The Most Awesome LGBTQ Women In History

You may rarely hear their names touted in history books, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Throughout history, there have been some amazingly awesome, totally tough, world-changing LGBTQ women that are rarely recognized. These women threw lavish parties, invented ground-breaking technology, and generally, didn’t care what anybody else thought.

Hannah Snell

If you love smart girls sticking it to the man, then you’re going to flip over Hanna Snell. Snell was a tough-to-the-bone soldier who totally pulled a Mulan to serve in the British Navy.

Snell was abandoned by her husband (who needed him anyway?) and disguised herself as a man to serve in the British Navy from 1745 to 1750. She pulled the ultimate power move when she was asked to find a prostitute for her commanding officer while stationed in Carlisle. She found the prostitute for him but ended up sealing the deal herself, instead. Sweet.

Tallulah Bankhead

Tallulah Bankhead was also a bisexual American actor that was romantically linked to some famous flings. She was rumored to have dated Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, Marlene Dietrich, and Patsy Kelly who confirmed their sexual relationship.

The feminist starred in many movies in the early 1930s. During that time she would throw risqué parties at her Hollywood home that were described as having “no boundaries.” It may have been because of this that the actress contracted the STI that would almost kill her. Bankhead had an emergency hysterectomy and weighed a mere 70 lbs. when she left the hospital. She told her doctor, “Don’t think this has taught me a lesson!” Never apologize, Bankhead! Never!

Gladys Bentley

During the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, there were few who were more radical and free with their sexuality as Gladys Bentley. Bentley was a renowned blues singer who appeared on stage openly as a lesbian drag king.

Her act included a chorus line of drag queens and she made up her own raunchy lyrics to popular songs (think of her as a sort of Weird Al, if Weird Al was a controversial lesbian). Gladys was known for her sexy, gravelly voice – which seems pretty hard to resist if you ask us.

Anne Lister

Anne Lister was a very rich landowner and diarist. Her detailed (and pretty scandalous diary) chronicled her lesbian relationships throughout the 1800s. Because of the scandalous nature of being a lesbian – and being a female property owner in the 1800s – Lister wrote her diary in code, which was derived from a mix of algebra and Ancient Greek.

Lister is often described as the first modern lesbian because she had a clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle which is evident in the pages of her diary. Because of her open lifestyle, she was consistently harassed about her sexuality (which sadly proves not much has changed since the 1800s).

Joe Carstairs

Joe Carstairs didn’t care about staying within feminine confines. Seriously, even though it was the 1900s, why should a woman be confined to motherhood? Carstairs refused.

The British heiress used her money to become a world-famous powerboat racer (talk about awesome!). She was an open lesbian who dressed in men’s clothing and had various relationships with famous females including Dolly Wilde (Oscar Wilde’s niece). Carstairs was a feminist hero and a pretty sharp fashionista if you ask us. Look at that epic coat and pocket square!

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson was an awesome transgender woman who heled paved the way for gay liberation. Johnson, a New Jersey-bred activist, became was an icon in New York’s gay and art scene during the 1960s and 1990s.

Johnson is renowned for her activism. She was one of NYC’s best-known drag queens and founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (later renamed the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) with her friend Sylvia Rivera. The organization was at the helm of the Stonewall riots, which is often referred to as the single most important event leading the gay liberation movement. Johnson also created STAR, a charity that advocated on behalf of homeless drag queens and runaways.

Audre Lorde


Audre Lorde was an African-American writer, civil rights activist and vocal feminist. She was also a tough-to-the-bone lesbian and was never afraid to be outspoken in her plight for change. Audrey’s poetry was truly radical and dealt with the very taboo topics of civil rights, feminism, and exploring the black female identity

Audre Lorde’s mission was to smash the patriarchy. She famously said, “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

Katherine Zappone

Katherine Zappone is an American politician, feminist, and theologian. She became one of the first openly lesbian members of the Oirechtas (Ireland’s legislative branch) and the first one to be in a same-sex relationship. She has served as a both a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission and chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Zappone paved the way for LGBTQ visibility. The scholar (with a PhD from Boston College) is Ireland’s first openly lesbian government minister and the world’s 32nd lesbian to be elected to parliament (yes, only 32 out lesbians worldwide have worked in a high branch of government). She’s currently the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and teaches at Trinity College in Dublin.

Jayne County

Jayne County (previously known as Wayne County) is widely regarded as being rock’s first openly transgender singer. County has created 11 full-length studio albums and garnered a number of acting credits since she began acting in 1969 when she was asked by Warhol superstar to appear in Femme Fatale.

