Category: women’s history

JANUARY 29: Gia Carangi (1960-1986)

365daysoflesbians:

image

(Source: x)

Many consider Gia Carangi to be the first supermodel. Born today in 1960 in Philidelphia, Carangi was the third and youngest of two brothers. Her parents didn’t get along (to put it mildly) and her mother left the family when Carangi was eleven years old. Many people believe this was the root to Carangi’s drug problems later in life. 

Becoming friends with the “Bowie kids” in high school, Carangi found a sort of home in David Bowie’s fashion sense, androgny, and bisexuality. Some friends compared Carangi to Cay from the movie Desert Hearts in terms of her approach to her sexuality.

Carangi moved to New York City when she was seventeen and signed on with Wilhelmina Models. October 1978 published her first major shoot with Chris von Wangenheim, where she posed naked with makeup artist, Sandy Linter. Carangi was deeply infatuated with Linter and though there was a relationship between them, it was never something that lasted.

This first shoot led Carangi to stardom, Vogue calling her rise to such, “meteoric”. She appeared in many fashion magazines including Vogue UK, Vogue Paris, American Vogue, Vogue Italia, and Cosmopolitan and campaigns for Armani, Versace, and Christian Diora among others. Many notable fashion photographers including Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, and Marco Glaviano loved to work with her and similar to Beyonce and Prince, Carangi became so famous, she was known just by her first name: Gia.    

After the death of her agent and mentor, Wilhelmina Cooper, Carangi, already an avid cocaine club user, led to her heroin addiction. This led to her inability to work well: she became violent, would leave to get more drugs, and sometimes even fell asleep while working. Carangi left Wilhelmina for Ford Models in November 1990 but was fired after a few weeks. As her offers stopped coming in, her friends and lovers, such as Sandy Linter, stopped talking to her because they feared her ruin would hurt their careers.

Carangi went back to her father and step-mother in Philadelphia in Febrauary 1981 and did a 21 detox program. But she was arrested in March of that same year and drove into a fence in a neighborhood.There was a police chase and after she was apprehended, they learned she was intoxicated and under the influence of cocaine. After being released, she signed on with Legends and worked in Europe for some time.

Later in the same year, Carangi attempted to make a comeback by signing with Elite Model Management. Many people weren’t interested in working with her, but she was put on the cover of Cosmopolitan photographed by Francesco Scavullo, her last time on an American magazine. She mainly worked with Albert Watson and appeared in some catalogs while she worked an outpatient meth program. Soon she began using heroin again. She was sent home from a shoot for using, and 1983 is the last time she’d leave New York ever again.

In December 1984, she went to an intense drug treatment program at Eagleville Hospital. After treatment, she worked at a clothing store, then as a check out clerk, then as a cafeteria worker in a nursing home before she started to use drugs again in late 1985.

Carangi was admitted to Warminster General Hospital for bilateral pneumonia in June 1986. She was diagnosed with AIDS-related complex. She was admitted again on October 18, to Hahnemann University Hopstial and at age twenty-six, died on November 18, 1986 of AIDS-related complex. Her funeral was on November 23, and many of the fashion world did not attend, though most of them didn’t know of her death until much later. Her friend, Francesco Scavullo, sent a Mass card a few weeks after the funeral when he heard the news.

There’s a straight to TV movie starring Angelina Jolie as Gia Carangi and Elizabeth Mitchell as Sandy Litner called Gia.

Sources (x, x)    

~lex lee.

JANUARY 28: Colette (1873-1954)

365daysoflesbians:

We’ve already talked about the kind of trouble Colette was able to create in 19th-century, straight-laced Paris (two words: THEATER RIOT), and we’re back today to provide you with a more in-depth look at this bisexual icon.

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Well, hello there.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born in 1873 in Burgundy, France. She spent a happy childhood, doted on by her mother, free to roam and enjoy a place that felt Edenic in its abundance of natural beauty. Early on, she learned to read and though her family experienced substantial financial problems for a while, she still received an extensive education.

When she was 20, she married Henry Gauthier-Villars, nicknamed “Willy.” The guy has the – justified – reputation of a philanderer but he’s also quite popular in Parisian intellectual circles, into which he quickly introduces his young wife. He’s also a prolific writer – but that’s because he uses ghostwriters. When he picks up on Colette’s writing talents, he doesn’t hesitate to use her as well, encouraging her to write about her memories from school (and also encouraging her to amp up the lesbian factor in there, since it would prove to be titillating to so many readers, and to pursue her own lesbian dalliances). This is how her first series of novels – the Claudine series – came to be published, but they were signed with Willy’s name and not hers.

