April 7th People

April 7th

04-07-1915 – 07-17-1959 Billie Holiday – Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Starting off her career in Harlem nightclubs, Billie soon became popular and began  recording with pianist Teddy Wilson and his band. Also known as “Lady Day,” Holiday is remembered for her work with saxophonist Lester Young and her recordings Strange Fruit and God Bless the Child. In life, she faced many personal tragedies. She had a drug addiction and was also an alcoholic. She served time in prison and had a number of lesbian relationships while incarcerated. Throughout her career, Holiday was openly bisexual and was rumored to have dated a notable amount of stage and film actresses, including Tallulah Bankhead. She died of from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.

04-07-1951 Janis Ian – Born in The Bronx, New York City, New York. She is an American songwriter. singer, musician, columnist, and science fiction author. In the mid-sixties, while still a teenage, she entered the folk music scene. Janis has continued to record into the 21st century and has won two Grammy Awards, the first in 1975 for her song At Seventeen, and the second in 2013 for Best Spoken Word Album, for her autobiography, Society’s Child (nearly 40 years later). At the age of 13, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, Society’s Child (Baby, I’ve Been Thinking). In 1989 she met Patricia Snyder. She came out as a lesbian in 1993 with the worldwide release of her album Breaking Silence. Snyder and Ian married in Toronto on August 27, 2003. Janis Ian founded the Pearl Foundation (named after her mother). It’s dedicated to helping adults further their education.

04-07-1912 – 10-24-2002 Henry “Harry” Hay, Jr. – Born in Worthing, Sussex, England to an upper middle class family. Hay was raised in Chile and California. He was a prominent American gay rights activist, labor advocate, and Native American civil rights campaigner. Co-founder of the Mattachine Society in 1950, it was the first enduring LGBT rights organization in the United States. Hay remained involved in an array of activist causes throughout his life, and became a well-known elder statesman within the country’s gay community. Hay has been described as “the father of gay liberation,” and has been the subject of biography and documentary film.

04-07-1889 – 01-10-1957   Gabriela Mistral (b. Lucila Godoy Alcayaga) – Born in Vicuña, Chile. She was a Chilean poet, diplomat, and educator. In 1945, she became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature, “for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of idealistic aspiration of the entire Latin American world.” It is only through letters written to her “companion” and executor, Doris Dana, that their relationship has come to light. The vast majority of the letters were written between 1948 and 1956. Doris Dana (1920 – 2006), had hidden the letters for almost fifty years. After Dana death in 2006, Dana’s niece donated them to the Chilean National Library. The letters reveal that the women had a romantic relationship, something both women denied. Mistral was also involved with Palma Guillén for about fifteen years. Mistral spent the last nine years of her life with Doris Dana. Gabriela Mistral often reminded Doris Dana, “I have only you in this world.” Note: Gabriela Mistral’s letters are available online at the National Library of Chile and courtesy of the Franciscan Order of Chile.

04-07-1872 – 07-13-1952   Marie Equi – Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She was an early American medical doctor that was devoted to caring for the working-class and the poor. She had no qualms about providing birth control information and abortions when it was illegal. Equi was also a political activist and advocated civic and economic reforms, including women’s right to vote and an eight-hour workday. Equi was a lesbian and was with Harriet Frances Speckart (Feb.  22, 1883) for more than a decade. They also adopted and raised child together. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Equi joined a group of doctors and nurses to provide medical care to those injured in the disaster, earning her a commendation from the United States Army. In 1918, Equi was sentenced to three years in prison for speaking against U.S. involvement in WWI. She was the only known lesbian and radical to be incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. President Wilson commuted her sentence to one year and a day. She served ten months, being released early for good behavior. Equi died in 1952 at the age of 80. Her activist friend, Julia Ruuttila, described her as “a woman of passion and conviction (and) a real friend of the have-nots of this world.” She is buried alongside Harriet Speckart in Portland, Oregon. 

04-07-1891 – 02-14-1978   Martha May Eliot – Born in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a highly recognized pediatrician and specialist in public heath, an assisted director of the World’s Health Organization, and an architect of New Deal and postwar programs for maternal and child health. She, along with researcher Edwards A. Park, established that dietary supplements with vitamin D could prevent and reverse the early onset of rickets. During undergraduate study at Bryn Mawr College she met Ethel Collins Dunham, who became her life partner. The couple enrolled together at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1914. From 1921 to 1935, she taught at Yale University’s department of pediatrics. Eliot was responsible for drafting most of the Social Security Act’s language dealing with maternal and child health. Eliot and Dunham had a 59 year relationship.  (2nd photo is of the two women taken in 1915)

04-07-1907 – 05-28-1972 Violette Leduc – Born in Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France. Leduc was a writer. She was the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl, Berthe Leduc, and André Debaralle, the son of a rich protestant family, who refused to recognize her. After WWI, she was sent to a boarding school where she experienced a lesbian affair with her classmate “Isabelle,” which she later adapted into a novel, Thérèse and Isabelle. In 1968, Radley Metzger made the film based on her novel. In 1925, Leduc had an affair with her music teacher, Denise Hertgès. Their affair was discovered and Hertgès was fired. Leduc and Hertgès lived together in Paris for nine years. Published in 1964, Leduc’s best known book is her memoir, La Bâtarde. It became a best seller. At the age of 65 she died of breast cancer.

04-07-1968 R. Zamora Linmark – Born in Manila, he is a Filipino American poet, novelist, and playwright. He is the recipient of a Japan-United States Friendship Commission, a winner of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship in poetry (2001), and was a Fulbright Foundation Senior Lecture/Researcher in the Philippines (2005-2006). He is out gay.

Leave a Reply