Jayne County’s music spans a number of genre’s including glam, punk, blues and boogie-woogie. Though you may have never heard of her, she was an influence for some of the most influential rock musicians of all time including The Ramones, David Bowie, Patti Smith, and Lou Reed.

Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis was the oldest-known lesbian when she died at the age of 100 in 2000. Her story is one that is so inspiring to feminists and hopeful boss ladies everywhere.

Ellis had brains. The Illinois native graduated high school at the age of 16 and started her own printing business. Imagine starting a business as a teenage girl in 2017, and you could imagine how much more difficult it must’ve been for a black teenager in the 1910s. Still, Ellis’ business was a success. In the 1920s, Ruth met her life partner Celine, and the couple spent the rest of their years opening up their Detroit home to African American gays and lesbians who needed refuge.

Alla Nazimova

Alla Nazimova was a mega movie star. In 1917 she signed an MGM contract where she made a whopping $13,000 a week. What do you do with all that money? Throw lavish parties, of course!

Nazimova was known to have some pretty scandalous and intimate encounters with women at her mansion on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard. She even coined the term “sewing circle” to describe closeted lesbian and bisexual women in Hollywood.

Natalie Clifford Barney

This radical lesbian feminist had the scandalous notion that monogamy was for suckers. The playwright, who is often referred to as the Queen of Paris lesbians, only believed in having multiple partners (one of whom was Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s niece).

Barney held a salon in her Paris home for more than 60 years that brought writers and artists together from around the world. She was an Ohio expat, herself. Barney is best known for her love poems written to other women and claimed that scandal was “the best way of getting rid of nuisances” (which in her case, meant attention from young straight males). Yes, Natalie Barney! Yes!

Vita Sackville-West

English poet Vita Sackville-West is mostly known for her risqué affair with Virginia Woolf, but what happened over a decade before was even more controversial.

Sackville-West was the kind of woman who didn’t care what anyone thought. She did exactly what she wanted to do – which for a time, was a steamy affair with her friend Violet Trefusis. Trefusis was married to a man but they had an open relationship and she could pursue same-sex affairs. Trefusis and Sackville-West had a very up-and-down relationship which was documented in a series of letters that were later published as a collection.


This Moulin Rouge entertainer was a muse for artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The famed lesbian was a female clown, who was confident in her choice to pursue a male-dominated career. She is depicted in a number of Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings with her various female lovers.

Toulouse-Lautrec was apparently inspired by Cha-U-Kao because she was so open and confident about her sexuality (which is a thing that was taboo for women in the 1890s, especially homosexual women). Basically, Cha-U-Kao lived her life the way she wanted and we’ve got endless respect.

Roberta Cowell

Is there anything more awe-inspiring than a tough-as-heck transgender woman who was both a war pilot and a race driver? Roberta Cowell is everything. She was a British World War II fighter pilot and a Grand Prix race car driver – oh, and she also happened to be one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

After Cowell got her surgery, she wasn’t allowed to compete in the Grand Prix (let’s be honest, the guys couldn’t handle that she’d probably crush them), but she kept her spirits up. She won the 1957 Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb and continued racing throughout her lifetime. Basically, if Cowell was still alive, we’d want to be her BFF.

Mercedes de Acosta

Mercedes de Acosta was a fierce temptress and renowned writer. She once said, “I can get any woman away from any man.” We’ve got to applaud that level of confidence and sort of wish we could embody it ourselves.

Not only was Mercedes a great beauty, but was also a woman with a colorful personality. She was of Spanish/Cuban descent, and perhaps best known for (proudly) sleeping around in the era of silent movies. She was involved with a number of famous women including Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina. Snaps for Mercedes and her wildly confident sexuality.

Jane Addams

When it comes to women’s suffrage, Jane Addams was one of the fiercest activists. Addams was a pioneer American settlement activist, social worker, philosopher, sociologist, and author. Basically, she was super smart and used her smarts to smash the patriarchy. Though she never came out as a lesbian, probably because of the time in which she lived, Addams exclusively had romantic relationships with women.

