Category: wlw history

SEPTEMBER 4: Xena: Warrior Princess premieres …


On this day in 1995, the very first episode of Xena: Warrior Princess aired on NBC.
Although the series had no explicit LGBT characters, the lesbian-coding of its
titular character and her gal pal Gabrielle made the show a cult lesbian
classic throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Although dated to today’s audience, Xena: Warrior Princess was a progressive show of storytelling and special effects for its time (x).

Set in a fantasy-eqsue Ancient Greece, Xena: Warrior Princess follows the story of Xena, an Amazon warrior
played by Lucy Lawless, as she travels the globe and defends the innocent along
with her right-hand woman and farm girl turned fighter, Gabrielle, played by
Renee O’Connor. Although the show was a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journey in which the character of Xena was
depicted as a villain, Xena: Warrior Princess
flipped the script and portrayed Xena as a hero on her path of redemption and
eventually surpassed its predecessor in both ratings and popularity. During its
second season, it was the top rated syndicated drama series on American
television and remained in the top 5 for the rest of the show’s lifespan.

In what would now be deemed as “queerbaiting” of the highest
order, lesbian viewers of Xena: Warrior
were continually teased by jokes and innuendos in the show about
the true nature of Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship. In the media landscape of
2017 where LGBT audiences have somewhat of an array of media to choose from,
such obvious disregard for lesbian viewers might have tanked the series, but in
1995, it what was catapulted it to cult classic status. Xena became a culturally significant moment in lesbian history. In
a hilarious attempt to slyly target lesbian customers, the car company Subaru even released
advertisements in the mid-1990s that showed cars with license plates that read “XENA
LVR,” and an LGBT rights group was formed that called themselves The
Marching Xenas. 

Although the promised reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess in which Xena and Gabrielle were to be
canonically a couple was recently cancelled by NBC, nothing can erase the
original show’s cultural impact and the lesbian audience that propelled it forward.
In 2006, the Xena costume was donated to the National Museum of American
History, and perhaps even more satisfying, in 2003, Lucy Lawless herself gave an
interview in which she answered speculation about Xena and Gabrielle’s
relationship by saying, “They’re married, man.”


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.


AUGUST 5: Ernestine “Tiny” Davis (1909-1994)


Born on this day in 1909, Ernestine Davis was a popular jazz singer
and trumpeter of the LGBT music scene. Nicknamed “Tiny,” she gained fame with The International Sweethearts of Rhythm which was the very first fully-integrated, all-female big band in the United States. 

Tiny was often called “the female Louis Armstrong” (x).

Tiny was born on August 5, 1909 in Memphis, Tennessee. She
was her parents’ youngest child out of seven and grew up with 4 older sisters
and 2 older brothers. She attended Booker T. Washington High School and it was
there where Tiny first picked up a trumpet and discovered her natural musical
abilities. When the family moved to Kansas City in 1935, Tiny joined a band
called the Harlem-Play Girls but she was forced to leave the group a year
later with the birth of her first child from her marriage to Clarence Davis.

In 1941, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm jazz band
severed its ties with the Piney Woods Country Life School of Mississippi which
had founded the band back in 1937. Now based in Virginia and free of all
financial responsibilities to Piney Woods, the 16-piece band began recruiting new
members. Tiny was one of three musicians who the band picked up for this new
era and during her 7 years with The International Sweethearts, Tiny toured all
across the United States, performed at The Apollo for celebrity musicians such
as Louis Armstrong and Eddie Durham, and took part in a USO tour during World War

Tiny performs “How ‘Bout That Jive?” with The International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

In 1947, Tiny left The International Sweethearts and started
her own band called The Prairie Co-Eds, which was later renamed to The Hell
Divers. Her new band enjoyed a successful career of touring throughout the Caribbean
and Central America and recording for Decca Records before disbanding in 1952.
From the mid-1950s until their deaths, Tiny and her partner Ruby Lucas – who
was also a musician and was the bassist for The Hell Divers – operated a club
in Chicago called Tiny & Ruby’s Gay Spot. Tiny regularly performed at the
club well into her old age and passed away on January 30, 1994. You can learn
more about Tiny in the 1988 documentary dedicated to her over 40-year long
relationship with Ruby titled Tiny &
Ruby: Hell Divin’ Women


JULY 30: Gina Rodriguez (1984-)



Picture Source: x

On July 30 1984, Gina Alexis Rodriguez was born to Magali and Genaro Rodriguez in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of three girls (her eldest sister, Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, is an investment banker, and her second eldest sister, Rebecca Rodriguez, is a doctor), Rodriguez was raised in Chicago’s Northwest Side in the Belmont Craigin neighborhood. She performed in a salsa dance company, Fantasia Juvenil at the age of seven and continued to dance salsa until she was seventeen. Raised and educated Catholic, she graduated high school from St. Ignatius College Prep and was one of thirteen students accepted into Columbia University’s Theatrical Collaboration. She went to New York University’s School of Tisch Arts and trained with the Atlantic Theater Company and Experimental Theatre Wing, and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in 2006.    

Rodriguez performed in the world premiere as Frida Kahlo in The Last Moments of Frida Kahlo at the America Stage Theatre at Casa Blue in the United Kingdom. In October 2011, Rodriguez accepted a recurring role on The Bold and The Beautiful, as Beverly. She performed in the musical Go For It!, which recevied a 2011 Imagen Awards  nomination. She was in Filly Brown and won an Imagen Award for that and also won the Best Actor Award at The First Run Film Festival in New York. She won the Inauguarl Lupe Award in 2013. Though she was offered a role in Devious Maids in 2013, she turned it down. In February 2014, Entertainment Weekly announced Rodriguez would star as Jane Villanueva in The CW’s Jane the Virgin. In 2014, she joined the cast for the dramatic film, Sticky Notes and in 2015, co-hosted the 2015 Teen Choice Awards. In 2016, she played in Deepwater Horizon, as Andrea Fleytas, and in Lip Sync Battle against Wilmer Valderrama. In 2017, she will be in the Christmas movie, The Star, in November.     

In March 2015, Rodriguez was named to the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Later the same year, Rodriguez helped raise money for PACER’s (Parents Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights)National Bullying Prevention Center and CustomInk “Be Good To Each Other Campaign”, where each celebrity designed a teeshirt and the proceeds of each purchased shirt went to PACER. Rodriguez’s design read: “Kindness Is Always In Style” in cursive writing. In October, Gina was announced partner to the Naja lingerie line, focused on women and the environment.      

Last June, Rodriguez answered a follower’s questions regarding her sexuality as:


Tweet Source.  

You can follow Gina on Twitter and Instagram.

Sources: x  

~lex lee.

JULY 30: Emily Brontë (1818-1848)


We covered Charlotte Brontë and her relationship with Ellen
Nussey back in March, but today it’s her little sister’s turn! Fellow English
author and possible fellow lesbian, Emily Brontë, was born on this day in 1818.


A group portrait of all three of the literary

Brontë sisters painted in 1834 by their brother Branwell is the only undisputed rendering of Emily (x). 

Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30, 1818 in the small
village of Thornton. She was the middle child out of the three famous Brontë
sisters – Charlotte being the oldest and Anne being the youngest – but she was
her parents’ fifth child out of six. Emily was a shy, sensitive girl who was
known for her love of animals and her penchant for bringing home stray dogs.
The deaths of her mother and two sisters Maria and Elizabeth and the abuse she faced
at the Clergy Daughters’ School would go on to affect Emily’s worldview and creative
efforts for the rest of her life.

At the age of 20, Emily left home and tried her hand at
teaching at Law Hill School in Halifax; however, the stress of the 17-hour work
day and homesickness became too much to bear and she returned home in April of
1839. This act of venturing out only to
return home to be a stay-at-home-daughter for her father would become a pattern
for Emily. Homesickness plagued her all her life and she seemed to only be
happy when she was among the “solemn moors” of her childhood. It was those very
same “solemn moors” that were the inspiration for Emily’s singular novel and
the now classic Wuthering Heights,
published in 1847 under the name Ellis Bell. The famous gothic romance would
only appear with Emily’s true name three years later in 1850, long after it had
captured the hearts of the British public.

Throughout her life, Emily was undeniably a recluse and
historians have worked hard for decades to try and find out as much about her
personal life as they can. While her sister Charlotte had an undeniably lesbian
relationship with a woman named Ellen Nussey, Emily’s sexuality has been harder to
discern. For years, she was painted as the eternally ignorant, virginal Brontë
sister, but with the 1983 publication of Emily
Heretic by Stevie Davies a
new conversation was opened up about the possibility that Emily was simply
uninterested in relationships with men. In the book, Davies asserts her belief that Emily was in fact a lesbian and discusses her close relationship with a schoolmate named Louise de Bassompierre and her possible
connection to the famous lesbian aristocrat Anne Lister. Had sickness not overtaken Emily, the truth may have been clearer, but her premature death
at the age of 30 on December 19, 1848 would prevent the world from knowing any
more of her dreams, plans, or creative capabilities. 


JULY 24: Mara Wilson (1987-)


Happy birthday, Mara Wilson! You might recognize her as
the lovable girl-genius Matilda from the 1996 film, but today Mara is an out bisexual
writer and playwright!

In 2016, Mara published an autobiography titled Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (x). 

Mara was born on July 24, 1987 in Burbank, California. Her
father worked in television, which led to her and her older brother Danny
auditioning for child roles in film and television. At first, Mara appeared in
commercials for companies like Texaco, Lunchables, and Marshall’s, but her
first big film role came 1993 with Mrs.
. Her role as the youngest daughter of the Hillard family in Mrs. Doubtfire put her name on the map and by 1995 she had starred in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, multiple television shows, and
had performed at 67th Academy Awards ceremony. It was that Academy Awards
ceremony where actor and director Danny Devito first noticed Mara and decided
to cast her for the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s iconic book, Matilda.

Matilda was a
resounding success and continues to be a staple of many people’s, specifically
young girl’s, childhoods today! However, Mara’s mother tragically passed away from
breast cancer not long after the filming of Matilda
and the grief sapped away at Mara’s passion for acting. Her last major film
role was in the 2000 film Thomas and the
Magic Railroad
and she has also done guest work on series such as Broad City, BoJack Horseman, and Welcome
to Nightvale
. In 2013, Mara announced that she was retiring from acting and
has instead began to make a name for herself as a writer; she has since written
articles for the magazine Cracked and
had an original play, Sheeple, premiere at the New York International Fringe

In 2016, Mara came out as bisexual on Twitter. She did so in
a show of solidarity with the LGBT community after the Pulse nightclub
shooting, also saying, “I’m a relatively fortunate cis white lady, there’s very
little risk in me coming out. LGBT minorities are more at risk” and asking her
followers to donate to the GoFundMe page for Pulse survivors. You can follow Mara
on Twitter @MaraWilson!


JULY 22: Rebecca Sugar comes out (2016)


On this day in 2016, animator and creator of Steven
, Rebecca Sugar, came out as bisexual on a panel at San Diego Comic

Rebecca Sugar is the first woman to ever be an official show runner at Cartoon Network (x). 

Rebecca was born on July 9, 1987 in Silver Spring, Maryland.
She began her career in animation with the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, for which she was nominated
for Primetime Emmy Award for Short-Format Animation twice. She left the show
after the fifth season to begin production on her own original series, the now
famous Steven Universe.

Steven Universe
premiered on Cartoon Network in 2013 and quickly gained a huge following of both
child and adult viewers. In 2016, the series was even awarded its own panel at
San Diego Comic Con, where Rebecca Sugar gathered with the other talents behind
the show to answer questions from fans. When one fan asked Rebecca what
inspired her to center Steven Universe around feminist themes, Rebecca
nonchalantly answered, “Well, in large part it’s based on my experience as a
bisexual woman” – this being the first time she publicly addressed her
sexuality! Rebecca went on to say:

 “These things have so much to do with who
you are, and there’s this idea that these are themes that should not be shared
with kids, but everyone shares stories about love and attraction with kids. So
many stories for kids are about love, and it really makes a difference to hear
stories about how someone like you can be loved and if you don’t hear those
stories it will change who you are. It’s very important to me that we speak to
kids about consent and we speak to kids about identity and that we speak to kids
about so much. I want to feel like I exist and I want everyone else who wants
to feel that way to feel that way too.” 

