17 Awesome Historical LGBT Women Who Were Incredibly Courageous

The amazing lives that these 17 women lived paved the way for many future generations of LGBT women, and we should all know about them. So, lets take a closer look at just a handful of some of the most courageous and incredible LBGT women in history.

1. Tallulah Bankhead (19021968)

Tallulah Bankhead was a bisexual actor who had romantic associations with Billie Holiday, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, as well as Patsy Kelly. After undergoing a rigorous surgery to cure an STI, from which she almost died, she said to the doctor I dont think this has taught me a lesson. Incredible.

2. Anne Lister (17911840)

Anne Lister was a British landowner who kept many diaries closely detailing her personal life. She had intimate relationships with a school-friend named Eliza Raine, as well as a fellow pupil Mariana Belcombe. She then got married to a wealthy heiress (although the marriage was not legally recognized) called Ann Walker which caused a ruckus in polite society. Although this arrangement was looked down upon by larger society, they were both rich and could do whatever they wanted so they DGAF.

3. Gladys Bentley (19071960)

During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s, Gladys Bently was a blues singer, and would often appear onstage as an openly lesbian drag king. Her act involved singing popular songs, but making up her own (much raunchier) lyrics and singing to women in the audience in a sexy gravelly voice. Swoon.

4. Hannah Snell (17231792)

After her husband abandoned her, Hannah Snell dressed up as a man and served in the British Navy from 1745 to 1750. While stationed in Carlisle, she was asked to seek out a sex worker for her commanding officer. Instead, she became intimate with the lady in question, and reportedly had many more intimate adventures with women when her ship was stationed in Lisbon.

5. Marion Barbara Joe Carstairs (19001993)

Born into a wealthy family, Joe Carstairs built a career as a world-class powerboat driver. She dressed in mens clothing, was openly lesbian, and had relationships with Dolly Wilde (Oscar Wildes niece) who she actually lived with in Paris for a short while. She also had affairs with Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and our good friend Tallulah Bankhead.

6. Alla Nazimova (18791945)

Alla Nazimova was a beautiful, extravagant silent movie star and stage actor, who was openly in relationships with women. She held luxurious parties at her Sunset Boulevard mansion, and is known to have coined the phrase sewing circle to describe closeted bisexual and lesbian women in Hollywood who she had affairs with. She lived with actor Glesca Marshall from 1929 until the time of her death.

7. Ruth Ellis (18992000)

Ruth Ellis was the first known open lesbian when she passed away at the age of 100. She came out at the early age of 16 years-old and graduated high school in the face of considerable adversity. Upon graduating she started a successful printing business, and met her partner of 30 years, Ceciline. Their Detroit home became a welcome refuge for the African-American gay and lesbian community. Legendary.

8. Natalie Clifford Barney (18761972)

Natalie Clifford Barney was an American playwright who lived in Paris. She opposed monogamy, and devoted her times to her relationships with some of the most famous women of the era, including writer lisabeth de Gramont aka the duchess of Clermont-Tonnerre, and Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wildes niece - proving the lesbian world was quite small in those days.

9. Vita Sackville-West (1892 1962)

Most notably Vita Sackville-West is remembered for her affair with the famous author/poet Virginia Woolf. Despite this famous fling, Sackville-West had a passionate relationship with her friend Violet Trefusis which has been documented in a series of letters penned between the pair. They also eloped several times, and also forbade each other from sleeping with their own husbands. *Fans self*

10. Cha-U-Kao (?)

Little is known about this Parisian female clown and entertainer who regularly performed at the famous Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. Despite her decision to choose a male profession (clowning), she was a favorite subject of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who painted Cha-U-Kao in a variety of intimate scenes with her female lovers. Her confidence and the fact that she was so open about her homosexuality is what allured Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to her.

11. Roberta Cowell (19182011)

Roberta Cowell was a British World War II fighter pilot, who also ventured into Grand Prix racing. Born a male, Roberta became one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery (1951). After her surgery, she was no longer allowed to compete in Grand Prix, but she continued her passion of motor racing and came in 1st place at the 1957 Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb. *Slow clap*

12. Virginia Woolf (18821941)

A distinguished English feminist, author, and essayist Virginia Woolf is regarded to be one of the significant figures of twentieth century modern literature. Woolf is the author of well known books including Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Orlando but her most famous work is the book-length essay A Room of Ones Own (1929). The extensive essay is an evidence of Virginias feminist nature. The various lectures Woolf delivered in womens colleges of Cambridge University formed the basis for this essay.

Virginia Woolf along with James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound is known to be a founder of the Modernist movement. Today, Woolfs work is still widely read and used frequently for purposes of scholarly studies.

13. Audre Lorde (19341992)

An African-American writer, civil rights activist, and incredibly badass lesbian who challenged issues of racism in the feminist movement. She was outspoken and was never afraid to engage in open disagreements with important white feminists - which led some to label her as an outsider. But she never gave up.

14. Mary Benson (18411918)

Mary Benson was well-known in her society and was married to the archbishop of Canterbury. She also had multiple affairs with women, including a 4-year fling with a composer named Ethel Smyth, who at the time was actually dating Bensons daughter Nellie. Benson graciously stepped aside in favour of her own daughter. What a nice mum.

15. Jane Addams (18601935)

Jane Addams was a hugely influential figure in the American womens suffrage movement. She was romantically linked to several women over her lifetime, most notably with Mary Rozet Smith, who she lived with for some time. The two wrote to each other when they were apart, and the letters reveal that they saw themselves as a married couple.

16. Lady Una Troubridge (18871963)

Una Troubridge was an incredibly talented artist partner of the widely known lesbian writer Radclyffe Hall. Hall was dating Una Troubridges aunt Mabel Batton when they first met each other, but after Batton passed away, Troubridge and Hall started a relationship where they lived together and remained a couple until Halls death in 1943 - despite some drama when Hall had an affair with a Russian nurse. Damn.

17. Mercedes de Acosta (18931968)

A Spanish/Cuban-American poet and novelist who might be best known for her deeply passionate relationship with Swedish-born American actress Greta Garbo. De Acosta had relationships with many in Hollywood during the silent movie era, and was involved with Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina. She is reputed to have said I can get any woman away from any man. <3

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