Over time, even though Colette stated that she’d never have become a writer if not for Willy, she freed herself from his tutelage, especialyl since she never forgave him for selling the rights to the Claudine series without telling her. She started signing with the pseudonym “Colette Willy;” she and Willy separated in 1906, and finalized their divorce in 1910. Since Colette was pretty much broke at the time – having no means of getting the copyright earnings from the Claudine books – she relied on a stage career across French music halls. This was not a particularly easy period for her; yet it also meant liberation. She pursued several relationships with other women, including with Mathilde de Morny and Nathalie Barney Clifford.

She married twice more, first to Henry de Jouvenel, with whom she had one daughter, born in 1913 and nicknamed Bel-Gazou, and then with Maurice Goudeket. In 1945, she was unanimously elected into the Goncourt Academy, of which she became president in 1949. She wrote all her life, and recognition of her talent rose over time. When she died in 1954, the Catholic Church refused to give her a religious burial because of her reputation, but she became the first woman to receive a state funeral from the French Republic. She is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, next to her daughter. Want to read the obituary The New York Times wrote for her in 1954? It’s right here. And here are a few links if you wish to know more about her: in French, la Maison de Colettele Centre d’études Colette / a documentary about her from the INA archives. And in English, articles in The Spectator & The Guardian.

– AK

JANUARY 26: Ellen DeGeneres (1958-)

365daysoflesbians:

Hard to write for a blog full of lesbians and *not* talk about Ellen, whose TV talk show is in its 14th season, who’s had an extremely popular website named after her, and who also happens to be one of the best-known lesbians out there.

The face of CoverGirl

Born and mostly raised in Louisiana, Ellen had a number of jobs after high school, including doing clerical work for a law firm, and working in retail & at restaurants – much of this then became material for her stand-up routines.

She started her stand-up career in small clubs but by the early 1980s was touring nationally. She appeared in a few films – including a series for Epcot called “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” – and in short-lived TV shows before being cast in These Friends of Mine, which would eventually become Ellen on its second season. Ellen ran from 1994 to 1998, and laid the foundation for the comedian’s ever-growing popularity. The sitcom starred Ellen as a bookshop owner, and portrays her relationships with her family and friends.

In 1997, Ellen came out on Oprah’s show; this was followed by a coming-out episode on Ellen, which, if it didn’t end her career, far from it, certainly contributed to the show being stopped one year later. In 2001, however, Ellen came back to TV with a talk show that’s been getting increasingly high ratings and critical praise – The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

In August 2008, Ellen married Portia de Rossi. Ellen has also been a commencement speaker at Tulane University (twice), a judge for one season of American Idol, the host of multiple award ceremonies including the 79th Academy Awards (making her the first openly LGBT host of the ceremony), the face of CoverGirl, the creator of the world’s most retweeted selfie, a vegan & animal rights supporter, the voice actress for everyone’s favorite blue tang fish, Dory, and one of the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Happy Birthday Ellen!

– AK

JANUARY 25: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

365daysoflesbians:

Dear
readers,

Today we
will explore the life and affections of a favourite writer of mine – Virginia Woolf.
This first post will be echoed by reviews of several of her books later this
year, which is why we won’t linger too much on praising her literary genius.

To put you in the right mood, you can listen here to the only recording of her voice, first broadcast by the BBC on 29 April 1937 as part of a series called Words Fail Me.

British
writer Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25, 1882 in a stepfamily,
to Julia Prinsep Jackson, who was Julia Margaret Cameron’s niece and a
Pre-Raphaelite model, and to Sir Leslie Stephen, who was previously William
Thackeray’s son-in-law, and a historian, critic and biographer. Such parents
came with friends from Victorian literary circles such as Henry James, Lewes and
Lowell who were regularly invited at their house in Kensington, London, and influenced the education of the Stephen children.

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Virginia
Stephen by George Charles Beresford, July 1902

Listing the
family tragedies that occurred while Virginia was still young is heartbreaking.
Her half-sister Laura was sent to an asylum when Virginia was 9. Then her
mother died when she was 13, shortly followed by her other half-sister Stella. To
top it all, Virginia and her sister Vanessa were sexually abused as children
and teenagers by their adult half-brothers. (Thankfully their crime was
acknowledged and denounced by both women later on!)

