Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) was a legendary figure of the gay rights and trans
rights movements in the United States. She was a founding member of the Gay
Liberation Front and of STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).
Her activism began in 1970, when she
started advocating not only for gay rights, but for the inclusion of drag queens
such as herself in the LGBT community. The same year, she founded STAR along
with Marsha P. Johnson, in order to help homeless LGBT youth.
Brooks (1874-1970) was a painter who specialised in
portraits. She is best known for her paintings of women in masculine or
She started studying art in Rome, where she
was the only female student in her life drawing class – a very unusual place for
a woman at the time. She later moved to Capri, where she lived and worked in
poverty; she found success later on, in the art circles of Paris. She was also
well known for her uninhibited lifestyle and sexuality, and the love triangle
she formed with Natalie Clifford Barney and Lily de Gramont.
Anne Lister (1791-1840) was an English diarist and traveller. She is best known for
her very detailed diaries, of which significant parts were written in code,
covering her lesbian relationships.
She is referred to as “the first modern lesbian” for her open homosexuality,
very uncommon for the time. She was nicknamed “Gentleman Jack” and often mocked
for her masculine appearance. In 2011, her diaries were
added to the register of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, not only for
their frank accounts of lesbianism, but also for providing valuable records of
social and political events of her time.
Janelle Monáe (b. 1985) is an
award-winning musician and actress. She has released three studio albums and
starred in two highly acclaimed films, Moonlight and Hidden Figures.
Among her many awards are a VMA, 2 Black Reel
Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Additionally, she has been nominated
for a Grammy 6 times. In 2018 she was named “Trailblazer of the Year”
at the Billboard Women in Music event.
Mary Margaret McBride (1899-1976, pictured above with Eleanor Roosevelt) was an early radio host.
She was called “The First Lady of Radio”, and her daily audience was
between six and eight million listeners.
She started her women’s-advice show in 1934,
using the persona of “Martha Deane”, and aired daily until 1940. The
show was later picked up by networks such as CBS and NBC, and featured a large
number of famous guests. Along with her partner Stella Karn, she was a pioneer
not only in the world of broadcasting and media, but also for giving visibility
to lesbian and bisexual journalists.
Natalie Clifford Barney(1876-1972) was an American author and
a notable figure among the group of expats living in Paris at the turn of the
century. She is remembered not only for her literature, but for her
unconventional life and lesbian relationships.
Born in Ohio,
she moved to Paris and published several books of poetry and short plays. She
held a literary salon for almost 60 years and promoted women’s writing. She
resolved to live freely and openly despite societal taboos, and said about her
homosexuality that “it is not a vice, is not deliberate, and harms no
Maureen Duffy (b. 1993) is a British
author and activist. Throughout her life, she campaigned for various causes
such as LGBT rights and animal rights.
literary works were critically-acclaimed bestsellers, and many, such as the
novels That’s How It Was and The Microcosm, portray the lives of gay
women. Duffy was the first openly gay woman in British public life, coming out
in the early 1960s. In 1980 she became the first president of the Gay Humanist
Connie Kurtz (1936-2018) was an
LGBT rights activist in New York City. Along with her partner, Ruthie Berman,
she managed to secure important rights for the LGBT community of the city.
She worked as a high school teacher
in Brooklyn. She sued the New York City Board of Education in 1988 for domestic
partner benefits, and won the legal battle in 1994, paving the way for other
gay couples. The two also started the New York and Florida branches of PFLAG
(Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays).