One of her most well-known pieces; Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic, 1919, collage of pasted papers, 90 x 144 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin (x).

Hannah was known to have relationships with both men and women. She was only married once, to a man
named Kurt Matthies, but one of her longest-lasting relationships was with the
famous Dutch writer and linguist Mathilda Brugman. Although the relationship
lasted 9 years and the two women openly lived together in the city of Hague,
Hannah never spoke publicly about her sexuality or sexual identity. When the Nazis
rose to power in Germany, much of her art was censored or destroyed after being
labeled “degenerate art.” Despite the danger it put her in, Hannah continued to
create photomontages throughout World War II and until her death on May 31, 1978.


OCTOBER 31: Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972)

Happy Halloween! Sadly, we don’t have a spooky story for you today but we do have the story of a lesbian icon who was also a Halloween baby. Natalie Clifford Barney, born on this day in 1876, was an American expatriate in Paris who was famous for her writings and for running the popular Barney literary salon.

Natalie Clifford Barney photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston some time between 1890 and 1910 (x).

Born in Dayton, Ohio on October 31, 1876, Natalie Clifford Barney was of French, German, and Jewish descent. Her father had inherited the family’s railway car manufacturing plant which provided her a wealthy and privileged upbringing. When she was 10-years-old, the family moved to Washington D.C. where Natalie made a name for herself as one of the most rebellious girls of the high society sect. She constantly made newspaper headlines for her “unladylike” adventures and for riding her horse astride rather than sidesaddle. In 1893, Natalie met Eva Palmer-Sikelianos while vacationing at Bel Harbor, Maine with her family. The two eventually became lovers and made the big move to Paris together, living at 4, rue Chalgrin for a number of years.

Natalie, known for her eccentric personality and penchant for non-monogamy, photographed nude by an unnamed French photographer (x).

Natalie would later recount that she had first realized she was a lesbian when she was 12-years-old and became determined to “live openly, without hiding anything.” Her writing career and Parisian reputation became centered on her trysts with women and her unapologetic love for her lesbian identity; Natalie became the talk of the town when she published the tell-all book Idylle Saphique about her affair with the famous dancer Liane de Pougy, and from there the rest is history. She ran her literary salon for over 60 years and became friends with (and sometimes the lover of) some of the most impactful women artists and writers of her day. She had prominent relationships with Renée Vivien, Dolly Wilde, Romaine Brooks, Élisabeth de Gramont, and many more. The most well-known of Natalie’s published writings include poetry and plays such as Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women, Five Short Greek Dialogues, and Acts and Interludes as well as the novels Scatterings, Thoughts of an Amazon, and The One Who is Legion, or A.D.’s After-Life. 

Natalie with Romaine Brookes. Out of all her relationships throughout the years, her relationship with Romaine lasted the longest (x).

The salon was put on hiatus during World War II, during which Natalie and her partner at the time, Romaine Brooks, fled to Italy. She returned to her home in Paris after the war ended and continued her salon for a new generation. In her later years, Natalie wrote two volumes of memoirs about her time with the Lost Generation and became friends with figures such as an elderly Alice B. Toklas, Truman Capote, and Marguerite Yourcenar. Natalie eventually suffered heart failure and passed away on February 2, 1972. She is buried next to her last love, Romaine Brooks, at Passy Cemetery in Paris, Île-de-France, France.


OCTOBER 25: Claude Cahun (1894-1954)

The groundbreaking French artist
and photographer, Claude Cahun, was born on this day in 1894. Her work is known
for its daring disregard for 20th century gender roles, Claude
herself even famously saying, “Shuffle the cards. Masculine? Feminine? It
depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”

A self-portrait by Claude Cahun (x).

Claude was born Lucy Renee
Mathilde Schwob on October 25, 1894 in Nantes, France. She was born to a
wealthy Jewish family that boasted the well-known avant-garde artist Marcel
Schwob as one of its brood. Tragically, when Claude was just 4-years-old, her
mother began to show signs of serious mental illness and was put in a
psychiatric facility to live out her days. Claude was then raised by her grandmother.
She suffered a great deal of antisemitic bullying during her time at the local
schools in Nantes and eventually transferred to a private high school in
Surrey. After high school, she enrolled in
the University of Paris, Sorbonne.

