Category: sapphic

AUGUST 8: Olga de Meyer (1871-1930)


On this day in 1871, the Baroness Olga de Meyer was born.
Olga, later called Mahrah de Meyer, was a British socialite, model, and fashion
icon of the early 20th century.

Olga photographed by her husband Adolph de Meyer in 1910 (x).

Born Donna Maria Beatrice Olga Alberta Caracciolo in London
on August 8, 1871, Olga was born into a noble family. Her mother was the daughter of a French diplomat and her father was a Duke, although it was frequently rumored that her true birth father was King Edward
VII! Olga grew up in Dieppe, France with her mother and grandmother –
her father having separated himself from the family amongst the many rumors
about Olga’s paternity. After the death of her mother in 1891, Olga entered
into her first marriage to a nobleman named Marino Brancaccio.

The Baron and Baroness de Meyer photographed some time in between 1905 and 1910 (x).

After her “short and dramatic union” with Marino ended, Olga
married the famous German photographer Adolph de Meyer, whose name would
skyrocket her own to international fame. The marriage was one of
convenience, as both Adolph and Olga preferred their same gender. Among Olga’s
lovers were Winnaretta Singer, a sewing machine heiress, and Violet Trefusis, a
wealthy author who eventually became known for her affair with Vita
. Now comfortably in a marriage where she was financially secure
and could also love who she chose, Olga’s artistic merit began to rise. She
became a popular model for the who’s who of painters, such as Giovanni Boldini,
Walter Sickert, and John Singer Sargent, and also inspired characters in the
novels of Elinor Glyn and Ada Leverson. Olga later became a writer herself,
working for a Paris newspaper by the name La
and publishing several short stories and one novel.

A sketch of Olga as drawn in 1907 by her longtime friend and iconic artist John Singer Sargent (x).

Throughout her life, Olga moved in undeniably privileged,
artistic circles and indulged in parties, drugs, and alcohol. She
eventually developed a cocaine addiction and would pass away in a rehab
facility in 1930. Despite her tragic ends, today she is remembered as a wlw icon of the past and the
eternally confident figure who smirks back at us from the canvases of some of
the best artistic minds of the 1920s.


MAY 31: DC Comics announce Batwoman is a lesbi…


In 1956, the head story writers for DC comics decided
that they had had enough of the rumors and the snickering about Batman and
Robin being in a gay relationship; their solution was to introduce the
character of Kathy Kane A.K.A Batwoman, who would be Bruce Wayne’s primary love
interest for the next twenty years. In perhaps the most ironic shift in pop
culture history, on May 31, 2006, it was announced that DC Comics would not
only be reviving the character of Batwoman in their new 52 series, but that they would also be re-imagining her as a lesbian.
What other incentive to start reading comic books could you possibly need?

In Batwoman #17, which was published in 2013, Batwoman proposed to her girlfriend Detective Maggie Sawyer. The character of Maggie was first introduced as Kate Kane’s love interest in 2011 (x).

After being killed off in 1979, Batwoman only returned to
the DC universe sporadically throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. It wasn’t
until the 52 comic book series, in
which DC chronicled the fifty-two weeks leading up to the comic event known as Infinite Crisis, that the company
decided to drastically reintroduce the world to Batwoman. Now going by the name
of Kate Kane (rather than the more stuffy 1950s name of “Kathy”), Batwoman was
introduced in Issue #7 of the 52 series
as a rich, Jewish socialite who is dating a Gotham City police detective by the
name of Renee Montoya.

In Batman #153, the first incarnation of Batwoman, now referred to as Silver Age Batwoman (A.K.A Straight Batwoman), kisses Batman for the first time. In the first panel, she declares, “I do love you! I never wanted to admit it before…Oh Batman…” (x).

