12 Lesbians Who Made History

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Laurel Hester

Photo Credit: Heidi Gutman

Photo Credit: Heidi Gutman

Three weeks before her last breath, Laurel Hester’s pension benefits were finally approved for extension to her domestic partner Stacie Andree on January 25, 2006.  This policy change paved the way for marriage equality which the Supreme Court ruled legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015 deeming a ban on marriage between same-sex couples as unconstitutional.

Barbara Jordan

Photo via Texas State Historical Association

Photo via Texas State Historical Association

As the first lesbian and Southern African-American to be elected as a congresswoman for the U.S. House of Representatives, this woman is groundbreaking.  Jordan met her partner of 20 years, Nancy Earl, during a camping trip in the 1960’s.  According to A&E History.com, “While in Congress Jordan worked on legislation promoting women’s rights, supported the Equal Rights Amendment and cosponsored a bill that would have granted housewives Social Security benefits based on their domestic labor.”  … “Breaking barriers even in death, she became the first African-American to be buried among the governors, senators and congressmen in the Texas State Cemetery.”

Tammy Baldwin

Photo via 365 Media Foundation

Photo via 365 Media Foundation

Tammy Baldwin was the first openly gay Senator in U.S. History.  Upon joining the U.S. Senate, Baldwin stated, “This is a big day for gay women in America, and really, for all communities who aren’t the typical straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress.”  A self-described progressive, Baldwin voted against the Iraq war, is a proponent of LGBT health care reform, advanced women’s rights, and supported minority rights.

Rachel Maddow

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The first lesbian host of a primetime news show in the United States.  She was also the first openly gay person in the U.S. to receive an international Rhodes Scholarship.  She accomplished hitting a record of the highest TV ratings for The Rachel Maddow Show on March 14, 2017, with 4.13 million viewers on MSNBC — the second highest ratings the network had ever achieved.

Barbara Gittings

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Known as the mother of the Gay Civil Rights Movement, Barbara Gittings pioneered American gay rights activism in the 1950’s along side her partner Tobin Lahusen of 40 years.  Among many other accomplishments, Gittings was a key part of the removal of homosexuality as a “mental illness” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual by meeting with the American Psychiatric Association and engaging in protests.  She was a part of the very first gay picket lines at the white house fighting against the discrimination of LGBT people during the employment process.

Sappho

Photo via Tate

Photo via Tate

Providing a record of ancient lesbian love, this Greek Hellenistic poet from the Isle of Lesbos poured out her desires on paper that has survived in fragments.  Despite the complete lack of context being available, it is difficult to dispute the gayness of words like these, present in her writings: “Aphrodite has overcome me with longing for a girl.”

 

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