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580's BC: Sappho's famed girls' school flourishes on the Isle of Lesbos.
60 AD: Boudicca (or, Boadiciea,) Chieftess of the Iceni of the East Anglia, leads Celtic rebellion against Roman invaders, destroying cities of Colchester, St. Albans and capturing London.  She was finally defeated after the Romans brought in reinforcements, and rather than be humiliated by them, she poisoned herself.  Many feel her name (pronounced BOO-DEE-KA) is the origin of "bulldyke."
380: Gregory of Nazianzus orders first burning of Sappho's poetry.
900's: Judith, Queen of Falasha, captures capital of Ethiopia.  She rules for 40 years until her death in 977.
1073: Ecclesiastical authorities of Constantinople and Rome order all remaining copies of Sappho's poetry destroyed
1260: The Orleans Legal School orders women found guilty of lesbian acts have their clitoris removed for their first offense.  Second offenders further mutilated and third offenders burned at the stake
1600's: Nzingh(a), southwestern African Queen of Matamba negotiates a treaty with Portugese to thwart colonial threats during her brother's reign.  Rising to the throne, she negates the treaty, allies with Dutch and fights invading Portugal.   Although eventually defeated, she retreats to the jungles and continues an 18 year guerilla war.  Not until her death does Angola fall to colonial rule
1649: Mary Hammon and Goodwife Norman charged with "lude behavior upon a bed" in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Charges against 16 yr old Hammon are dropped and Norman is forced to make a public confession.   Norman is believed to be the first woman in America convicted of lesbianism
1655: New Haven expands its definition of sodomy, a capital offense, to include sexual relations between women
1682: Venus in the Clositer, a novel about lesbian nuns causes a scandal in France
1654: Christina, Swedish Queen, abdicates instead of marrying.  Raised as a boy, Christina loved Ebba Saprre, who left her after the abdication of the throne.  Christina was also in love with Opera diva Angelica Georgini
1782: Deborah Sampson, decendent of Governor William Bradford, excommunicated from First Baptist Church, Middleborough, Massachussetts for dressing in men's clothes and very loose and unchristian-like behavior
early 1800's: James Miranda Berry earns England's first medical degree given to a woman (while still in her teens.) She lives as a man the duration of her life, had a relationship, (and child), with an important miltary officer. She was under suspision of being a gay man at the time!! She was however a bit of a flirt with the ladies...and liked to dance with them.
Provided by Ama Menec, Professor of Lesbian History, UK ... visit her site: http://website.lineone.net/~amamenec/
1810: Schoolgirl's mother accuses Marianne Woods and Jane Pirie, mistresses of a boarding school for girls, of "improper and criminal conduct." Lillian Hellman uses this as the plot for her "The Children's Hour" 120 years later
1810: France decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults
1811: Gabriel Frechere reports of a Ketenai Female Berdache, Qunqon, who assumed the dress of a man, took three wives and was a courier, guide, prophet, warrior and peace mediator.
1820: Florence Nightingale is born.  Called Lady of the Lamp, Nightingale, served in Turkey during the Crimean war, and upon returning to her native England, reformed military hospital conditions and founded the trained nursing prfession.
Unfortunately, even though Nightingale wrote: I have lived and slept in the same bed with English countesses and Prussian farm women ... no woman has excited passions among women more than I have, she lived by Victorian mores.  So, even if she were Lesbian, more than likely she was extremely homophobic and closeted.
1836: Last British execution for homosexuality, although the law remained on the books until 1861
1848: Elizabeth Cady Stanton organizes the first Women's Rights Convention and publishes a "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," the forerunner of the modern feminist movement
1855:   Lucy Ann Lobdell wrote her biography, Lucy Ann Lobdell: Female Hunter of Delaware County, in 1855 in which she explains why she is leaving home dressed as a man - to earn more money was her initial reason. Lucy wrote a short tirade on equal pay for women. Lucy, as Joseph, and Marie Perry married themselves in 1868 and lived a persecuted life untill Lucy's false death in 1879. She was declared insane for her male behavior and institutionalized for the last 40 years of her life. Marie asked to be referred to as Joseph's widow.
Lucy's own book cpntains her statements on equal pay and why she is leaving home dressed as a man. She was written up in the New York Times for her hunting abilities and her life with her wife, Marie, several times, Extrodinary Narrative of Two Women - August 25, 1871; A Mountain Romance - April 8, 1877.
Her obituary was published in the New York Times on October 7, 1879: "Death of a Modern Day Diana" and in the Honesdale Herald on July 2, 1885: Lucy Ann Lobdell - the Wayne County Female Hunter Dead. In fact, she died at the Binghamton Psychiatric Hospital in 1912. Marie Perry's letter to an editor ended up getting published in the Honesdale Herald, May ? 1886, where she asks to be referred to as a widow and speaks of the avenues of employment being restricted for her sex and declares that her sex is NOT inferior to the male gender.
1883: Article about cross-dressing Lucy Ann Lobdell in Alienist and Neurologist medical journal is first time Lesbian is used to denote woman- loving-woman as opposed to inhabitant of Isle of Lesbos
1885: The Labouchere Amendment, criminalising all same-sex activity, was introduced in 1885.  Althought widely believed, Queen Victoria's refusal to believe lesbianism existed resulting in lesbianism's omission from the Act is probably false.  It is believed those presenting the amendment removed it (as the House of Lords did nearly 40 years later) fearing criminalizing lesbianism would alert women to its possibility. The story was useful, however, when her statue was made the focus of a demonstration in 1977 promoting lesbian visibility on International Women's Day.  thanks to Lesbian/Gay Historical Walk of Wellington
1886: Ma Rainey, openly lesbian Mother of the Blues and writer of Prove It on Me Blues is born
June 6, 1886: Annie Hindle and Annie Ryan marry in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The event took place on the evening of Sunday, June 6, 1886, in Room 19 of the Barnard House, a hotel in Grand Rapids.  It was widely reported that Rev. E. H. Brooks of the 2nd Baptist officiated but the marriage record, available from the Kent County Clerk's Office, states Rev. K. B. Tupper (of the 1st Baptist) performed the ceremony.  The witnesses were Gilbert Sarony, who was a female impersonator but who did not appear to have worn a dress on this occasion, and Loran D. Osborn, a clerk at the Grand Rapids National Bank.  On this occasion, Annie Hindle wore men's clothing and gave her name as Charles E. Hindle.  She gave her age as 31 (she was probably more like 39 or 40) and Annie Ryan was 22.

