These lesbian and bisexual women lived in a time where it was not as easy to be out and proud. These women paved the path that we walk on today.
Ma Rainey was known as the Mother of the Blues. Even though she was married to Pa Rainey, Ma Rainey did nothing to hide her love of women. In 1928 she recorded "Prove it on Me Blues," which makes no secret of her relationships with women.
Barbara Gittings was a Lesbian and Gay Rights Pioneer. Barbara Gittings helped organize gay rights demonstrations in front of the White House and in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1965 to protest federal employment discrimination.
4. Jane Addams
Jane Addams was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and perhaps the most famous social worker from the United States. She was also the lover of women and lived in a Boston Marriage with another woman.
Gladys Bentley has an interesting story. Back in the 1920s she was a popular performer in Harlem. She was out and proud butch or "bulldagger" and openly flirted with women. Later, in the 1950s, as McCarthyism swept the country, Gladys Bentley tried to clean up her act to save her career. In 1952 she published an article in Ebony magazine claiming, "I am a woman again."
In 2004 and 2008, Del and Phyllis were the poster children for same-sex marriage in California. In 2004, they were the first couple married when Mayor Gavin Newsom declared that same sex marriages be allowed in San Francisco. They were married again June of 2008 when the California Supreme Court declared banning of same-sex marriage unconstitutional. They were authors and activists, starting the first lesbian organization in 1955.
Although it is hard to "out" people after their deaths, there is much evidence to believe that Eleanor Roosevelt was bisexual or lesbian. The First Lady, wife to FDR, was known as "First Lady to the World" and had a long-standing relationship with another woman.
Lilli Vincenz was one of the early founders of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. She was the only female member of the early gay-rights group The DC Mattachine Society. She joined the army in the 1950s because she heard there were lesbians there and was then discharged for being gay. She remembers the police gay bar raids and help organize early gay rights demonstrations.
9. Jerre Kalbas
Jerre Kalbas had just celebrated her 90th birthday when she spoke to Lesbian Life. She recounts her early life, struggling with her attraction to women and how she eventually found her community.