Addams is known as the mother of social work – she helped create this important and necessary profession. She worked to help America address and focus on mothers care about, such as children’s needs, public health, and world peace. She believed that women couldn’t make their communities a better place without being able to vote and became the first woman awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Lauren Morelli

Lauren Morelli is the groundbreaking writer behind the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Morelli only came out as a lesbian in 2014 and attributed the discovery of her sexuality to writing the main characters in Orange is the New Black. She filed for divorce from her husband of two years in September of 2014, and in 2016, she announced that she was engaged to Samira Wiley (the actress behind Litchfield inmate Poussey Washington).

Morelli’s worked has been the subject of much praise. In 2014, the Online Film and Television Association nominated her for “Best Writing in a Comedy Series.” She was awarded “Best Comedy Series” by The Writer’s Guild of America in 2014 and 2015 for Orange is the New Black.

Laura Jane Grace

Laura Jane Grace is a modern-day, ultra-inspiring feminist and transgender musician and activist. As the singer and guitarist of the punk rock band Against Me!, Grace, who identifies as female, came out as transgender in 2012.

Since coming out as trans, Grace has become an activist for trans women and works to increase trans visibility in the mainstream. She has since released a memoir and starred in an AOL original series called True Trans. The Emmy-nominated series explored the punk rocker’s life since she came out as a woman, as well as the lives of other people in the trans community who are underrepresented in the media. Grace famously burned her birth certificate live on stage to protest North Carolina’s trans-phobic “bathroom bill.”

The Ladies of Llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen included Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who had eloped together to Wales in 1778. Butler and Ponsonby were both in compromising situations before running off together. Butler was a spinster who was unlikely to marry, much to the dismay of her family. Ponsonby faced unwanted affections from her much older guardian.

The two women infamously shared a “romantic” relationship back then, calling each other “My Beloved” and sharing the same bed. However, romantic did have a different meaning back then. Historians have speculated over their sexual orientation, deciding that if they were lesbians they didn’t realize it, since that was unthinkable at the time.

Mary Benson

Mary Benson was a Victorian-era English hostess who was married to Reverend Edward Benson, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though she married him at 18 and went on to have six children with him, there’s a reason the British Prime Minister reportedly called her the “cleverest woman in Europe.”

Throughout her marriage, Benson was involved in a string of same-sex extra-marital affairs, including a love triangle between her and one of her own daughter’s female lovers. When the Archbishop passed away, Benson moved in with Lucy Tait, who was the daughter of the previous Archbishop. Benson is one woman who was unabashedly herself during a time where it was taboo.

Radclyffe Hall

Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images
Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images

English poet and author Radclyffe Hall is perhaps best known for her novel, The Well of Loneliness. Published in 1928, the novel is considered a pioneering work in lesbian literature but became the subject of court battles in the U.K. and the U.S. by people who considered it obscene.

Hall fell in love with a singer named Mabel Batten, who was 24 years her senior, and the couple began living together after Batten’s husband died. Hall also met Batten’s cousin, Una Troubridge, with whom she fell in love and lived with after Batten’s death.

Lady Troubridge

Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Una Vincenzo Troubridge was a British sculptor who was known to translate works of literature, notably the works of French writer Colette. In 1908, Troubridge married Captain Ernest Troubridge and had a daughter, though the marriage didn’t last.

As previously mentioned, Troubridge met Radclyffe Hall through her cousin Mabel Batten and they began living together after Batten’s death. Troubridge and Hall identified as “inverts,” a term coined by Hall to describe homosexuality. Troubridge took care of Hall up until her death in 1943.

Willa Cather

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Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images

Willa Cather was an American writer whose World War I novel, One of Ours, earned her the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. Having graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, many of her novels depict life on the frontier in the Great Plains.

Cather often used the name William and was known to wear masculine clothing, while wearing her hair short at a time when it was fashionable for women to wear it long. This made many scholars question her sexuality. Though no one can confirm that she was closeted, Cather did live with editor Edith Lewis for almost 40 years until her death.

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia

American writer and political activist Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a prominent figure in the African-American community at the start of the Harlem Renaissance. She takes the name Dunbar from her first husband, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the name Nelson from her third husband, civil rights activist Robert J. Nelson.

Her marriages were reportedly marred by her extramarital affairs with women, which Robert Nelson reportedly read about in her journal after her death. Aside from her personal life, Alice was an advocate for African-American and women’s rights throughout the early 1900s.

Florence Nightingale

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Florence Nightingale is known as the founder of modern nursing, having trained nurses during the Crimean War and established a nursing school at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Aside from her achievements in health, Nightingale was believed to be a lesbian.

Nightingale reportedly didn’t agree with the expectations placed upon women at the time and never married. However, there are some reports that say she lived with and shared a close intimate relationship with an aunt and a female cousin. There’s also a story that she spent years pretending to like a boy, but only because she was really in love with the boy’s sister.

Billie Holiday

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday was known to be openly bisexual during her heydey. She was rumored to have had affairs with numerous female celebrities during her career, including the aforementioned Tallulah Bankhead. Holiday infamously served time in prison for drug possession, during which time she reportedly was involved in lesbian relationships.

Despite her legendary career and immense talent, Holiday’s abusive relationships with men coupled with her drug and alcohol addictions caused her voice to deteriorate. Cirrhosis took her life on July 17, 1959.

Babe Didrikson

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Mildred “Babe” Didrikson was an incredible female athlete throughout the first half of the 20th century. She competed at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and won two gold and one silver medal for track and field. Aside from that and her abilities in basketball, and baseball, Didrikson is best known for her feats in golf. She even co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Although she married professional wrestler George Zaharias in 1908, she is also known to have been closely involved with fellow golfer Betty Dodd, whom she met at a tournament in 1950. Didrikson and Dodd toured together and were so close that many didn’t doubt they were also intimate.

Margaret Mead

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead rose to prominence in the ’60s and ’70s, particularly influencing the sexual revolution of the ’60s. “Mead believed that sexual orientation could be fluid and shift throughout one’s life,” according to

Though she had three husbands in her lifetime, Mead was known to share a close relationship with fellow anthropologist Ruth Benedict, who was her mentor. In her later years, Mead lived with Rhoda Metraux, also an anthropologist. Mead’s daughter allowed letters between her mother and Metraux to be published that gave insight into their romantic relationship.

Barbara Jordan

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Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images

Texas-born Barbara Jordan was the first Southern African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives after already having become the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate.

Jordan met educational psychologist Nancy Earl on a camping trip in the ’60s and from then the two maintained a strong partnership. Earl even helped Jordan pen some of her eloquent speeches. Though she never confirmed this herself, many believed Jordan was a lesbian. If she really was and came out during her lifetime, she would have been the first lesbian elected to the U.S. Congress.

Lorraine Hansberry

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Photo by David Attie/Getty Images

American playwright Lorraine Hansberry is best known for the play A Raisin in the Sun, which is the first play by a black female author performed on Broadway. In addition to this work, Hansberry was known to be a gay rights activist and wrote many pieces about feminism and homophobia. She also reportedly wrote anonymously to The Ladder, a lesbian magazine.

For this reason, many people identify her as a lesbian and if she was, she remained closeted her whole life and was even married to publisher Robert Nemiroff. After her death, many of her writings were found which expressed notions of homosexuality.

Katharine Lee Bates

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Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images

Songwriter Katharine Lee Bates is best known for writing the words to “America the Beautiful,” which she wrote while teaching at Colorado College in 1893. In addition to poetry, Bates wrote travel books and children’s books, apparently having a hand in popularizing the idea of Mrs.Santa Claus.

For 25 years of her life, Bates lived with Katharine Coman, a teacher who founded the Wellesley College School of Economics. Because the pair lived together for so long, they are known to have engaged in a “Boston Marriage,” which refers to two educated unmarried women in a co-habitational relationship.

Rita Mae Brown

Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

American writer Rita Mae Brown’s most notable work is Rubyfruit Jungle, an explicitly lesbian novel that is more or less an autobiographical coming-of-age story. Throughout the ’60s, Brown participated in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as becoming a proponent of feminism, Gay Liberation, and the anti-war protests.

Brown lived with Fannie Flagg, who wrote the novel that was eventually adapted into 1991’s Fried Green Tomatoes. After breaking up due to reported “generational differences,” Brown entered into a relationship with tennis player Martina Navratilova. They also eventually broke up over Navratilova’s fear that her sexuality would jeopardize her application for U.S. citizenship.

Barbara Gittings

Prominent LGBT activist Barbara Gittings has done a lot for the LGBT community in her lifetime. She not only worked extensively with the American Library Association to expand LGBT literature, but she also joined the movement to get the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality as a mental illness.

She helped forge the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights organization and was an editor of their magazine, The Ladder, from 1963 to 1966. Gittings was also key in protesting gay discrimination in the U.S. government all over Washington.Gitting’s partner, coming up next, was also a prominent figure in the LGBT community.

Kay Lahusen

American photojournalist Kay Lahusen was the first openly gay person in the profession. Much of her work included lesbians that were featured on the covers of The Ladder during the ’60s, helping to improve the quality of the magazines which previously only featured line drawings on the covers. She and Gittings were partners for 46 years.

