Amazons (1 BC) – They were believed to have been a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Notable queens of the Amazons are Penthesilea, who participated in the Trojan War, and her sister Hippolyte, whose magical girdle, given by her father Ares, was the object of one of the labors of Hercules. Amazon warriors were often depicted in battle with Greek warriors in classical art. The Amazons have become associated with many historical people throughout the Roman Empire period and Late Antiquity. In Roman historiography, there are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor. Amazons were said to have founded the cities and temples of Smyrna, Sinope, Cyme, Gryne, Ephesus, Pitania, Magnesia, Clete, Pygela, Latoreria, and Amastris. According to legend they also invented the cavalry. In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans (this was an all-male tribe), a neighboring tribe. The male children who were the results of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers, or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the girls were kept and brought up by their mothers and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some men would be taken as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves.
Archeology is providing evidence that fierce women warriors existed. The killing of male children was probably a rumor spread by men to make them sound inhumane and irrational. Today’s lesbians didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The “man-hating” part, and the fact that they were always on the losing side of battles, were convenient things to say to scare uppity women who might be considering living a life independent of men. Who is to say that such tribes were not a band of lesbians or independent women who lived in their villages where they felt protected from an otherwise hostile and misogynist world. The status of women in Ancient Greece was pretty low. Women were often sold to slavers, even by their families. The bible even allows for the selling of one’s daughters to get out of debt (Exodus 21:7).
Clara Smith (1894 – 02-02-1935) – Born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. She was an African American blues singer. She was billed as the “Queen of the Moaners.” In 1923 she settled in New York, appearing at cabarets and speakeasies. The same year she made her first successful gramophone recordings for Columbia Records. Smith took a fancy to Josephine Baker and insisted that the manager, Bob Russell, of the Booker T. Washington Theatre hire her. According to an associate of Russell’s, Baker was Smith’s “lady lover.” Smith also played a significant role in Baker’s career by introducing her to “black glamour.” Smith died of heart disease in 1935.
Emperor Ai of Han (27 BC – 1 BC) – He was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He reigned from 7 BC to 1 BC. Famous for being the most effusive of ten homosexual emperors of the Han Dynasty. Historians characterized the relationship between Emperor Ai and Dong Xian as one between homosexual lovers and referred to their relationship as “the passion of the cut sleeve” after a story that one afternoon after falling asleep on the same bed, Emperor Ai cut off his sleeve rather than disturb the sleeping Dong Xian when he had to get out of bed.
GLADD (1985) – Founded by Vito Russo, Jewelle Gomez, and Gregory Kolovakos in New York. GLADD’s focus is on the portrayal of LGBT people in all media. Formed in New York City in 1985 to protest against what it saw as the New York Post’s defamatory and sensationalized AIDS coverage, GLADD put pressure on media organizations to end what it saw as homophobic reporting. Some of the GLADD members went on to become the early members of ACT UP. Entertainment Weekly has named GLADD as one of Hollywood’s most powerful entities, and the Los Angeles Times described GLADD as “possibly one of the most successful organizations lobbying the media for inclusion.”
Ifti Nasum (1946 – 07-22-2011) – Born in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He was an openly gay Muslim Pakistani poet. At the age of twenty-one, he moved to the U.S. to escape persecution for his sexual orientation and to avoid an arranged marriage. Nasum became known for establishing Sangat, an organization to support LGBT south-Asian youths, and for publishing “Narman,” a poetry collection that was the first open expression of homosexual themes in the Urdu language. He also hosted a weekly radio show and wrote a weekly column for a Pakistani American newspaper advocating LGBT rights in South Asian and Muslim communities.
Ladies of Llangollen (Eleanor Butler 1739-1829 & Sarah Ponsonby 1755-1831) were two upper-class women from Ireland. Their families lived 2 miles apart. They met in 1768 and quickly became friends. Rather than being forced into unwanted marriages, they left County Kilkenny together in April 1778. They ended up in Wales and set up home at Plas Newydd near the town of Llangollen in 1780. Their life attracted the interest of the outside world and their house became a haven for visitors, mostly writers such as Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott. They were also visited by the Duke of Wellington, Josiah Wedgwood, and Caroline Lamb. Queen Charlotte wanted to see their cottage and persuaded the King to grant them a pension. The ladies lived together for the rest of their lives, over 50 years. Their books and glassware had both sets of initials and their letters were jointly signed. They are both buried at St. Collen’s church in Llangollen.
Sappho (c.630 – c. 570 BC) – She was a Greek poet from Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Sappho is best known for her lyric poetry about her love of women and of family. Little is known of Sappho’s life. She was from a wealthy family, although the names of her parent are uncertain. Sappho was a prolific poet and her poetry was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity. Today, most of Sappho’s poetry is lost. She is well known as a symbol of love and desire between women. Her lyric poem, The Ode to Aphrodite, is about calling on the goddess Aphrodite to help her in the pursuit of an unnamed woman. Sappho asks the goddess to ease the pains of her unrequited love for this girl; after granting her wish, Aphrodite appears to Sappho, telling her that the girl who has rejected her advances will in time pursue her in turn. The poem concludes with another call for the goddess to assist the speaker in all her amorour struggles. With its reference to the love of another woman, the Ode to Aphrodite is one of the few works of Sappho that provides evidence that she loved other women. What is call Sappho 31 is another fragment of a poem describing her love for a young woman. According to legend, most of Sappho’s work was destroyed by the church because of her morals. Approximately 650 lines of Sappho’s poetry has survived. In 2004 and 2014, new lines of poetry by Sappho were discovered. The 2004 text written on papyrus was found in Egypt in an archaeological dump. The 2014 text also written on papyrus had been bought by a collector at auction. The collector showed it to classicist scholar Dirk Obbink who realized its importance. Starting in the early nineteenth century, Sappho began to be regarded as a role model for campaigners for women’s rights. Later in the century, she became a role model for the New Woman – independent women who desired social and sexual autonomy. By the turn of the twentieth century, Sappho became a sort of “patron saint of lesbians.”
Sinister Wisdom (1976) is a multicultural, lesbian literary and art magazine by and for lesbians. It is the oldest surviving lesbian literary magazine. Sinister Wisdom is published quarterly in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1976 by Harriet Ellenberger and Catherine Nicholson in Charlotte, North Carolina. The magazine is named after Joanna Russ’ The Female Man.
We’wha (1849-1896) – He was a Zuni Native American from New Mexico. He was a famous Lhamana, a traditional Zuni gender role, now described as mixed-gender or Two-Spirit. Lhamana were men who lived in part as women, wearing a mixture of women’s and men’s clothing and doing a great deal of women’s work, as well as serving as mediators. We’wha is known historically mainly for the fact that she was a man but chose to live out his life as a woman. He/she was well respected in the tribe.