Annie Hindle was not a resident of Grand Rapids even though she got married there.  She was an extremely well known male impersonator in American variety, most probably the first woman to pe>


nbsp; She had arrived in the US in 1868 and almost immediately married the ballad and comic singer Charles Vivian.  The marriage did not last long (proably less than a month if my records are right).  She was reported as having married W. W. Long, a minstrel performer, in 1878 but as yet I have found no official record of this marriage.  She divorced neither of her husbands as far as I can tell.

Annie Ryan had acted as Hindle's theatrical dresser for a number of years prior to the marriage.  There is evidence that Hindle had been very close and probably romantically involved with a number of her prior dressers. No more is known about Ryan at this moment.
This detailed account has been provided by Gillian Rodger who has made the study of Male Impersonators a passion!
1890's: Jiu Jin, Chinese revolutionary, also calling herself Qinxiong (which means "compete with men") wears men's clothes, writes feminist poetry and fights restraints against women.  She is tried for treason and beheaded in 1907 by the Manchu government
1896: Two actresses kiss on the American stage.  Ushers stand ready with ice water for those patrons feeling faint
1897: Archeological discovery unearths remnants of Sappho's poetry. The find represents an estimated 1/20 of her total output
1901: The death of Murray Hall reveals the well liked and greatly respected New York politician of over thrity years, who had married two women, was in fact, one Mary Anderson, a woman who "passed" as a man."
1904: Renee Vivien (born 1878 as Pauline Tarn in Philadephia) publishes in Paris "A Woman Appeared to Me" a biographical account of her tormented relationship with Natalie Clifford Barney. Vivien is best known for her poetry, written in French, which was widely acclaimed by critics as the epitome of the French romantic style. Her poetry and prose were all openly lesbian
1908: Edward Carpenter publishes THE INTERMEDIATE SEX in England idealizing friendship, comraderie and homosexuality
1911: Holland passes law prohibiting sexual contact between members of the same sex who were under 21
1912: Heterodoxy, a feminist luncheon club "for unorthodox women" begins meeting bimonthly.  Prominent lesbian members include Helen Hull, Katharine Anthony, Dr. Sara Josephine Baker, and Elisabeth Irwin
1920: Natalie Barney's Pensees d'une amazone published
1922: The God of Vengence, a play featuring a lesbian relationship produced in Provincetown
1923: Emma Goldman labeled the "most dangerous woman in America" by the FBI because of her open support of gay rights and equality
1926: The Captive a Lesbian themed play opens on Broadway sparking such controversy that the "Padlock" law is enacted prohibiting Broadway plays from depicting "sex perversion."
1928: Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Lonliness published
1920's-30's: The German magazine Die Freudin (Girlfriend) openly discusses lesbian topics
1932: Swiss woman Mammina founds Swiss Friendship Bond and publishes monthly magazine of stories, art and photography
1933: The Hitler regime bans gay press in Germany and raids the Institute for Sexology burning 12,000 books, periodicals and documents
1934: On June 28, the anti-gay holocaust begins with the rounding up and execution of 200 "homosexual pigs who besmirch the honor of the party" (Hitler.)
Throughout the year, Nazis rounded up gays and lesbians from Germany and German occupied countries and incarcerated them in concentration camps
1936: Mona's, one of the first Lesbian bars in the U.S. opens in San Francisco
1937: Bessie Smith, the (imho) greatest blues diva, who combined songs of the rural south with a natural theatrical talent, and, who had many women lovers, dies
1937: Nazis begin using Pink Triangles to identify gay men and Black Triangles to identify women of "socially unacceptable" stance believed now to have included Lesbians
1941: The U.S. enters WWII and the U.S. Surgeon General declares that homosexual and lesbian relationships in the armed forces should be tolerated as long as they are kept private
1944: Sweden repeals anti-gay laws
1947: Lisa Ben (Edythe Eyde's pseudonym for "lesbian") begins publishing Vice Versa, the first U.S. lesbian magazine
