Category: lesbian writers

NOVEMBER 3: Lucie Delarue-Mardrus (1874-1945)


The French journalist, poet, and
novelist, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, was born on this day in 1874.

Lucie Delarue-Mardus photographed by Paul Nadar in 1914 (x). 

Lucie was born on November 3, 1874
in Honfleur, Normandy. She was the youngest of six children born to
the middle-class Delarue-Mardus family. Her father was a successful lawyer,
which allowed for her and her siblings to be well educated in literature and
music. In 1880, the family moved to Paris; the city’s rich artistic community
allowed a young Lucie to decide that writing and art was to be her life’s

Throughout her life, Lucie wrote
over 70 books. She is most well-known for her poem “My Native Land,” which is a
love letter to her homeland of Normandy, and her 1930 novel The Angel and the Perverts. Despite
being married to the wealthy translator J.C. Mardrus, Lucie made no secret of
the fact that she was a lesbian. The most prominent lover of her life was Natalie
Clifford Barney
, who is featured prominently in The Angel and the Perverts as
well as a series of love poem written by Lucie in 1902 and 1903. She was
eventually able to divorce her husband, leading to one admirer of hers to say, “She
is adorable. She sculpts, mounts to horse, loves a woman, then another, and yet
another. She was able to free herself from her husband and has never embarked
on a second marriage or the conquest of another man.”

In 1936, she became the very first
recipient of the Renée Vivien prize for women poets. By the time of her death
on April 26, 1945, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus had secured a legacy as one of the
pioneers of lesbian French literature.


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 27: Fran Lebowitz (1950-)


Happy birthday to Fran Lebowitz!
The author, actress, and “modern day Dorothy Parker” turns 67-years-old today.

Fran has also been dubbed a “famously contrarian humorist” (x).

Frances Ann Lebowitz was born on
October 27, 1950 in Morristown, New Jersey. She was raised in a middle-class
Jewish family, but claims she had been an atheist since the age of 7. One of
her famous quotes on Jewish identity reads, “Jewish identity is ethnic or
cultural or whatever people call it now, but it’s not religious.” A “trouble
child,” she was expelled from her high school before graduating but was able to
receive a GED.

In her early years, Fran worked
various low paying jobs and was struggling to get by, but her “big
break” came when she was hired by Andy Warhol to come on as a columnist at Interview Magazine. She made a name for herself at Interview and her specific brand of wit became a staple of the mag. This was followed by
a columnist position at Mademoiselle Magazine
and two essay collections titled Metropolitan
and Social Studies. She had
a recurring role on Law & Order
from 2001 to 2007, made several appearances on Late Night David Letterman, and has two infamous works-in-progress titled Progress and Exterior Signs of Wealth.

Although she has never had a
public coming out, it has become somewhat of a known fact in New York society
that Fran Lebowitz is a lesbian. Her butch fashion sense has become iconic and
she was named one of Vanity Fair’s
internationally best dressed women of 2007. The most Fran has spoken publicly
about LGBT matters was is her critiques of the community’s
fixation on marriage equality. In an interview with Paper Magazine in 2014, she had this to

“The idea that those words [‘gay marriage’] are together is so hilarious to me. As I’ve said numerous times, I know that people wanted it, now they can do it in New York. I say ‘they’ not because I’m not gay, but because I’m not getting married. In a million years I never would have thought of this. People always say, ‘You were always fighting for this, right?’ No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t that kind of political activist. I never even imagined that anyone was even thinking about this, which I don’t think they were in 1971. To me, this goes more along with the other ways in which this culture is how it was in the 1950s. For me, if you want to get married, get married, I don’t care. I frankly don’t understand why people get married. When I was young, nobody did. It seems to me so confined.”


OCTOBER 22: Fun Home premieres (2013)


On this day in 2013, the musical Fun Home made its Broadway debut.
Adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical
graphic novel, Fun Home became a
nationwide sensation for its bold depiction of a young butch lesbian coming to
terms with her childhood and the fact that her deceased father was a deeply
closeted gay man.

Fun Home: A True Story Becomes a Tony-Winning Best Musical” (x).

Fun Home first premiered in
September of 2013 at The Public Theater, but it officially made the jump to
Broadway on October 22, 2013. Starring Beth Malone, Emily Skeggs, and Sydney
Lucas all as Alison Bechdel at different ages throughout her life, the musical
follows the same structure as the graphic novel; the story begins with the
adult cartoonist living out and proud in the modern day and follows adult Alison’s narration as she tells the story of her relationship with her father
from the time she was a 10-year-old child, a questioning teenager, and as a college student writing a coming out letter to her parents.