One of her most well-known pieces is this surrealist self-portrait titled “What Do You Want From Me?” (x).

It was while she was at college when Claude began to practice photography. She began with
self-portraits and would continue to work in that mode throughout the 1920s and
1930s. In 1919, she officially changed her name to Claude Cahun. She briefly
considered the name Daniel Douglas, inspired by fellow gay historical icon Lord
Alfred Douglas, but Claude Cahun won out in the end for its seeming gender
neutrality. Although she had been working consistently since 1912, she didn’t
find fame until she joined the group of European surrealists in the early
1930s. In 1936, she was featured in both the London International Surrealist
Exhibition and The Exposition surréaliste d’Objets.

Claude and her partner Suzanne invent the mirror selfie in 1920 with the piece “Self-Portraits Reflected in a Mirror” (x).

Claude’s life partner was Suzanne Malherbe, who often went by the name Marcel Moore. In 1922,
they began holding salon meetings inside their home and became known as a power
couple in the artist world. Attendees of their salon were iconic artists such
as Henri Michaux, André Breton, Sylvia Beach, and Adrienne Monnier. At the rise
of World War II, they both fled Europe and settled in New Jersey. Despite being
in America, Claude and Suzanne became active in the Nazi resistance movement
and started to publish anti-German pamphlets. In 1944, Claude was arrested for
her work in the resistance. Although she was eventually released, her health never
recovered from the poor conditions of the jail and she passed away on
December 8, 1954. Today, Claude and Suzanne are buried side by side at St
Brelade’s Church.


OCTOBER 23: Lilyan Tashman (1896-1934)

Film icon Lilyan Tashman was born
on this day in 1896. The bisexual American actress who rocked Vaudeville,
Broadway, and the silver screen throughout her lifetime is most well-known
today for her roles in Millie, Girls About Town, and So This is Paris.


Publicity photo of Lilyan Tashman from Stars of the Photoplay (x).

Lilyan Tashman was born to a
working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York on October 23, 1896. She was
the tenth and youngest child to be born to her immigrant mother and father, who
had been born in Germany and Poland respectively. She attended Girl’s High
School and worked as a fashion and figure drawing model throughout her teen
years to help support the family. Her modeling career eventually blossomed into
a Vaudeville career and by 1914 she was a part of a successful travelling
troupe. Performing became cemented as Lilyan’s career when she was picked up to
join the Ziegfeld Follies in 1916.

Her stint with the Ziegfeld
Follies, although only lasting two years, allowed Lilyan to get a supporting
role in the hit musical The Gold Diggers.
She made her film debut in 1921 with the small film Experience, but after her attempt at leaping from the stage to the
silver screen wasn’t going the way she planned, Lilyan moved across the county
to California. Finally in Hollywood, her career took off; she appeared in five
films in just the course of one year and eventually signed a contract with
Paramount Pictures. Starring in over 66 films during her career, she became
known to audiences for her roles as the “other woman” or the seductive “villainess.”


Today, many consider Lilyan to
have been a bisexual figure. Her first husband was a colleague from her
Vaudeville days named Al Lee. The two were married in 1914, but soon divorced
in 1921. Her second husband was longtime friend and fellow actor Edmund Lowe.
The two lived together in their lavish Beverly Hills mansion called Lilowe,
threw extravagant parties, and were touted by the media as being Hollywood’s
new darling “it” couple; however, Edmund was a gay man and many believe their
marriage to have been one of convenience. Lilyan herself was rumored to have
had several trysts with women and even an intense relationship with Greta
, which left Lilyan heartbroken after Greta called it off. There is even a legend that Lilyan was almost charged with assault (for the SECOND time) after she
caught the actress Constance Bennett in a compromising position with her
girlfriend at the time.

Despite her vitality and
scrappiness, Lilyan tragically contracted abdominal cancer at the young age of
36. She would film five more films during the last years of her life, Frankie and Johnny being the last time
America would ever see her on film. After entering Doctor’s Hospital on March 21,
1934, Lilyan passed away from cancer at the age of 37. Her funeral at the New
York City synagogue Temple Emanu-El saw over 10,000 mourners, fans, and fellow
Hollywood elite in attendance.