1952: U.S. Congress enacts law banning Lesbians and Gays from entering the country.  (This law repealed in 1990.)
1953: ONE publishes USA's first openly gay magazine and US Postal Service tries to prevent delivery.  Supreme Court rules in ONE's favor
1953: Kinsey releases his report on women, the follow-up study to the male sexuality study of 1948.  His research showed 2% of women exclusively lesbian and 13% had had lesbian activity
1953: One of Eisenhower's first acts as president of the U.S. is an executive order prohibiting employment of gays and lesbians in federal jobs. This filtered down to state and local levels and by the mid 50's over 20% of the workforce faced loyalty-security investigations
1955: American Law Institute publishes Model Penal Code recommending decriminalization of private sexual acts between consenting adults
1955: Daughters of Bilitis, first lesbian membership organization, forms in San Francisco
1956: Daughters of Bilitis begins publishing The Ladder
1957: U.S. Department of Defense sponsors The Crittenden Report which concludes that security concerns about homosexuals in the military are exaggerated.  The report is ignored by the Pentagon
1958: Daughters of Bilitis forms New York chapter; Barbara Gittings elected president
1960: Daughters of Bilitis hold first national Lesbian conference in San Francisco
1961: Illinois is first state in U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts
1961: Czechoslovakia repeals anti-gay laws
1964: Jane Rule publishes her first lesbian novel Desert of the Heart which becomes an instant classic and is made into Desert Hearts in 1985
1967: Except for Military and Law Enforcement members, Britain legalizes homoerotic acts between consenting adults
1967: Mary Young and Dawn DeBlanc are charged and convicted for "unnatural carnal copulation" in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.  They both served thirty months
1968: Metropolitan Community Church begins in LA
1969: The famed Stonewall Rebellion occurs in June in NYC.  Plainclothes police attempt to "raid" this Greenwich Villiage pub and are met with violent resistance from Gay patrons and Gays and Lesbians on the street.  The riots continued throughout the weekend and are considered the start of modern Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement
July 9, 1969: First Gay Power meeting held in Greenwich VIllage
August,17, 1969: Atlanta police, under the pretense of it being a illicit and predominately homosexual, raid local art theater's showing of Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys, taking flash-photographs of members of the audience.  One member of the audience, a minister, files a $500,000 suit against the police!

On to 1970 to Present

  • Lavender Lists, Fletcher/Saks, Alyson Publications, (1990) ISBN 1-55583-182-6
  • Gay American History, Katz, Meridian / Penguin Books, (1976) ISBN 0-45-01092-6
  • The Gay Book of Lists, Rutledge, Alyson Publications, (1987) ISBN 1-55583-120-6
  • Hidden From History, Duberman / Vicinus / Chauncey, Meridian / Penguin Books, (1989) ISBN 0-452-01067-5
  • Alyson Almanac, Alyson Publications (1989) ISBN 1-55583-019-6
  • The Gay Decades, Rutledge, Plume Books, (1992) ISBN 0-452-26810-9
  • The Lesbian Almanac, National Museum and Archive of Lesbian and Gay History, Berkley Books, (1996) ISBN 0-425-15301-0
  • Lesbian Lists, Richards, Alyson Publications, (1990) ISBN 1-55583-163-X
  • The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Walker, Harper and Row, (1983) ISBN 0-06-250926-8
  • Wild Women:  Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era, Stephens, Autumn, Berkeley, CA:  Conari Press, p. 193.
If you have a substantiated Lesbian History fact you would like to see added, Click here and tell me about it!

Related Links:

ONE Institute International Gay & Lesbian Archives
Gerber/Hart Library
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Library/Archives of Philadelphia
Women's History: A Todd Library Research Guide
Diotima: Women & Gender in the Ancient World
Richard's Gay History, Culture, Writings
Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals in History
GLAAD's Lesbian & Gay History Month Test

 580s AD-1260AD   1600   1700   1800   1900   1920   1930   1940   1950 
 1960   1970   1980   1990   1997   1998   1999   2000   2001   2002   2003