07-23-1909 – 12-31-1993 Samuel Morris Steward – Born in Woodsfield, Ohio. He was a poet, novelist, and university professor who left the world of academia to become a tattoo artist and pornographer. Throughout his life, he kept extensive secret diaries, journals, and statistics of his sex life. He became friends with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Upon visiting her home in France in 1937, he met many other literary figures, including Thornton Wilder, Lord Alfred Douglas (the lover of Oscar Wilde), Thomas Mann, and André Gide. He detailed these encounters, some of them sexual, in his brief memoir, Chapters from an Autobiography. He was a lover of Thornton Wilder. While making the transition from professor to tattoo artist during the 1950s, Steward befriended a number of gay artists and writers including Paul Cadmus, George Platt Lynes, Julien Green, Fritz Peters, and Glenway Westcott. He died in Berkeley, California of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a barbiturate addiction.
07-23-1899 – 10-05-2000 Ruth C. Ellis – Born in Springfield, Illinois. She was an African-American LGBT rights activist. In the 1920’s she met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin. The couple moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1937. Ellis became the first American woman to own a printing business in Detroit. She and Franklin opened their house to the LGBT community, giving parties and safety to everyone. Their house became known as “the gay spot.” Gay men and lesbians came from as far away as Flint, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the gatherings. Ellis said, “On weekends, that would be the place to come because there weren’t many places unless it was someone’s house. So they’d come down, and we’d play the piano and dance, and some of them would play cards.” Ruth and Babe were together for thirty-five years until Franklin died in 1975. The Ruth Ellis Center honors the life and work of Ruth Ellis and is one of the only four agencies in the US dedicated to homeless LGBT youth and young adults.
07-23-1816 – 02-18-1876 Charlotte Cushman – Born in Boston, Massachusetts. She was an American stage actress. Her voice was a full contralto range and she was able to play both male and female parts. She lived in Rome intermittently among an expatriate colony of prominent artists and sculptors. In 1843, she became involved romantically with Rosalie Sully, daughter of artist Thomas Sully. The romance ended in 1844. Cushman met journalist, writer, and part-time actress Matilda Hays. For the next ten years, the two would be together constantly. They became known for dressing alike, and in Europe were publicly known as a couple. After they parted, she had many other affairs with women. Her last stage performance was in Boston, at the Globe Theatre on May 15th, 1875.
07-23-1901 – 03-14-1977 Helen Ferguson – Born in Decatur, Illinois. She was an American actress. In 1933, she quit acting and became a publicist. She became a major power in Hollywood representing big stars including Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, and represented Loretta Young for more than nineteen years. Ferguson had an intimate relationship with Barbara Stanwyck for nearly thirty years. For her contributions to Motion Pictures, Ferguson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
07-23-1917 – 08-02-1984 Barbara Deming – Born in New York City, New York. She was an American feminist and advocate of nonviolent social change. Deming directed plays, taught dramatic literature, and wrote and published fiction and non-fiction works. At sixteen, she had fallen in love with an older woman, and from then on was openly lesbian. From 1954 to 1972 she was involved with the writer and painter Mary Meigs. Deming later became a journalist and was active in many demonstrations over issues of peace and civil rights. She was jailed a number of times for non-violent protests of the war in Vietnam. In 1976, Deming moved to Florida with her partner, artist Jane Verlaine. In 1975 Deming founded The Money for Women Fund to support feminist artists. After her death in 1984, it was renamed The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Today, the foundation is the “oldest ongoing feminist granting agency” which “gives encouragement and grants to individual feminists in the arts (writer and visual artists).”
07-23-1944 Lisa Alther – Born in Kingsport, Tennessee. She is an American author and novelist. Alther is the author of six novels, Kinflicks, Original Sins, Other Women, Bedrock, Five Minutes in Heaven, and Washed in Blood, as well as short stories and many magazine articles. “I get labeled a woman writer, a feminist writer, a gay writer, and I’m flattered to be included in all those categories.” Her novels are studied in university courses in English literature, Southern literature, Appalachian literature, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, sociology, and psychology. She is one of the few American lesbian novelists that have mainstream readers both here in the U.S. and internationally.
07-23-1945 Karen J. Clark – Born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She is an American politician. Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, she is the longest-serving openly lesbian member to serve in a state legislature in the United States. In 2013, Clark was the House sponsor to legalize same-sex marriage. The act passed the House, as well as the Senate, and was later signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton. It took effect on July 1, 2013.
07-23-1976 Judith Arndt – Born in Königs Wusterhausen, Germany. She is a German professional cyclist. Arndt won silver in the road race at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece and two weeks later, she became world road champion at Verona, Italy. In 2005 she won the national road championship for the sixth time. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she competed in the Women’s road race and won silver in the time trial.