In response, the audience at the panel
exploded into a standing ovation.


JULY 16: Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990)


American screen legend Barbara Stanwyck was
born on this day in 1907. The lesbian starlet spent many years of her life as
the highest paid woman in the U.S. and as an icon for the LGBT community. 


In her heyday, Barbara Stanwyck was famous for her film noirs, and in her later years, she rose to prominence once again for her western films (x).

Barbara was born as Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907
in Brooklyn, New York. She was the fifth child born to working-class
parents and would experience a traumatic childhood after the death of her
mother and the mysterious disappearance of her father – two weeks after Barbara’s
mother died from complications from a miscarriage, her father took a job digging
the Panama Canal and was never seen again. Barbara’s older sister Mildred did
her best to raise her younger siblings, but Barbara and her brother Byron were
eventually placed into foster care. Barbara ran away from the foster care system at the age of 14 and joined her sister Mildred
working as a showgirl. 

Her big break came to Barbara just two years later; when she was 16-years-old, she auditioned for and was given a part with
the Ziegfeld Follies, one of New York’s premier theater groups of the 1910s and
1920s. Later in life, Barbara would say, “I just wanted to survive and
eat and have a nice coat,” but it was with the Ziegfeld Follies that she
made a name for herself choreographing dance numbers at the Texas Guinan gay
and lesbian speakeasy and where she met the famous director Willard Mack. Willard cast
Barbara in his play The Noose, which
was a breakout success and eventually found its way onto Broadway. It was also
Willard who gave her the idea to change her name from Ruby Stevens to Barbara
Stanwyck – Barbara for the name of her character in The Noose, and Stanwyck
was stolen from another actress who was in the production. And just like that,
the Barbara Stanwyck we know today was born.


Between her starring roles in films such as Breakfast for Two (1937) and A Message to Garcia (1936), Barbara earned a reputation as a more masculine leading lady compared to many of her contemporaries (x)(x). 

The 1927 silent film Broadway
was Barbara’s very first film role; although she played a minor
role, she would go on to star in over 40 films and 4 television series throughout
her career! Some of her most iconic films include Double IndemnityThe
Lady Eve
, and Night Nurse,
and she was awarded two Emmys, a Golden Globe, and three different Lifetime
Achievement Awards before her death. One role that secured Barbara’s legacy in
film history was that of the very first out lesbian to be shown in American
cinema – Jo Courtney in Walk on the Wild Side. Despite the film’s portrayal
of Jo Courtney being far from progressive, the film did earn Barbara a huge
lesbian following and piqued the media to her own not-so-secret lesbian past.

Although Barbara
was married twice, the rumors of the day said that they were both “lavender
marriages” – a term coined in the theater community to mean a gay man and
lesbian who married each other to avoid media speculation into their sexuality.
When a journalist named Boze Hadleigh famously asked Barbara about these
speculations in 1962, she reportedly kicked him
out of her house. There are stories about Barbara sleeping with almost every other
popular actress in her day; from Greta Garbo to Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead. However, in Barbara’s later years, her
serious partner was her live-in publicist Helen Ferguson, whose “friendship”
with Barbara lasted almost 30 years.


Barbara and her longtime “gal pal” and publicist, Helen Ferguson (x).

Barbara Stanwyck
died on January 20, 1990 due to congestive heart failure.
According to her will, no funeral service was given and instead her ashes were
scattered over Lone Pine, California, her favorite destination which she had
come across while filming several of her western films. In the book
Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture by Luca Prono, Barbara’s legacy
and importance to the LGBT community is summed up with: “Stanwyck acquired the
status of icon within lesbian communities…Stanwyck was a woman…whose screen
persona challenged respectability because of the strong and independent women
she embodied in the 1940s.”


JULY 12: Else von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-19…


On this day in 1874, the “Mama of Dada” was born. The Baroness
Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, as she was known, was an eccentric bisexual woman,
a living work of art, and the originator of the iconic art piece Fountain.


Else photographed going about her daily life in Harlem, New York on January 10, 1921 (x).

