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lesbian history


monte punshon world expo 88 world's oldest lesbian sir joh bjelke-petersen

1988: Monte Punshon – Sir Joh & the world’s oldest lesbian

Autocratic Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen did not like gays and lesbians. In fact, he prided himself on keeping them out of his state. Then, World Expo 88 happened. Joh intended the event as a celebration of his long rule — validation of his idiosyncratic and puritanical governance. To promote the 6-month, $625 million festival, …

Winnaretta Singer Princesse Edmond de Polignac

1895: Princesse Edmond de Polignac, Winnaretta Singer

In 1895, the Ladies Chitchat column of Brisbane’s The Week newspaper reported that Princesse Edmond de Polignac, otherwise Winnaretta Singer of the sewing machine dynasty, intended to open a shop in Paris. Not, as the paper explained, because she needed the dosh. “She is enormously rich.” She was also a lesbian. Despite that, at the …

dr lilian cooper josephine bedford first lady doctor

1891: Dr Lilian Cooper and Miss Josephine Bedford 🏳️‍🌈

In 1891, Dr Lilian Cooper and Miss Josephine Bedford arrived in Brisbane. Lilian had accepted a position as Queensland’s first lady doctor. Another snippet of queercentric news from Australian media history. The Illustrated Sydney News reported the arrival of Dr Lilian Cooper from the UK. It included a portrait of the new lady doctor. Josephine …

maragret court lesbian tennis players

1990: Margaret Court, too many lesbian tennis players

In 1990, newspapers reported on soon-to-be Pastor Margaret Court’s complaints about lesbian tennis players. She recycled the same grievances during Australia’s marriage equality debate in 2017. Another snippet of queercentric news from Australian media history. Margaret Court Former world No 1 tennis player Margaret Court studied to become a minister after retiring from the sport …

dame joan hammond coming out at 80 lolita marriott

Dame Joan Hammond: coming out at 80

At a social function on her 80th birthday, Aussie opera star Dame Joan Hammond showed coming out at 80 is no problem when she unexpectedly introduced her partner of 55 years, Lolita Marriott. Odds & Sods: snippets of queercentric news coverage from Australian media in years gone by. Coming out at 80 Lesbians on the …

Natalie Clifford Barney queerness

Natalie Clifford Barney: My queerness is not a vice.

Queer came into use as a slur against gays and lesbians in the late 19th century. The openly and joyously lesbian writer Natalie Clifford Barney reclaimed the word in 1902 writing, “My queerness is not a vice.” The word queer originally meant strange, odd, peculiar, or eccentric. It sometimes referred to something ‘not quite right’. …

romaine brooks december 7 famous lesbians

Romaine Brooks, painter and lesbian Nepokid extraordinaire

Mainly a portraitist, Romaine Brooks achieved renown for subdued paintings of defiantly androgynous women often attired in traditionally male clothing. The artist donated many works to the Smithsonian American Art Museum where they remain in the permanent collection. The painter’s alcoholic father deserted the family when Romaine was little more than a baby. That left …

mercedes de acosta

Mercedes de Acosta: the greatest starf*cker ever

Poet and playwright Mercedes de Acosta is mainly remembered for her relationships with other women rather than her literary achievements. In the words of friend and probable lover Alice B. Toklas: “Say what you will about Mercedes, she’s had the most important women of the twentieth century.” If not the most important, certainly the most …

maud allan oscar wilde

Maud Allan & The Cult of the Clitoris

A 1918 newspaper article headlined The Cult of the Clitoris destroyed the career of the most famous dancer on Earth. It implied that Maud Allan was both a lesbian and a dangerous femme fatale, undermining the British war effort by encouraging sexual deviance. Total tomfuckery. The suggestion Maud Allan influenced World War I was ludicrous. …

ma rainey mother of the blues siddy blues prove it on me blues

Not-so-straight Ma Rainey: ‘Folks say I’m crooked’

The 100+ recordings of the not-so-straight Ma Rainey include the explicitly lesbian ‘Prove It On Me Blues’ and ‘Sissy Blues’ about her boyfriend sleeping with a man named Miss Kate. Ma Rainey made it clear she wasn’t straight in ‘Prove It On Me Blues’ when she sang “Folks say I’m crooked”. Born in the 1880s, …

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