Batwoman’s “coming out” in 2006 not only made her one of the
highest-profile gay characters in DC comics, but one of the highest-profile gay
characters in comic book history! The news was covered by many major news outlets
from CNN to Out Magazine. Although the inclusion of a lesbian character
garnered both praise and scorn from the general public, the high emotions
nevertheless translated into cold hard cash in the form of high comic book sales. In 2010, DC introduced a Batwoman
solo title comic which ran until 2014. You
can currently catch Kate Kane kicking ass and taking names in the ongoing Detective Comics series!


Dear Mary: I am writing a few lines to let you…

Dear Mary: I am writing a few lines to let you know that I am well and hoping you are the same…But kid I’d like to go out with you again the old lady throwing me out of the house because I ain’t working for about a month now. why don’t you call me up honey did you forget about me, did you forget my phone number…Good Bye, Good Luck. From Your Loving Girl Friend, Adeline J– to Mary K–

MAY 28: Almost Adults (2016)


Released on this day in 2016, Almost Adults is a movie about two girls in their last year of
college struggling with their fears of growing up and growing apart, but most
importantly, it’s a movie about a lesbian and straight girl figuring out how to
navigate their friendship.

The two main stars of Almost
are Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis of Carmilla fame, the
lesbian vampire webseries that if you’re a wlw on the internet you’ve probably
heard of by now. The story follows Mackenzie, played by Bauman, as she makes the
critical decision to come out as gay to her friends and family, but the person
she finds is the hardest to come out to is her lifelong best friend Cassie,
played by Negovanlis. Although there are moments in the first half of movie
when it looks like they might turn down the romcom road and set Mackenzie and
Cassie up as love interests, the story is ultimately about the two women’s
friendship and how a person’s sexuality can be inconsequential to who they really
are and yet simultaneously feel like the only important thing about someone. 

Cassie accidentally finds Mackenzie’s Tumblr blog which she’s been using as a
stand-in dating app (the most realistic part of the whole movie tbh), the
friendship between the girls starts to splinter. The rest of the film follows
Mackenzie and Cassie as they embark on new relationships and try to find out
who they are without the other one in their life, ultimately reconciling in
that poignant yet expected way all indie films are somehow able to pull off. Lesbian
movies have an unfortunate reputation for being riddled with corny dialogue,
stale acting, and just an overall low-quality and Almost Adults does not completely shatter this stereotype. There
are a lot of jokes in the movie that simply just don’t land and there are
premises that feel like they’re trying so hard to be #relatable that they end
up alienating the movie’s core audience. However, there are worse
things to watch for a night in with Netflix besides a happy movie that
actually has a lesbian as a main character and has coming out of the closet as
its main conflict. 


MAY 27: Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)


The famed
dancer Isadora Duncan was born on this day in 1877. She is remembered as “The
Mother of Dance” as well as for causing scandal wherever she went by being an
openly bisexual communist and atheist.


Isadora Duncan photographed in London some time between 1906 and 1912 (x).

Angela Isadora
Duncan was born on May 26, 1877 in San Francisco, California. She was the
youngest of four children born to Joseph and Mary Duncan. Her father worked as
a successful banker for most of his life, but it was not long after Isadora’s
birth that he was exposed for corruption and the family was thrown into
poverty. Her parents would eventually divorce and her mother would move
she and the children to Oakland, California and take up work as a seamstress
and piano teacher. It was the family’s financial troubles that would ultimately
introduce Isadora to dance; she and her siblings dropped out of school early on
and taught dance to local children in order to make money.

She began to
pursue dance as a serious career in 1896 when she joined the Augustin Daly
theater company and moved to New York City. Isadora’s approach to dance was very
nontraditional, though, and she quickly became disillusioned with the New York
dance circuit’s strict reliance on the traditional pantomime style. She moved
to London in 1898 and became a freelance performer, dancing and traveling
around Europe for wealthy patrons. She would soon become a staple of
European art society and a muse to several celebrities such as occultist
Aleister Crowley, fashion designer Paul Poiret, and photographer Eadweard

Isadora had
relationships with men and women throughout her life. She had three children
all out of wedlock and with different men, but all three would tragically die
before reaching adulthood. Her lovers included the famous actress Eleonora
Duse, early feminist activist Lina Poletti, and the writer Mercedes de Acosta.
The letters between her and Mercedes are the most well-preserved out of all her romantic correspondences. In one, Isadora wrote, “Mercedes, lead me with your little strong
hands and I will follow you – to the top of a mountain. To the end of the
world. Wherever you wish.”

