This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting LGBTQ+ women trailblazers from history!
First up is Ivy Bottini – a writer, women’s rights activist, and one of the first out lesbian comedians.
After working at Newsweek magazine in the 1950’s and “loving women, but not having any idea what to do with it,” she joined the National Organization for Women where her activism shone through as the organization fought for women’s equality across the nation. She sparked important discussions on how feminism was a lesbian issue and vice versa.
In 1972, she developed her signature pro-woman comedy show, “Many Faces of Women,” to pave the way in showcasing the then-taboo topics of menstruation, contraception, lesbian dating, and more in a humorous way for the first time.
Ivy passed away last week surrounded by loved ones. Honor her memory and watch how she became an activist for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights (and took control of the Statue of Liberty?!)!
Lucy Hicks Anderson was born in 1886 in Kentucky, Lucy expressed her feminine identity from a young age and preferred to be called “Lucy” over her birth name. Doctors encouraged her parents to follow suit and raise her as a girl.
As an adult in the 1920’s, Lucy married her first husband and gained a reputation as a socialite, hosting lavish dinner parties, winning baking contents with her chef skills, and running a boarding house that secretly sold liquor during Prohibition.
After her second marriage, she was tried for perjury in an argument that accused her of failing to disclose that she had been assigned male at birth on her marriage license. Though she was convicted, she and her husband lived a peaceful life in Los Angeles, and her trial laid the groundwork for the fight for marriage equality to come in later years.
Lorena Hickok was a journalist… and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s lover!
After a tumultuous childhood housekeeping for wealthy families, Lorena graduated school and became a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, and eventually New York’s Associated Press, becoming America’s best-known female reporter by the 1930’s. She was well-known for covering beats that were normally reserved for men, like sports and “hard” news stories, and was the first woman to have a byline in The New York Times.
Lorena had multiple relationships with women throughout her life and eventually met Eleanor Roosevelt when assigned to interview her. The two quickly formed a romantic relationship, with Lorena even living in the White House! During their time apart, the two exchanged love letters. Eleanor even kept a picture of Lorena in her sitting room, which she kissed good night and good morning every day.
Drag queen, trans rights activist, and community worker Sylvia Rivera was born to Puerto Rican and Venezuelan parents in New York City, raised primarily by her grandmother who disapproved of her feminine behavior. After living on the streets at 11 years old, she was taken in by the local drag queen community.
Her LGBTQ+ activism began in the early 1970s, when she joined the Gay Activists Alliance and co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Marsha P. Johnson to serve homeless queer youth and fight for discrimination protections.
Throughout her life, Slyvia was also a fierce advocate for low-income LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ people of color, which often caused conflict with LGBTQ+ organizations that were primarily made up of white and middle-class members. Today, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project lives on dedicated “to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.”
Put on your tennis shoes as we learn about Renée Richards! A sports star all her life, Renée was offered an invitation to play baseball for the New York Yankees, became the captain of Yale’s men’s tennis team, and played competitive tennis while in the Navy.
After her gender-affirming surgery and HRT use was outed by the news media in the mid 1970’s, The United States Tennis Association required all female competitors to verify their sex with a chromosome test. Renée applied to play as a woman in the U.S. open anyway, and refused the test, denying her entry.
Renée then sued the USTA, causing a stir of controversy, but the ruling was in her favor, stating the chromosome test was “grossly unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights.” She was thus allowed to play in the US Open, where she made it to the finals in doubles. She eventually retired from tennis, now practices as an ophthalmologist, and was inducted in 2013 into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.