The main cast of Fun Home poses for a publicity shot (x).

Although gay identity is not
foreign territory to the theater world, it could be argued that lesbian identity had never been so
thoroughly studied and cherished before Fun Home broke onto the scene. Invigorating the original work with 22
songs, when the official cast album
was released in 2014, it debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top Cast Album Chart.
Fun Home’s phenomenon status was reached when it was nominated for the 2014
Pulitzer Prize for Drama and then nominated for over 12 Tony Awards – winning 5
of them including the culminating honor of Best Musical.


OCTOBER 20: Frances Kellor (1873-1952)


The American investigator and
pioneering activist in the field of women’s and immigrant’s rights, Frances Kellor, was born on this day in 1873.

Frances poses for a photograph in 1910 (x).

Born on October 20, 1873, Frances
Alice Kellor grew up in Columbus, Ohio. When her father left the family when
Frances was just a child, she and her mother were left destitute. Her mother
was forced to leave the city to get work as a laundress and Frances eventually
had to drop out of high school in order to support her loved ones as well. Fortunately,
two sisters named Mary and Frances Eddy came to mentor her and eventually paid
for her to attend Cornell Law School and then the University of Chicago.

While at the University of
Chicago, Frances began studying sociology and researching the American prison
system. Her research would eventually culminate in her very first book, Experimental Sociology, in 1901. After
graduating, Frances worked as the secretary and treasurer of the New York State
Immigration Commission as well as the chief investigator for the Bureau of
Industries and Immigration of New York State. Her passion was for social
progress and progressive politics, focusing her work mainly on the treatment of
women and immigrants in the United States. Throughout her career, she would
work side by side fellow lesbian and sociologist Jane Addams at her Hull House,
and would write six books in total.

Frances (left) and her partner Mary (right) sit together in their Model T (x).

Although simply considered an old
maid and a Bostonian during her day, Frances was a lesbian. Her partner was Mary
Dreier, a wealthy New York Society woman turned social reformer. The two shared
an apartment and a life together in New York until Frances’s death on January 4, 1952. Today, Frances and Mary are buried next
to each other at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.


OCTOBER 8: Urvashi Vaid (1958-)


Happy birthday to Urvashi Vaid!
The Indian-American LGBT rights activist and author turns 59-years-old today.

Urvashi Vaid’s social justice work spans decades and she has been influential in the areas of prison reform, financial equality for LGBT Americans, and HIV/AIDS activism. She was named Woman of the Year by The Advocate in 1991 (x).

Urvashi Vaid was born on October
8, 1958 in New Delhi, India, but she moved to

Potsdam, New York

with her family at just 8-years-old. She became interested in social justice activism at an
extremely young age after witnessing an anti-Vietnam War protests when she was
just 11. Urvashi would later go on to earn degrees from Vassar College and Northeastern
University School of Law. It was while attending Northeastern that she created the Boston Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, a group dedicated to
advocating for local political candidates who support the Boston lesbian and
gay community.


Urvashi photographed with her partner, Kate Clinton, in 2015 (x). 

She burst onto the larger radar of
LGBT activism in 1995 with the publication of her book Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation,
which won a Stonewall Book Award in 1996.  Her most recent book, Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of
LGBT Politics
, was just released in 2012 and continues the conversation of
LGBT equality relationship with racial and class equality in America. Urvashi
is the CEO of her own company called Vaid Group LLC, and also runs LPAC, the very
first lesbian SuperPAC. She has been named one of the 50 most influential LGBT
people in the United States by Out
and currently lives in Massachusetts with her partner, comedian Kate


OCTOBER 7: Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943)


Radclyffe Hall, the English author
of the legendary lesbian novel The Well
of Loneliness
, passed away on this day in 1943. One of the first of its
kind, The Well of Loneliness changed
literary history and catapulted the name Radclyffe Hall into lesbian foremother

Radclyffe Hall’s butch presentation was captured in this iconic photograph taken in 1926 (x). 

Marguerite Radclyffe Hall was born
on August 12, 1880 at her family home of “Sunny Lawn” in Bournemouth, Hampshire. Her father, Radclyffe Radclyffe-Hall, was a wealthy man
and a notorious womanizer, causing her mother to divorce him in 1883. Her eventual
stepfather was the famous music professor Albert Visetti. Despite her abundance
of parental figures, Radclyffe’s childhood was one spent in neglect; after her parent’s divorce, she rarely saw her father and her stepfather Albert repeatedly made
sexual advances towards her, beginning at a young age and sparking jealousy in her own mother. In her teen years, she began to call herself a “congenital invert,” the early sexologist
Havelock Ellis’s term for gay men and lesbians. 