Once her dance
career began to wind down in her later years, it was Isadora’s scandalous love
life for which she became most famous for. She would pass away in a tragic
accent on September 14, 1927 in Nice, France. While riding in an Amilcar
automobile of a friend, her long scarf became trapped in its open-spoked
wheels; she was pulled out of the car and broke her neck. She was cremated and
her ashes placed next to those of her late children.


MAY 26: Mathilde de Morny (1863-1944)


On this day in 1863, Mathilde de Morny was born in Paris,
France. The gender non-conforming aristocrat would go on to make a name for
herself in the art world as “Yssim,” a painter, sculptor, and rebellious personality. 

Mathilde :Missy” de Morny stares away from the camera, sporting short cropped hair and a full men’s suit (x). 

Mathilde, or Missy as she was called by friends and family,  was born on May 26, 1863. Her parents were Charles de Morny, Duke of
Morny and Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya. Those names may mean little
to contemporary readers, but her father was Napoleon III’s half-brother and her
mother was the illegitimate daughter of Czar Nicholas I. It was the reputations
of her parents that allowed Missy to lead such a lavish and non-conforming (in more ways than one!) life. It is possible that
Missy could have been a transgender man, having undergone both a hysterectomy
and a mastectomy in her lifetime, but in the world of the nineteenth century, she
went by she/her pronouns and found a home in the thriving lesbian subculture of
the Belle Époque.

Missy is photographed with her longtime lover, the burlesque performer turned novelist, Colette, in their home in Le Crotoy (x). 

Although women in France had been granted legal permission
to wear pants by the 1880s, Missy consistently caused social scandal by
wearing an entire three-piece suit and smoking cigars wherever she went. She married
the marquis of Belbeuf, Jacques Godart, in 1881, but both she and Jacques made
no secret of the fact of their gayness and the two
divorced in 1903. Missy’s longest lasting love affairs were with Liane de Pougy
and Colette, two famous dancers who had arisen out of French Bohemia. For
almost five years, she and Colette lived together at the ‘Belle Plage’ villa in
Le Crotoy. It was at the ‘Belle Plage’ where both Missy and Colette came into
their own as artists. Colette began writing her novels and Missy began painting
and sculpting and chose the pseudonym “Yssim” (Missy backwards) for her
artistic persona. Today, Missy is most well-remembered as the inspiration for
the character of La Chevalière in Colette’s breakout novel Le Pur et l’Impur and for inciting a riot at the Moulin Rogue when
she and Colette simulated a sex scene together on stage.

Missy tragically committed suicide on June 29, 1944, but she
is forever remembered for the rebel she was. In Le Pur et l’Impur, her spirit is
immortalized with the words, “in dark masculine attire, belying any notion of
gaiety or bravado… High born, she slummed it like a prince.“


MAY 25: Auguste Fickert (1855-1910)


Affectionately nicknamed “Gusti,” by her students in the
radical feminist movement, Auguste Fickert was born on this day in 1855 in
Vienna, Austria.


A statue commemorating Auguste’s life and work stands at Türkenschanzpark in Währing, Vienna. Sculpted by Franz Seifert in 1929, the statue has an inscription which reads, “Full of courage and energy she sacrificed her life to high ideals” (x).

Auguste enjoyed a comfortable childhood as the daughter of Wilhelm
Fickert, a professional printer for the Viennese court. She grew up with one
sister and two brothers and was educated at the Englisher Fraulein convent
school. As she grew older, she enrolled and eventually graduated from the
Lehrerinnen- Bildungsanstalt St Anna. Although history shows many women who
enrolled in teaching schools simply because there were so little viable career
options for them before the twentieth century, education really was Auguste’s
passion. She would work at in the Schulegasse of Vienna, a girls’ school in
Vienna, for the rest of her professional life.

