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Influential Lesbians in U.S. History

From abolition and women's suffrage to social security and immigrant rights, lesbians have been at the forefront of politics in the United States for more than a century. As part of's celebration of Women's Herstory Month, we've put together a slide show of 10 of the most influential lesbians in U.S. history. To Believe in Women inspires as it educates The subtitle of Lillian Faderman's latest book

To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—

A History would surely confound anyone who has read a modern history book in which one is hard pressed to find women, let alone lesbians. The United States of America would never put a lesbian on a dollar coin or teach children a poem written by a lesbian, right?


Not only will you find the universally venerated Susan B. Anthony (who had a long-term relationship with Emily Gross) and Katherine Lee Bates (author of "America the Beautiful") among the lesbians doing great work for America, you'll find former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, social work pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jane Addams, Bryn Mawr president M. Carey Thomas and many, many more leaders of the abolition, suffrage and civil rights movements.

Faderman's comprehensive work sheds new light on the heroines of our past, bringing women out of the closet and demonstrating the power of woman-centered living. Faderman asserts throughout that it was precisely these leaders' lesbianism that allowed them to pursue politics, civil rights and education so vigorously. Had Jane Addams married a man instead of being in a near 40-year relationship with Mary Rozet Smith, she would have been minding his house rather than the revolutionary Hull House, which was a model for future social work organizations.

While few of these lesbian pioneers had children, Faderman demonstrates how they were fulfilled in their personal and professional lives by virtue of their partnerships with women and their advocacy for immigrant, labor, civil and women's rights. To Believe in Women is a meticulously researched history of America, which demonstrates that women-centered women were at the core of every important social and political gain in the last three centuries from social security to the founding of the NAACP. Women, immigrants, people of color and the poor are beneficiaries of the legacies of these pioneering lesbians. So the next time you exercise the right to vote, attend college, get paid a fair wage for an eight-hour day in a safe workplace, address a public audience or gain access to areas formerly reserved for white males,

proudly recall:

By the grace of lesbians go you.



Dodgers toss kissing lesbians

Gay and lesbian organizations in Los Angeles will get 5,000 tickets to Dodgers games as a mea culpa from the home stadium that threw out two lesbians for kissing. The women, identified only as Danielle and Meredith, were ejected during the 7th inning of an Aug. 8 game between the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.

"The couple say they were behaving affectionately toward each other, as heterosexual couples around them were doing, by kissing," the couple's attorney, Bernie Bernheim, told Yahoo News, adding that the women felt their ejection was "motivated by the fact that they are lesbian, since other heterosexual couples were not ejected though they were engaging in the same behavior."

The women had been pulled from their seats by security guards who told them there had been a complaint of lewd conduct. Bernheim said he had planned to file a civil rights lawsuit, but that he and the couple were satisfied by the agreement reached with Dodgers President and CEO Bob Graziano. The Dodgers organization has also agreed to enhance its sensitivity training program for its employees.


Influential Lesbians

"My Ever Dear…I didn't say what I wanted to in the confessional the other night because I didn't feel sure enough of myself—but if you ever doubt my desire to be with you—I wish you could be at the bottom of my mind." —Addams to life partner Mary Rozet Smith

This Nobel Peace Prize-winning, woman-identified woman is widely know as the mother of modern social work. Though she lived all her life with female "companions"—first her highly religious college crush Ellen Starr with whom she started Hull House and then the daughter of a wealthy Chicago industrialist, Mary Rozet Smith, who provided her with emotional and financial support—her same-sex pairings aren't widely noted. Addams' Hull House, begun in 1889 after she graduated from Rockford College, was set up in an immigrant neighborhood in Chicago.

As its head, Jane Addams soon became a prominent figure in the fight for social justice for women, immigrants and the poor. Hull House established a vocational school and one of the first kindergarten programs in the country, as well as providing cooperative lodging to young working women. A powerful and persuasive speaker, Addams was able to provide these services by raising money from the "haves" in the days before government-subsidized social welfare programs, which were in large part modeled on the work done at Hull House. Addams' goal was not to provide the downtrodden with a hand out but with a leg up.

Jane Addams' relationship with Mary Rozet Smith lasted more than 40 years until Mary's death from pneumonia. Upon Mary's death she wrote: "I suppose I could have willed my heart to stop beating, but the thought of what she had been to me for so long kept me from being cowardly." Addams died 14 months later.

In addition to her work with Hull House, Addams was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as playing a major role in founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her promotion of humanitarian concerns. A prominent pacifist, Addams was cast out of the Daughters of the American Revolution for her stand against World War I. She founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and served in the U.S. Department of Food Administration.

Addams pushed for the government to provide child care and subsidized food programs to the poor as she was doing at Hull House. A new area of social work was opened up and these new jobs were filled predominantly by women. She became America's social conscience and had the ear of President Theodore Roosevelt who greatly admired her work. She was instrumental in getting Roosevelt to include women's suffrage on his party's platform. Compiled from To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History by Lillian Faderman.


'Biggest, baddest dyke event' draws 50,000 women in SAN FRANCISCO

The most rowdy, radical and bare-breasted event of Pride Week, the 8th annual Dyke March plowed through the Mission and Castro districts Saturday night, June 24, with some 50,000 women in tow. It was as much a celebration of boisterous sexuality as it was a political statement. Chris LaRussell of San Francisco and girlfriend Tina Smilkstein of Berkeley joked about the chance to "cruise" the crowd, though it was clear from their snug embrace that they were mainly cruising each other, celebrating a recent exchange of rings. Smilkstein said what she likes best about the march is getting a chance to "hang all over" her girlfriend, who didn't mind at all.

