March 12th People

March 12th

03-12-1890 – 04-08-1950 Vaslav Nijinsky – Born in Kiev, Ukraine. He was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent, cited as the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century. In 1909 he joined the Ballet Russes, a new ballet company started by Sergei Diaghilev. Nijinsky became the company’s star and lovers with Diaghilev. With the Ballet Russes, Nijinsky had the chance to expand his art and experiment with dance and choreography; he created new directions for male dancers. He became internationally famous. In 1913 Nijinsky married Hungarian Romola de Pulszky. She had ‘stalked’ the company and Nijinsky since 1912. The marriage caused a break with Diaghilev, who soon dismissed Nijinsky from the company. With no alternative employer available, he tried to form his own company, but he was not a good businessman and was unsuccessful. In 1914, because of his Russian citizenship, he was placed under house arrest in Budapest, Hungary during WWI. He was only released because the American promoter of the Ballets Russes’ second US tour stipulated that Nijinsky had to be part of the company. Nijinsky was given permission to leave Hungary for New York in September 1916. The tour was a financial and artistic disaster. Nijinsky became increasingly mentally unstable with the stresses to manage tours himself and deprived of opportunities to dance, which had always been his obsession. After a tour of South America in 1917, and due to travel difficulties imposed by the war, the family settled in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1919 and committed to an asylum for the first time. For the next 30 years, he was in and out of institutions.

03-12-1946 Liza Minnelli – Born in Hollywood, California, she the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli. She is an American actress and singer best known for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in the 1972 musical film Cabaret, which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She married four times to men who had active sex lives with other men. Minnelli says she first became aware of AIDS when she invited Rock Hudson to be her date for a charity dinner. “When he showed up he looked so ill, something was wrong, but of course you can’t say. ‘You look bad’. But then I began to hear more about the disease, and I called Elizabeth Taylor, and I said, ‘Elizabeth, something is wrong. Something is happening, and people are not talking about it enough, and we have to do something. And so we did, and that helped lead to AmfAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research). And then it became a movement.” In 2007, she stated in an interview with Palm Springs Life magazine, “AmfAR is important to me because I’ve lost so many friends that I knew [to AIDS].” In 1994, she recorded the Kander & Ebb tune The Day After That and donated the proceeds to AIDS research. That same year she performed the song in front of thousands in Central Park at the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

03-12-1928 – 09-16-2016 Edward Albee – Born in Washington, D.C. and given up for adoption. He was raised in Larchmont, New York. Albee was an American playwright known for The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962). Openly gay, Albee stated he first knew he was gay at the age of 12 1/2. He had insisted, however, that he did not want to be known as a “gay writer,” stating in his acceptance speech for the 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement:”A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay.” Albee’s longtime partner, Jonathan Thomas, a sculptor, died on May 2, 2005, from bladder cancer.

03-12-1883 – 1969   Ethel Collins Dunham – Born in Hartford, Connecticut.  She and her life partner, Martha Mary Eliot, devoted their lives to the care of children. Dunham focused on premature babies and newborns, becoming chief of child development at the Children’s Bureau in 1935. She became one of Yale’s School of Medicine’s first female professors. From 1949 to 1951 she studied the problem of premature birth with an international team of experts for the World Health Organization in Geneva. Dunham retired in 1952. In 1957 the American Pediatric Society awarded her their highest honor, the John Howland Award. She was the first woman pediatrician to receive the award; her life partner, Martha May Eliot was the second (honored in 1967). LGBT historian and scholar, Lillian Faderman stated, “From 1910 to Ethel’s death in 1969, the two women were inseparable. As a couple, Martha Eliot and Ethel Dunham…succeeded in times that were as unsympathetic to professional women as they were to lesbians. Their partnership nourished and sustained them through their entire adult lives.”

(Photo: The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University – Martha May Eliot (left) and Ethel Collins Dunham (right) 1915)

03-12-1885 – 11-22-1973   Tracy Dickinson Mygatt – Born in Brooklyn, New York. She was an American writer and pacifist. While attending Bryn Mawr College, she met Frances M. Witherspoon. Both women graduated from college in 1909 and became life parters for over sixty years. They founded the War Resisters League in 1923, which is the oldest secular pacifist organization in the United States. The pair were active in the Episcopal Church. They were also involved in women suffrage, organizing the Socialist Suffrage Brigade, and edited an issue of The Call about suffrage. Mygatt also wrote several plays. In late 1973, the women died within a month of each other. The couple’s papers were donated to Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

03-12-1860 — 04-26-1895 Eric Stenbock – Place of birth unknown. He was a Baltic Swedish poet and writer of macabre fiction. His family was of Swedish nobility belonging to Baltic German House of nobility. Stenbock lived in England most of his life. While at Oxford, he became greatly influenced by the gay artist Simeon Solomon. Stenbock had a relationship with composer and conductor, Norman O’Neil, and with other men. He was also an alcoholic and addicted to drugs. He published a number of books during his lifetime, including Love, Sleep, and Dreams (1881), Rue, Myrtle, and Cypress (1883), and The Shadow of Death (1894). His last publication was Studies of Death, a collection of short stories, published also in 1894. Stenbock died from cirrhosis of the liver.

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