One can assume that Auguste’s position in an all girls’
school is what partly motivated her to propel herself into the women’s rights
movement. Her first act of political dissension was when she left the Catholic
Church in 1893 and publicly criticized the Christian foundation of Austria’s
school system. Despite receiving an enormous amount of backlash and social
shaming, Auguste was just getting started. Throughout her life, she worked as a
campaigner to achieve universal women’s suffrage across Austria and as an
advocate for the unionization of women workers; she was also involved in a
campaign that sought better government treatment for prostitutes. 

Auguste’s life
partner was a woman named Ida Baumann. The two met during their early days in
the women’s rights movement, but Ida eventually chose to lead a quieter life by
Auguste’s side while Auguste stormed her way into feminist icon status.
Ida was also a teacher and she lived with Auguste’s until her death. Auguste
passed away on June 9, 1910 and today she is most well-known as the cofounder
of Allgemeiner Österreichischer Frauenverein (General Austrian Women’s
Association), which sought to improve working class women’s lives and was one of the most radical organizations in Austrian


MAY 23: Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908-1942)


The Swiss journalist, photographer, and lesbian icon, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, was born on this day in 1908.

One of the many photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach taken by her close friend and most likely her lover, Marianne Breslauer (x). 

Annemarie Minna Renée
Schwarzenbach was born on May 23, 1908 in Zurich, Switzerland. Her family
afforded her a privileged life, her father being a wealthy business who worked
in the silk industry and her mother being the daughter of a prominent general
in the Swiss army. Annemarie’s mother was also bisexual and an artist herself
who loved photography; Renée Schwarzenbach’s bisexuality could possibly have
been the reason Annemarie’s penchant for dressing in boy’s clothes and
participating in “boy’s activities” was not punished during her childhood. She
would later attend the University of Zurich, where she began having
relationships with women.

One of Annemarie’s first serious
partners was Erika Mann, daughter of the famous writer Thomas Mann. The two met
in 1930 and although their romantic relationship would not last long, she,
Erika, and Erika’s gay brother Klaus would all three remain lifelong friends.
It was while living with Klaus in Berlin that Annemarie was introduced to hard
drugs and the party lifestyle. A close friend, Ruth Landshoff, would later
write that she “lived dangerously. She drank too much. She never went to sleep
before dawn.” With the rise of the Nazis to power, she became estranged
from her family, who were Nazi sympathizers and resented Annemarie’s
antifascist beliefs and friendship with the Jewish Mann family.

Annemarie photographed with her lover Ella Maillart. Ella was a fellow travel writer and the two embarked on expansive travels together to places such as Afghanistan and Turkmenistan (x).

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s,
Annemarie produced over 170 articles and 50 photo reports for Swiss, German,
and American magazines. She would spend the majority of her life
traveling and writing around Europe with colorful companions such as the photographer Marianne Breslauer, the Manns, and her eventual
husband, Achille-Claude Clarac. Achille was a gay French diplomat who sought marriage
for the same reason Annemarie did: social convenience. With the cover of her
marriage, she was free to seduce many women on her
travels, including ethnologist Ella Maillart, the daughter or a Turkish
Ambassador, Baronessa Margot von Opel, and the writer Carson McCullers.

As the years went on, Annemarie’s drug addiction worsened. Despite her several suicide attempts, it was a
biking accident that would eventually lead to Annemarie’s death on November 15,
1942. After falling from her bike in September of that year and sustaining a
serious head injury, she was shut up in a clinic by her family, where she was
misdiagnosed and was refused access to any visitors that were not members of the

Schwarzenbach family. Although her mother destroyed her letters and diaries following her
death, the people she called her true family – her LGBT friends and companions –
preserved her professional writings and photographs in the Swiss Literary
Archives in Bern.  


MAY 22: Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926)


The Irish poet, suffragist, and social activist Eva
Gore-Booth was born on this day in 1870!