"The energy is fantastic," said Ayanna Udongo, who marched for "visibility" with a contingent from Anything That Moves, a magazine for bisexuals. "We're not a joke and we're not a threat to diversity." But the political is also personal, and "boobies!" was reportedly the "favorite part" of the Dyke March for bisexual Shelli Fein and her fully clothed cohorts. While the topless marchers commanded the most attention, they were in the minority of a crowd that wore everything from polar fleece to leather on a typically chilly San Francisco summer evening. The party got started at a rally beforehand that featured noted dyke authors and activists Dorothy Allison and Jewelle Gomez as well as Puerto Rican lesbian activist Sulma, who spoke about resistance to U.S. Navy bombing on the island of Vieques. "Let me tell you how happy I am to be a part of yet another illegal gathering," Allison told the cheering crowd.

The Dyke March, unlike the officially sanctioned parade, is a grass-roots effort whose only concession to corporate funding involves the sponsorship of Port-a-Potties in Dolores Park, said organizer Lisa Roth. "It's a little bit more than a party," Allison said of the march, cautioning that, "bottom line, dykes are still dangerous. We are still not necessarily to be trusted. We still want more than we have and we ain't got much." Gomez urged women to follow the lead of former first lady and human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt and "do the thing you think you cannot do," to aid the poor, feed the hungry, help closeted lesbians lead more open lives and lead the fight for affordable housing.

While the messages were strong, the mood was festive, as it can only be at an event touted by organizers as the "biggest, baddest dyke event" that marches not only for human rights, visibility and peace, but "in celebration of sex and pleasure and masturbation and sex toys and lots and lots of orgasms." From the woman in leather chaps swinging her bare breasts rhythmically atop a phone booth near the start of the march to the dyke suburban moms with kids in strollers, this expression of female solidarity embraced women of all sizes, colors, ages, abilities and sexual persuasions.

Even the animals were festooned appropriately: One golden retriever had rainbow eyelashes and a cocker spaniel had a rainbow triangle painted on its head. Antoinette Rose and her partner Dey Rose, of Palo Alto, pushed a stroller with their two children in it. "Especially with the kids, we feel every year it's a very important affirmation of our pride and freedom," Antoinette said. Krista Lucchesi of Oakland, who blew soap bubbles along the route, said she loved "the experience of seeing all these beautiful women.

" For Tabitha, a topless twenty-something who gave no last name, the march was a chance to express her freedom. "There are so few places you can take your shirt off and be safe," she said. "I think it's great and I'm just celebrating." The march began with a rally at Dolores Park, and wound its way through the Mission, where much of San Francisco's lesbian culture is based and then up to Market Street and the predominantly gay Castro neighborhood, led by the thundering motorcycles of the Dykes on Bikes.

The Lesbian Freedom Band, Sistah Boom and informal groups of drummers provided rhythmic accompaniment along the way. An impromptu ritual sprang up in an intersection where, in the shadow of Mission Dolores and the gay synagogue Sha'ar Zahav, a circle gathered around a bevy of topless women gyrating to pulsating drums. The woman-loving vibe could be felt everywhere along the route as Victorian buildings spilled over with topless women shimmying and people dancing on rooftops or clinging to fire escapes.

Gay men hoisted signs from their balconies like "Dykes Rock" and "I Wish I Was A Lesbian," all shouting support to the marchers, who responded with catcalls and cheers of their own. Sherry Wong of Northampton, Mass., waved rainbow sparklers as she walked because she wanted to "really light up the party." Perhaps the evening's most gazed-at spectacle occurred at 16th and Market, where a billboard featuring an Evian-toting mermaid played host to a striptease act that all but stopped the march in its final steps toward the Castro.



Saab puts brakes on advertising during Dr. Laura's radio show

Swedish automaker Saab has joined the ranks of companies dropping advertising on the controversial Dr. Laura radio show. Laura Schlessinger, the talk-show host who has called gays and lesbians "biological errors," also has a Paramount Television program that is set to air Sept. 11. Already, there have been protests at TV stations across the country, and for her TV debut, a National Day of Protest is being sponsored by, the Web site devoted to keeping Schlessinger off TV.

Saab's announcement came just 24 hours of similar announcements by Radio Shack and Motel 6. "Saab has an important audience and customer base in the gay and lesbian community, and it would hardly be our intention to offend this audience by appearing to support Dr. Laura's points of view," Dan Chasins, president of Saab USA, said in an e-mail to "Our agency has been instructed to pull any Saab radio spots from the Dr. Laura show, and that we will not place any further advertising on the show," Chasins wrote. John Selig, spokesman for, said that his organization is in touch with activists in many cities to monitor local advertising that may appear when Dr. Laura hits the TV airwaves.

"The success we've had in mobilizing the community on these advertisers will be translated to the local level," Selig said. "Advertisers big and small will hear from customers and the community: Intolerance is bad for business, and so is Schlessinger." Saab, Motel 6 and Radio Shack join these other companies in severing ties with Dr. Laura's radio and television programs: Procter & Gamble,, Natrol, Red Lobster, Gateway Computers, EchoStar/Dish Network, Skytel, Geico Insurance, Xerox,,, BoxLot, the Ohio State Lottery, United Airlines, AT&T, American Express, Kraft, Kroger, Amica Insurance and TCF Bank.




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