Born Else Hildegard Plötz in Pomerania, Germany, Else’s
father was a mason who afforded the family middle-class status. She began
training as an actress and vaudeville performer at a young age and eventually
moved off to Dachau to study art. After finishing her studies, Else relocated
to Berlin – the heart of German Dada. It was in Berlin where she found a
community of like-minded artists who challenged the era’s gender and sexual
mores and refused to separate their selfhood from their art, but still, she was
one of the few women actively involved in the community. Other women included
the writer Mina Loy and the expressionist painter Gabriele Münter, both with
whom Else had affairs. 

In 1901, she married an architect named August Endell
and the two had an open relationship until they divorced in 1906. She was soon
married to a translator named Felix Paul Greve, and although this relationship
would soon fall apart as well, Else’s marriage to Felix would change her life.
In 1909, finding himself penniless and in mountains of debt, Felix convinced
Else to help him fake his own death. The couple’s plan was to disappear from
Germany forever and start a new life in America, but after Else joined her
husband in the U.S., he abandoned her and Else was left alone in a foreign
country with no friends.

In America, she was forced to start her life from the ground up; she found work in a
cigarette factory and she also started modeling for photographers in New York City. It
was through her modeling career in New York City that she met and became
friends with legendary photographers such as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, powerful connections that, once again, allowed Else to become involved in an artistic society. In
1913, she was finally able to give up the hustle and focus more on her art when she
married the wealthy Baron Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven; during this time,
her poetry was picked up by the prestigious journal The Little Review and her sculptures/“living collages” began
being shown in galleries. In recent years, it has
been discovered that legendary Dada artworks like Fountain
and God that were once attributed to
male artists and close friends of Else, Marcel Duchamp and Morton Livingston
Schamberg, were actually created by Else herself.

In 1921, Else left New York and moved back to Europe. First,
she returned to Berlin, but found it to be a devastated shell of her former home in the aftermath of World War I. She eventually settled in Paris, where she
struggled to make ends meet and had to be financially assisted by her wealthy
friends such as Djuna Barnes and Peggy Guggenheim. Else died a mysterious death
on December 14, 1927; she was found dead in her home, curled up with her beloved
pet dog. The cause of death was pronounced to be gas suffocation, but the exact
circumstances that led to the gas being left on in her apartment are unknown.


JULY 11: Orange is the New Black premieres (20…


On this day in 2013, Orange
is the New
Black premiered on Netflix. Ever since the show burst onto
everyone with an internet connection’s radar, it has been praised for its fresh
depictions of women’s stories and has been introducing baby lesbians to their
new celebrity crushes with characters like Poussey Washington, Alex Vause, and
Nicky Nichols.

The ensemble cast of Orange is the New Black pose for a promo photo for season one (x). 

Loosely based on a 2010 memoir titled Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, the show
tells the story of Piper Chapman, a wealthy white woman who is sentenced
to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary for having been involved in her
ex-girlfriend’s drug smuggling business 10 years prior. Although Piper is in a seemingly happy marriage with her husband Larry, her relationship status is complicated when she discovers that her ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause, is also doing time at Litchfield. Piper is technically
the main character of the series, but she has been described as a “Trojan horse” by
the series’ own creator, Jenji Kohan; it is through Piper’s perspective that
the audience enters Litchfield, but when there, the show is undeniably stolen by
her nuanced and lovable supporting characters. Piper’s privileged life is put in stark contrast
with the unprivileged lives of her prison mates who are varyingly lesbian, trans,
low-income women of color.

Take a trip down memory lane and watch the trailer for season one of the series!

The fifth season of Orange
is the New Black
was just released in June of 2017 and, to date, it is the
most viewed original series Netflix has ever produced. After the first season
was released in 2013, the series won an impressive 12 Emmy wins and has been nominated
for a collection of Emmys and Golden Globes ever since its debut. Although the
show attempts to tackle social issues such as the prison-industrial complex and police
brutality, it has often missed the mark and received backlash,
particularly for the killing of Poussey Washington in season four who was a
beloved fan favorite and one of the few black lesbian characters in today’s
television landscape. Despite the criticism, you can expect to see Orange is
the New Black
back on your laptop or television screen for at least two more
years as it has been renewed for a sixth and seventh season. What are your
thoughts on the show? Who is your OITNB crush?