A young Eva is pictured in a painting done by her older sister Constance (x).

Eva was born in County Sligo, Ireland on May 22, 1870. Her
parents were Sir Henry and Lady Georgina Gore-Booth of Lissadell. She lived a
very privileged life as the third out of five children to be born to the Baron
and Baroness of Lissdale House, an estate which had been in her family for
generations. As a child she was somewhat of a globetrotter and accompanied her
father on trips to places such as Jamaica, Cuba, San Francisco, and Montreal.
While in Venice, Eva was struck with a sudden respiratory
illness and was sent to the countryside villa of a family friend to recuperate.
It was there, in Bordighera, Italy, where she met her life partner Esther
Roper. After their health was restored, Eva and Esther settled down in Manchester, England and began to rise to political prominence.
Despite coming from a very wealthy and notable family, Eva became active in
leftist political circles of northern England and many credit her and Esther’s
work with getting working class English women politically conscious and linking
them up with the suffragist scene. Eva was a member of the executive council of
the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and joined the Labour Party
later on in life.


Photos of Eva Gore-Booth and her partner Esther Roper are placed side by side. After Eva’s death in 1926, Esther followed suit not long after in 1939. (x)

In the midst of all her activism, Eva was also a gifted poet
and dramatist. She was most well-known for her evocative poetry that directly questioned
sexual and gender mores of the time; along with her fellow poet friends, Eva started
a journal called Urania. Many interpret the title to be a reference to the word
“Uranian,” which was a nineteenth century term psychologists and scientists
used to refer to gay people. Urania published poems and essays about women
loving women, about suffragists who had experienced the front lines of protests
and had come in contact with police brutality, and about how gender was a social
construct. Eva, in spite of being a demure and shy woman, was ahead of her
time. She passed away on June 30, 1926 in London. She is buried next to her
life long love and partner, Esther, and her tombstone reads “"Life that is
Love is God" – a quote from the poet Sappho.


MAY 16: Tamara Łempicka (1898-1980)


The bisexual painter, Tamara
Łempicka, was born on this day in 1898. Today, she is most well-known for her
revolutionary contributions to the Art Deco style and her stylized nude portraits.

Tamara’s most famous self-portraits,Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti, circa 1925 (x).

Her birth name was Maria Górska and
she was born on May 16, 1898 in Warsaw, Poland. Her family lived a high class
life, her father being a Russian-Jewish attorney and her mother being a Polish
socialite. Tamara created her very first portrait at just the young age of ten;
her mother had commissioned a local artist to create a portrait of Tamara, but
Tamara was dissatisfied with the finished project and picked up the pastels to
create what she considered a more worthy portrait of her younger sister.

She spent much of her life
travelling around Europe painting and studying art and her first big breakthrough
did not come until 1925 when her work was exhibited at the prestigious International
Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. Spotted by journalists
from the American magazine Harper’s Baazar, Tamara’s polished Art Deco pieces
suddenly became all the rage with fashion magazines. Her highlight in Harper’s
led to even greater success, including expositions in both Milan and
Bordeaux. She would win her first major award in 1927, the first prize at the
Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts for her portrait, Kizette on the Balcony.

A 1933 nude portrait of one of Tamara’s female lovers, Suzy Solidor (x).

Throughout her life, Tamara was known
for her promiscuity and had open affairs with both men and women. She was
married to a prominent Polish lawyer, Tadeusz Łempicki, in 1916 and had a
daughter by him soon after, but she would have multiple affairs during the
course of their marriage. In the 1920s, Tamara started a long term affair with
the popular Parisian nightclub singer Suzy Solidor, and as a result, found
herself at the center of Paris’s lesbian circle. Through Suzy, she became
friends with such figures as Violet Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West, and Colette.

Tamara passed away on March 18, 1980. Today,
her work is still considered to be high art and imbued with a sense of wealth. Much of her artwork has been featured in Madonna music videos
and multiple A-List celebrities consider themselves Lempicka collectors, such
as Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand.