LGBT history is severely lacking from the lessons we learn in school, and so are many incredible women who deserve their rightful place in the books that claim to teach us about the people and events that have shaped the world we live in today. This week’s Huddle is dedicated to those queer women, the ones who we would have loved to read about, discuss and dedicate essays to, with the hope that their inclusion could eventually become a part of the curriculum.
Group, what queer woman should be in our textbooks?
Erin Faith Wilson: We need to learn more about Frances Power Cobbe! She was a writer and an activist not only for animals but rights for women. In 1878, she wrote an article called, “Truth on Wife Torture” that inspired a bill to pass in Parliament that gave women the right to be legally separated from abusive husbands. She married female artist Mary Lloyd (obviously not a legal marriage, but still) and were together for 44 years until Frances death in 1904.
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Chelsea Steiner: Jane Addams was so many things: an activist, a suffragette, a pacifist, and co-founder of the ACLU. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her tireless work to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She basically invented social work as we know it today. She was also a lesbian, and co-founded Hull House, a social settlement house for women, with her lover Ellen Starr. She then hooked up with wealthy patroness Mary Rozet Smith, with whom she spent 40 years with until Smith’s death in 1934.
Dana Piccoli: Anne Lister. She played by her own rules. Poet, mountain climber, business owner. She was a woman who forged her own way in a world where that was unheard of. She also had passionate affairs with women and wrote about them. What I would give to have a cuppa with her and listen to her story.
Dorothy Snarker: Audre Lorde. Because she preached intersectionality before intersectionality was even a word. “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Sister Outsider, 1984
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Kimberly Hoffman: Karla Jay. What a bad ass. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front where she urged safe space and conversation and action surrounding lesbian issues, like women-only dances. She was also a member of the Lavender Menace—a group of women who were responding to a lack of lesbian presence in the women’s movement. They spoke out on May 1, 1970 at the Second Congress to Unite Women, exposing their Lavender Menace shirts to a shocked crowd, handing out the “Woman-Identified Woman” manifesto and standing up for/creating a highly momentous conversation about lesbian rights. This event was a huge turning point for lesbian feminism. Reading about what occurred that day in that auditorium and the effects that women like Karla Jay have had in herstory should be 100 percent accessible to any queer woman in any history book.
Ali Davis: I made it through an entire anthropology major without one professor or text saying outright that Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict—two of the most important American social scientists ever—were involved in a passionate relationship. To be clear, we got to hear plenty about Mead’s straight relationships. Just not the ones with women. That still blows my mind. Barbara Jordan is also amazing—a black woman elected to the Texas Legislature in 19 freakin’ 66. And then she went on to become a Congressional representative. Does she even have a hope of making the Texas textbooks now?
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Trish Bendix: I would have loved to learn about the Daughters of Bilitis and the first lesbians to build a community of gay women and take on the American Psychiatric Association for their definition of homosexuality. Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin and Barbara Gittings all deserve a place in history books for forcing the issue of equality to be addressed for gay people.
Phyllis & DelPhoto by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
What queer woman should students learn about in school?