‘A Book That Must Be Suppressed’. The Sunday Express editorial on Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, 1928 © The National Archives, DPP 1/88 (x).

At the age of 21, Radclyffe moved
in with a 51-year-old singer named Mabel Veronica Batten, who was
her very first partner. Radclyffe’s inheritance from her grandfather kept the
two of them afloat until Mabel’s death in 1916 and then Radclyffe was left on
her own once again. It was Mabel who gave the butch Radclyffe the nickname of
“John,” which she preferred to be called by her friends for the rest of her
life. Not long after, she began a relationship with the famous sculptor Una
Elena Troubridge
, who would become her life partner. The money from her inheritance allowed Radclyffe to live a
comfortable life, but she decided to take up writing in 1923. Her first two
novels, The Forge and The Unlit Lamp were both published a
year later in 1924. The Well of Loneliness was published in 1928 and is her
only novel that deals directly with lesbian identity; the novel deals specifically with the
life of a butch lesbian character named Stephanie Gordon who, like
Radclyffe, calls herself an “invert.” The novel was subject to a scandalous
obscenity trial in the U.K. that eventually declared all copies be destroyed, but it won out in the American courts and so The Well of Loneliness was able to be
sold in the States.

Radclyffe and her partner Una Elena Troubridge photographed in 1927 (x). 

After 1928, she would go on to
write and publish eight novels in total. Radclyffe lived with her partner Una
until her death and even welcomed a third woman, a young Russian nurse named Eugenie
Souline, into their relationship in 1934. Despite being gender nonconforming and a
lesbian, Radclyffe held harsh conservative views all her life and made fascist and anti-Semitic claims throughout the 1930s. After fleeing to Italy at the
outbreak of World War II, Radclyffe developed cancer and passed away on October
7, 1943. In her will, all finances and copyrights to her work were left to Una


OCTOBER 1: Anne Charlotte Egden-Leffler (1849-…


Happy October! We’re kicking off
the new month today with coverage of the Swedish writer Anne Charlotte
Edgren-Leffler, who was born on this day in 1848.

A photograph of Anne created by an unknown photographer was published mysteriously in the Swedish book

Svenska litteraturens historia in 1923 (x). 

Born on October 1, 1848 in Stockholm,
Sweden, Anne Charlotte Edgren-Leffler was born to two schoolteacher parents.
Her entire family was made up of noted scholars and academics; her brother was
a famed mathematician and Anne herself would spend much of her childhood at one
of the most prestigious schools for girls at the time. Her first publication
was a collection of short stories titled Händelsvis, which came out in
1869 under the pseudonym “Carlot.”

In 1872, Anne entered into a
marriage of convenience with the wealthy government official Gustav Edgren.
Although the marriage was sexless and devoid of romantic intent, it began as a
contented union; Gustav took her to the theater for the first time and gave her
books she had not heard of, and soon his high-brow taste for art started to rub
off on his wife. However, the marriage soon started to deteriorate and the two
separated in 1884. Having cut her teeth on the knowledge of her husband, Anne
started writing plays and they were wildly successful. Centering on themes of
womanhood and feminism, Anne’s plays such as Skadespelerskan, Pastorsadjunkten,
and Elfvan are still considered
classics of the Swedish canon today.

Anne (left) photographed with her lover and life partner Sofia Kovalevskaya (right) (x). 

Anne’s lover was the famous
Russian mathematician Sofia
. The two first met each other while studying in Berlin and had a “very
intimate friendship” (according to some historians) that would last until their
deaths. Anne would eventually be married again to a man introduced to her by
her brother, Pasquale del Pezzo the Duke of Cajanello, subsequently
making her the Duchess of Cajanello. When Sofia’s husband, whose marriage to
Sofia had also been one of convenience, committed suicide, Sofia wrote that she
was committing the rest of her life to a “romantic friendship” with Anne.
Despite many historians interpreting Anne’s proclivity to writing romance
dramas during this time to be a product of her new marriage to Pasquale, many
others interpret it to be a product of this newfound domestic partnership with
Sofia. When Sofia passed away in 1891, the last book Anne would ever write was
a biography of her. Anne would follow suit just a year later on October 21,
1892 after complications from a surgery.


SEPTEMBER 30: Jeanne Galzy (1883-1977)


The lesbian French
writer Jeanne Galzy was born on this day in 1883. Although her novels and artistic work has largely
been left out of the canon and forgotten, Jeanne was a staple of the French
artistic community in the 1920s and has been dubbed one of the “pioneers
in the writing of lesbian desire and despair.”

Jeanne Baraduc, known by her pen name of Jeanne Galzy, photographed by Henri Martinie (x).

Jeanne was born as Louise Jeanne
Baraduc on September 30, 1883 in Montpellier, France. Her parents were wealthy
poets who were heavily involved in the literary world. Due to their wealth,
Jeanne was able to attend some of the top schools of her time, such as the
École normale supérieure de jeunes filles in Sèvres, and immersed herself in
academia. After passing the notoriously difficult agrégation exam, she went on to
become the first woman to teach at a boys’ school in Montpellier in 1915.

Not long after beginning her
teaching career, Jeanne contracted tuberculosis and was sent to convalesce in Berck.
While on bedrest, she began writing her first novel, Les Allongés, which would win the Prix Femina Literary
Award in 1923. She kept
teaching for a while, but eventually found enough financial stability to make
writing her career. By the end of her life, she had published 5 novels, written
a play, received multiple literary awards, and even served as a member on the Prix
Femina jury. Her most famous novel, L’Initiatrice
aux mains vides
/Burnt Offering was
published in 1929 and tells the story of a clandestine lesbian relationship between
a student and a teacher. In 1930, it won the Prix Brentano Literary Award and
it is commonly believed that the novel was inspired by Jeanne’s own lesbianism
and the sexual experiences she had during her own school days at all girls’

Jeanne would pass away on May 7,
1977. At the time of her death, she was a celebrated hometown hero and the
pride of Montpellier, but as time has gone on, her contributions to lesbian
literature and culture have faded from history. Today, only one of her novels
has been translated into English and none of her books are still in print.


SEPTEMBER 28: Gwen Le Gallienne & Louise Bryan…


On this day in 1929, Louise Bryant’s husband discovered letters between his wife and the out lesbian socialite and sculptor, Gwen Le Gallienne, that outed the women’s secret
affair. The discovery of the relationship lead to the unraveling of both women’s


Louise Bryant (left) and Gwen Le Gallienne (right) (x) (x).

Both women were members of
upper-class society, Gwen being the stepdaughter of famous English novelist Richard
Le Gallienne and the stepsister of popular Broadway actress Eva Le Gallienne, and
Louise being the wife of the wealthy American diplomat William Christian Bullitt Jr. Gwen was born in Paris to the famous sculptor Roland Hinton Perry and his wife Irma, but
was later adopted by her mother’s second husband, Richard, and would become a
sculptor herself later in life. Louise grew up in San Francisco, California
with a journalist and labor reformer father. She would eventually become an
outspoken figure in the first wave feminist movement and a Communist political
activist who hung around the likes of Emma Goldman and Eugene O’Neill.

Gwen Le Gallienne poses next to one of her sculptures (x).

In 1932, Louise wed William
Christian Bullitt Jr., her third husband, and the couple moved to Paris.
The marriage was a rocky one from the start; Louise had convinced William that
she was only 28-years-old when in truth she was 38 at the time of their
marriage. Nevertheless, the two moved about the circles of fellow wealthy
expatriates who lived in Paris in the 1920s and had two children together; their daughter was named Anne Moen Bullitt and they later adopted a Turkish boy named

Refik. The affair with Gwen is believed to
have begun in 1926. Whereas Louise had previously abstained from alcohol and
was a voracious writer, the pressures of being the wife of a wealthy man such
as William, which she had never experienced before, started to get to her and
she stopped writing, began drinking heavily, and fled to her society friend Gwen
for “comfort,” among other things.

In December 1923, Bryant married William Christian Bullitt Jr., former assistant secretary of state. In this photo, Bryant is holding their daughter, Anne, who was born the following February. In 1925 the couple adopted a Turkish boy, Refik, here standing at left (x).

After Louise’s husband discovered
letters between the two women on September 28, 1929, the affair ended and
scandal ensued. William divorced Louise and was awarded full custody of their
children, citing alcoholism and lesbianism as reasons Louise was not fit to be
a mother. Although the affair put strains on Gwen’s marriage, this was not the
first time she was found to have relationships with other women; she had
long been, and would continue to be for the rest of her life, a presence in the lesbian clubs and salons of Paris. After the
discovery, Louise was abandoned by her family and attempted suicide, but she wouldn’t pass away until 1936 from a brain hemorrhage. Gwen maintained her support network of lesbian friends such
as Berenice Abbott and Djuna Barnes before passing away in London several years later.