This left the remaining four
children, Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia and Adrian to deal with a tyrannical,
capricious father too occupied with his life’s work – editing the Dictionary of
National Biographies. At that time, Virginia suffered (presumably as a result)
several nervous breakdowns, and subsequent recurring depressive periods, for which doctors prescribed “Rest Cures” (ever read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?). Actually
similar mood swings continued to torment her all her life, and partly led to
her suicide in the River Ouse on March 28, 1941.

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Vanessa et Virginia playing cricket at their family’s summer home in Cornwall, 1893 – a
idyllic setting which inspired To the Lighthouse
(1927) a vibrant homage to their mother.

While the
boys were given a proper education and sent to Cambridge, that would have been
inappropriate for the girls. At least, Virginia could educate herself thanks to
her father’s huge private library – and, boy, did she read! Along with learning
Ancient Greek, Latin, and German, she developed a yearning to write, starting
with diaries, and a family newspaper, illustrated by Vanessa who took art
classes. Furthermore, their brothers brought home their friends from Cambridge,
which was the beginning of what we know as the Bloomsbury Group.

However it only
officially became the Bloomsbury Group when the Stephen siblings actually left
Kensington at their father’s death in 1902, and set up house in Bloomsbury,
where they started to live a bohemian life and regularly welcomed Lytton Strachey,
Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes and others in their midst. They
had so much fun (ever heard of the Dreadnought Hoax?) breaking the codes of
Victorian society, in art, literature, but also in their social life – they had
quite the progressive approach to sexuality. Though if homosexuality between
men was accepted and even celebrated, as much as heterosexuality, that didn’t seem
to include lesbianism – how progressive

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Socialising in the sun. From left to right, Angelica/Vanessa/Clive
Bell, Virginia Woolf, Maynard Keynes. Photo from Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House photo album, before 1939.

But then, Thoby
died, and soon afterwards, her sister Vanessa, to whom Virginia was really close,
married art critic Clive Bell. After a fake marriage proposal by Lytton, the
latter urged his friend Leonard Woolf, who was abroad at the time, to marry
Virginia. They met and indeed married in 1912. Critics often disagree on their
relationship and Leonard’s role in Virginia’s life – the saviour, or the prison
ward. On the one hand, he refused her a child, giving her mental instability
as a pretext and influencing the doctors’ ultimate decision, and was often
painted as the poor husband of a frigid Virginia in the latter’s first
biographies – a portrait shaped by his perspective, which hides his own issues
regarding sex and women. But on the other hand, he nurtured Virginia’s talent,
tried to keep her stable by moving to the countryside, giving her a hobby (as
prescribed by doctors) by creating the Hogarth Press, which published her own
books, but also that of the members of the Bloomsbury Group, other contemporary
writers, and the first English translation of Sigmund Freud’s work. At least, most critics agree to say that, without Leonard, Virginia probably wouldn’t have lived as long – and written as much – as she did.

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“Virginia
Woolf” (c.1912) portrait by Vanessa Bell. Vita
Sackville-West as “Lady in a Red Hat” (1918) by William Strang

Nevertheless,
Virginia’s affections were more often directed towards women – it started with
her first crush, her cousin Madge, then with Violet Dickinson, 17 years her
senior, who helped her through the death of her father. Later on, she intrigued and impressed the extravagant Ottoline Morrell, who developed a crush on
her and often invited her to her salons, though Virginia would often ridicule
her and mock her behind her back – aware of the power she yielded thanks to her words and wit, she always liked to hold court in society, where she gave
satirical portrayals of everybody (while drinking champagne). Composer
Ethel Smyth also fell for Virginia, and both women remained friends till the
latter’s death.

Her most famous relationship though was with Vita Sackville
West, whom she met in 1922. Their affair led Virginia to write to – and about – her
lover. She described Vita as “pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung” and
wrote to her “you only be a careful dolphin in your gambolling, or you’ll find
Virginia’s soft crevices lined with hooks!” Their romance led to the writing of Orlando, qualified by Vita’s son as “the
longest and most charming love letter in literature,” but also inspired other
writers, such as Edna O’Brien, Eileen Atkins, Christine Orban…

Virginia was
fascinated by bisexuality (as the fusion of both male and female identities in
one person, not the modern understanding of the term) and experimented with the
ideas of genders, and heterosexual and homosexual relationships in her writing.
If you are interested in  that reflection, I recommend the recent lesbian
reading of her works (both fiction and non-fiction).

Want to know more? Here are some anecdotes about her…

– Lise

JANUARY 24: Fiona Zedde (1976-)

365daysoflesbians:

Need some popular contemporary lesbian erotica for those
freezing winter nights? We got you. Today: Fiona Zedde.

Fiona Zedde is the
penname of Fiona Lewis, a Jamaican writer of lesbian fiction. Born in 1976 in
Jamaica, she moved to Florida
with her mother when she was young. After college, she lived in Atlanta, GA, got
an MFA from San Diego State University, and is currently
living in Miami
. She’s also a breast cancer survivor.

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Fiona Zedde – source

Her first novel, Bliss,
published in 2005, and her third, Every
Dark Desire
, were both finalists for the Lambda Literary Award. She’s a
prolific writer, with numerous novels, novellas, and short story collections under
her belt, all about lesbian life, and covering different genres – mainstream literary,
romance, erotica, even a vampire story. Her short fiction has also appeared in
various lesbian erotica anthologies. And don’t worry about reading yet another
piece of lesbian pulp fiction centered on the usual white lesbian: Fiona Zedde
puts front and center black and brown women. In an interview, to the question
of whether there are “underrepresented groups or ideas featured in Desire at Dawn” (her vampire romance
novel), she answered:

I like to think so. Growing up, I loved vampire stories. But
it was extremely rare to see myself and my culture represented in them. After I
read Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories,
though, I re-realized that it’s up to us to add our own tales and our own
legends— vampires included— to what’s already out there. My characters in Desire at Dawn (and its connected novel,
Every Dark Desire) are my
contributions to that cultural collection.

Her writing, centered on the lives and relationships of women
loving women, has been called “torrid,” and “exquisitely written,” among many
other laudatory epithets. If you need to whet your appetite (ha), you can read
first chapters of her books right
here
.

If you want to listen to her talk more about her books, then
you can follow her on Twitter, and
listen to an interview on
Lez TAlk Radio right here
. Here she is too in an interview in Birmingham
(UK) – don’t forget parts two and three of the reading.

– AK

JANUARY 23: Louise Lawrence

365daysoflesbians:

Today we honor a trans lesbian who was a pioneer in recording
trans lives and culture and in building trans communities in the US: Louise
Lawrence.

This isn’t a birthday profile like the ones we usually do,
since we couldn’t find any records of Lawrence’s exact birth date, save for the
year. This surely speaks to how much has been erased from LGBT, and especially
trans, histories: even though Lawrence was a key figure in the creation of
trans communities throughout the US, she remains little known today, and we
couldn’t find many sources about her that offered original content.

Anonymous photographer. Louise Lawrence with a cigarette. Source: Kinsey Institute, via Autostraddle

Born in 1912, Louise Lawrence was assigned male at birth, was
raised as a man, and got married twice. The first wife died; the second spouse,
who was at first accepting of Lawrence’s trans identity, ultimately couldn’t
handle the burden of living with such a secret, and the marriage broke up. In the
late 40s, she moved to San Francisco, where she “managed
an apartment building for working women, and also sold some artwork.
” She
also started a relationship with another woman, Gay, and got involved in the
local LGBT scenes, attending gay drag parties and working with the Mattachine
Society.

Her achievements, however, went beyond the local scene, as
she began to work with doctors in order to help spread awareness and accurate
information about trans identities and lives. She notably worked with Alfred
Kinsey and later, Harry Benjamin. The former asked her to keep records of
people she knew to be “transvestites” – from that, she developed a
correspondence network that brought together trans people in Europe and the US. Even after Kinsey’s
death, she continued sending material to his archives.

She died in 1976, and the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington,
Indiana, is in possession of the Louise Lawrence Collection of letters,
photographs and other documents.

Back in 2015, an art exhibition called “Bring
Your Own Body”
took place at Columbia College. It featured trans
artists showcasing historical archives and contemporary art about trans issues
.
Kate Sierzputowski, reporting
on it for The Chicago Reader
,
explained that this aimed “to highlight self-identified transgender histories
as opposed to narratives by those outside the transgender community. In this
show, trans artists decide how their community is documented, and they do it
through various mediums.” This exhibition included Louise Lawrence. Jeanne Vaccaro,
one of the exhibition’s curators, and a research fellow at the Kinsey
Institute, explains
her importance
:

“[Lawrence] sent [Kinsey] all of these clippings of gender
identity in the news and all these sensational stories of people being
criminalized for “crossing gender.” She really wanted to get him to
think about gender differently. By showing all the archival images from these
pathologists, we absolutely wanted to show that history. And, in the case of
Chloe’s work, that anger regarding lack of care and narrow-minded definitions
of [what it means to be] trans that come out of diagnosis. It was really
important to confront the violence of diagnosis.”

JANUARY 22: Elaine Noble (1944-)

365daysoflesbians:

In 1974, Elaine Noble made headlines by being the first
openly LGBT candidate elected to a state office, serving in the Massachusetts
House of Representatives for two terms, and representing the Fenway-Kenmore and
Back Bay neighborhoods.

In an
interview she gave to the Seattle Gay
News
, she describes working in politics as an out lesbian during the
70s. Her campaign especially was tumultuous: she faced death threats and her
supporters were themselves victims of targeted harassment and intimidation
attempts; her car was vandalized; her office windows were shattered. State troopers
were even deployed at one point to protect her while campaigning. This
hostility did not prevent to go on to win the election, with 59% of the vote,
but nonetheless did not abate after the victory, as she recounts in an
interview for Out and Elected in the USA
.

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Source – Stan Grossfeld

In 1969, she helped organize Boston’s first gay parade, and continued to do so until the 80s.

Because she worked in politics at a time in the wake of Civil
Rights Movements of the 60s, Elaine Noble was also keenly aware of the need to
address racism, both within society at large and within the LGBT community,
which, she pointed out, “can be just as racist as the straight community.” She pushed
for desegregation legislation. To make sure the law was being enforced, she was
known to go, along with her campaign staff, to school pick-up and drop-off
locations, and even ride the bus with school children. This earned her the
wrath of not only conservatives, but also members of the local LGBT community. Such
hostility did not deter her, however.

A 2013
article by Leon Neyfakh
in The Boston
Globe
details the role Boston played in the 1970s in the gay liberation
movement: while Boston “routinely gets overshadowed by New York and San
Francisco, where the gay scenes were bigger, louder, and livelier, a closer
look at the movement’s early history and tactics reveals that Boston in the
1970s was deeply important in the arrival of gay rights as a mainstream
national issue, and home to a sophisticated, nationally relevant, pioneering
gay community.”

Back in 2015, for LGBT History Month, Equality Forum named
Noble as one of their 31 LGBT icons in a video you can see here:

She used to live with Rita Mae Brown, until 1976, when they
parted ways because the harassment Noble was facing put a strain on the couple’s
lives. In the late 1980s, she started moving away from politics, and in 1986 helped
create an LGBT alcohol and drug treatment center in Minneapolis. Now, she lives in
Florida
, where she moved to teach and sell real estate. She remains
involved in the local Democratic Party, and helped fund the Palm Beach LGBT
Center in 2009. She probably enjoys a much more private life – in all
likelihood, a welcome respite from the exhausting periods of her life as a
politician – but we hope that her trailblazing presence on the political scene
won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

– AK

JANUARY 21: Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912)

365daysoflesbians:

Today we celebrate the 177th birthday of a revolutionary advocate for women’s education and one of
the first woman doctors in the United Kingdom: Sophia Jex-Blake.

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Sophia Jex-Blake, photographed by Swaine 

Sophia was born in the town of Hastings to highly
Evangelical parents. History remembers her as a “stormy, tumultuous, and
unmanageable” youth, but, to be honest, it’s unclear if that is an accurate
description of her personality or if those are all just code words for
“unwilling to accept patriarchal restrictions.” Throughout her life, Sophia
pushed at those restrictions which said both women’s minds and bodies belonged
in the home relentlessly. The first wall she was met with was that of her own
parents; their religious views led to them barring Sophia from receiving a
college education, but they later relented and permitted their daughter to attend
classes as Queen’s College in London. Sophia blew her mathematics professors
away and was soon asked to become an official tutor for the college, but her
parents only allowed her to accept the position once she agreed to not receive
a salary for her hard work.

After finishing her undergraduate studies, Sophia started
out as a teacher, travelling to Germany and the United States to teach math. It
was in America where she hooked up with Dr. Lucy Sewell. Lucy ran a clinic that
specifically catered to women’s healthcare and was the first woman doctor
Sophia had met in her lifetime. Their encounters led Sophia to ask herself the
question all wlw are faced with at some point in their life – life goals or
wife goals? Sophia decided life goals and set her sights on becoming a doctor
herself. Unfortunately, the death of her father forced Sophia to return home to
England, where no woman had ever been accepted into a medical school. Sophia refused to let that stop her and teamed up with six other women who were also fighting for their right to higher education; together they were famously known as the “Edinberg Seven.” It took
eight years of struggle against universities, male students, and the entire
British Medical Association before, finally, their fight garnered the attention
of progressive M.P. Russel Gurney. Gurney was able to guide Parliament in passing
a law that declared all medical institutions must educate women on the same
level as men. In 1877, Sophia graduated from the Irish College of Physicians
and was officially Dr. Jex-Blake.

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Drs. Sophia Jex-Blake and Margaret Todd in their later years. 

Although she was now a practicing doctor, Sophia stuck to
her roots as a teacher and in 1886 she helped open the Edinburg School of
Medicine for Women. It was there Sophia met her life partner Dr. Margaret Todd,
who was one of the first students to enroll in the institute. Despite the
eleven-year age difference, the two eventually retired together and moved to
Mark Cross, Rotherfield where they settled down and wrote several
crucial texts arguing in favor of women’s suffrage and women’s importance to
the medical field. After Sophia’s death, Margaret compiled her life’s
work in a biography titled The Life of
Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake.
It’s in that book where Sophia’s most succinct and
iconic shut-down of questions about her sexuality was recorded: “I believe
I love women too much ever to love a man.”

JANUARY 20: Pat Parker (1944-1989)

365daysoflesbians:

Born today seventy-three years ago, in a Texan working-class family, Pat Parker was a major figure in liberation movements during the 60s and 70s. She moved to Los Angeles after high school, and got her undergrad degree from Los Angeles City College and her grad degree from San Francisco State College. Her two marriages didn’t last long (her first husband was abusive), and left her with the knowledge that this wasn’t working at all for her. In the late 1960s, she came to identify as a lesbian, and explains the process of coming to terms with that identity in an interview with Anita Cronwell: “after my first
 relationship with a woman, I knew where I was going.”

She published five poetry collections: Child of Myself
(1972),
Pit Stop (1975),
Movement in Black (1978), Woman Slaughter (1978),

and Jonestown and other madness (1985). She addressed head-on issues of sex, race, motherhood, alcoholism, and
violence. Woman Slaughter, in particular, got its name from the traumatic event of her sister’s murder at the hands of her husband. The latter was convinced of “womanslaughter” and not of “murder” – as Parker wrote:

“Men cannot kill their wives.
/ They passion them to death.”

image

Source – © 2016 JEB (Joan E. Biren)

She was friends with other notable Black feminist poets, such as Judy Grahn Cheryl Clarke, and Audre Lorde. In addition to being a renowned writer, Parker was also an activist who worked in the civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights movements: she was involved in the Black Panther Movement and founded the
Black Women’s Revolutionary Council

in 1980. She developed communities around lesbian poetry readings on the West Coast, about which she said, “It was like
pioneering….We were talking to women about women, and, at the same time,
letting women know that the experiences they were having were shared by
other people.”

You can find her poetry here, here, here, and here, and her complete works are published here by A Midsummer’s Night Press. In 1975, Anita Cornwell published an interview with her in Hera. Parker’s poem “Where Will You Be?” seems especially appropriate today. Here’s a short excerpt, watch the video below for the full text:

Boots are being polished
Trumperters clean their horns
Chains and locks forged
The crusade has begun. 

Once again flags of Christ
are unfurled in the dawn
and cries of soul saviors
sing apocalyptic on air waves. 

Citizens, good citizens all
parade into voting booths
and in self-righteous sanctity
X away our right to life. 

I do not believe as some
that the vote is an end,
I fear even more
It is just a beginning. 

So I must make assessment
Look to you and ask:
Where will you be when they come?  

She died in 1989, of breast cancer. She was survived by her
partner of nine years, Martha Dunham, and their daughter, Anastasia
Dunham-Parker-Brady, as well as Cassidy Brown whom she
co-parented.

Her papers are kept at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, and the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Library at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center in NY is named after her and fellow writer & activist Vito Russo.

We think that Cheryl Clarke best explained the significance of Parker’s work in the summer 1980 issue of Conditions, stating that Parker voiced “the precariousness of being non-white, non-male,
non-heterosexual in a racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperial culture,” and articulated “a black lesbian-feminist
perspective of love between women and the circumstances that prevent our
intimacy and liberation.”

Pat Parker seems to be one of the voices we’ll need to read again and again in the next four years, to remind ourselves how our identities mean both beauty and resistance.

– AK

JANUARY 19: Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

365daysoflesbians:

Janis Lyn
Joplin was born in 1943, on January 19 in Port Arthur, Texas.
She is one of the greatest singers of the 1960s, her music being as famous as her rocky
lifestyle.

image

Photo taken in Los Angeles in 1970 by Barry Feinstein for the cover of Pearl. Janis Joplin reclining on Victorian era loveseat, wearing the colourful clothes, jewellry and one of the multi-coloured feather boas that she favoured around April 1970.

Joplin had a
difficult time at school being bullied by her schoolmates. She remembered,
“I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I thought. I didn’t hate niggers.” High
school was the worse, with her becoming overweight and her skin breaking out.
She was even voted the ‘ugliest boy’ by frat boys. She always remained bitter
about her experience, which left her deeply wounded – and that, till the end of
her life, when for example at a press conference, she reminisced sarcastically that the
only time she ‘entertained’ her peers in her teenage years was when she walked
down the aisles of the school…

Joplin had a group of friends, outcasts like her, with whom she discovered the
Beat poets, blues and rock music. Her imitation of her favourite female blues
singers, like Bessie Smith, was so point on that it was impressive. She moved
to San Francisco in 1963, quitting college, and did several recordings and public performances. Her voice was amazing
– raw, powerful and extremely moving.

She ran with a lesbian crowd, and was
known to ‘swing both ways.’ This is when she had a relationship with musician amateur Jae Whitaker (more
here about her). However she
also started using drugs around that time, mostly heroine and meth, and gained
the reputation of being a ‘speed freak,’ and a heavy drinker. This is partly what
drove Whitaker away. Joplin’s abuses were so bad that her friends organised a ‘bus-fare
party’ so she could go back to Texas and her parents, and hopefully get clean.

image

Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company, 1968. Cover drawn by counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb.

Joplin did get clean,
and that is when she was discovered by the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Drugs were out of the question at
first, but that didn’t last, as it was quite common in the milieu. Still, they
all tried to keep her clean for studio recording. Cheap Thrills was their most celebrated album.

But Janis
Joplin had a voice that eclipsed other talents, a fact often pointed out by the
press, which created resentment within the group. After a last tour in the fall
of 1968, they split up. From then on, she only had back up musicians, first the
Kozmic Blues Band, then the Full Tilt Boogie Band, with whom she recorded I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
and Pearl (which was released posthumously).  

Janis Joplin performing Tell Mama in 1970 in Canada during the Festival Express train tour.

Her
appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 is a story I am quite fond of. Her
biographers say she wasn’t aware of the festival until a few days before she
was to appear, even though she was part of the program and one of the big
attractions. Joplin stayed in a motel, with Joan Baez and Baez’s mother, and
the three were brought to the site of the festival by helicopter on August 17. On a sadder
note however, her excitement was swamped by a 10-hour wait, driving her to
shoot heroin and drink – though her performance while “not at her best”, was
still “incredible” according to Peter Townshend, and the cheering crowd asking
for an encore. The day
after, Baez and Joplin saw Jimi Hendrix’s performance from Joe Cocker’s van.

The documentary My Little Girl Blue partly addresses Joplin’s sexuality, which director Amy Berg calls fluid.“I feel like Janis loved everybody and she
loved feeling loved,” she said. “And it wasn’t gender-based. It was
based on being in the moment.” Nonetheless, alcohol and
drugs ruined most of her relationships. Her on-again, off-again affair with
Peggy Caserta, who wrote her controversial memoirs entitled Going Down with Janis (1973), was based on a destructive ‘heroin connection.’ At one point she
also tried to get clean for a man, David Niehaus, with whom she went to Brazil. But
he left her after realising she had started to use again. She died at 27 on October 4 (16 days before Jimi Hendrix, also part of the ‘Club 27′) from an accidental overdose.

Despite her
short career, Janis Joplin still remains a huge icon of the 1960s, and her
distinctive voice and style still influence artists nowadays. She transcended
her unhappiness and gave herself wholeheartedly to music, and the footage of her
live performances can attest to the genius and power of the Kozmic Mama.

– Lise