In addition to her photos, Lahusen contributed articles to Gay Newsweekly and helped co-author The Gay Crusaders alongside Randy Wicker. Lahusen helped found the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969, months after the historic Stonewall riots.

Patricia Highsmith

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

American novelist Patricia Highsmith’s first novel was Strangers on a Train, which Alfred Hitchcock famously adapted into a film in 1951. Highsmith’s work was primarily psychological thrillers, writing a series of novels around her character, Tom Ripley. Much of her work has been adapted for film and the stage, most notably her 1955 novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Highsmith penned The Price of Salt under the pseudonym, Claire Morgan. It is known as the first lesbian novel that has a happy ending and in 2015 was also adapted into a film called Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Esther Eng

Chinese-American film director Esther Eng was a trailblazer for Asian-American women in film, having made a total of nine films in America and Hong Kong. Eng is known as the first female to direct a Chinese-language film in the U.S. Her films include Heartaches, National Heroine, and Tragic Lovers, which all came out in the ’30s.

Esther Eng was openly lesbian, which apparently was not a problem due to her involvement with the Chinese opera, which was accepting of homosexuality. Eng was posthumously honored with a documentary about her life and career, titled Golden Gate Silver Light.

Pauli Murray

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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Pauli Murray made history when she not only was among the first group of women to become an Episcopal priest, but she was also the first black woman to do so. Aside from becoming a priest, Murray dedicated her life to activism during the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement.

Reports suggest that Murray was constantly at odds with her sexuality. Wikipedia notes that although she freely referred to others as homosexual, she never placed the label on herself, rather saying that she had an inverted sex instinct. She allegedly desired a “monogamous married life” with a man, despite being in relationships with women.

Josephine Baker

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesEntertainer Josephine Baker was reportedly bisexual. Amid her marriages to men, she allegedly had relationships with women throughout her lifetime, most notably singer Clara Smith during Baker’s association with the Harlem Rennaissance.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesEntertainer Josephine Baker was reportedly bisexual. Amid her marriages to men, she allegedly had relationships with women throughout her lifetime, most notably singer Clara Smith during Baker’s association with the Harlem Rennaissance.

Baker rose to prominence as a dancer in Paris during the Jazz Age, with her provocative performances delighting many spectators who referred to her as the “Black Pearl” or “Creole Goddess.” During World War II, she was known to be an integral aid to the French Resistance. She was also active during the Civil Rights Movement and refused to perform for segregated audiences.


Photo Credits: DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini/Getty Images
Photo Credits: DEA / G. NIMATALLAH/De Agostini/Getty Images

Sappho is an ancient Greek poet that lived between 630 and 570 BC. Although many of her poems are lost, what poetry remains is mostly broken up into fragments except for her one poem the “Ode to Aphrodite”.

Aside from being a renowned poet, Sappho is also been considered to be a symbol of love between women. It is also considered that the modern term lesbian is an indirect reference to Sappho. Although she wasn’t considered to be a homosexual by all, today, many of her poems are believed to be inspired by homoerotic desires and celebrate love for the same gender.

Queen Christina of Sweeden

Photo Credits: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Queen Christina of Sweeden was the only surviving and heir of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. She succeeded the throne when she was six years old in 1632 after King Gustav II’s death at the Battle of Lutzen. However, she did not officially begin ruling until she turned 18.

Being a lover of education, art, music, mathematics, philosophy, and more, she aimed to transform Stockholm into the “Athens of the North.” She is also remembered for rejecting the gender and sexual norms at the time. She was known to wear masculine clothing, never married, and even relinquished the throne to her cousin. She has been regarded as a lesbian by many of her biographers and gender ambiguity was one of the main focuses of the 1933 film Queen Christina.

Del Martin

Photo Credits: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Del Martin was a major lesbian rights activist. She began her fight for equality in 1955 and was the co-founder of a lesbian organization known as the Daughters of Bilitis. During her youth, she was the editor of The Ladder, a lesbian-driven magazine, and a founder of the Council of Religion and the Homosexual. The council was created to overturn laws that criminalized homosexuality in the United States.

She was also the co-founder of the first gay political club in the United States called the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club. Along with all of her lesbian activism, she was also one of the first 4,000 same-sex marriages sanctioned by San Francisco in 2004 to her life-long partner Phyllis Lyon.

Phyllis Lyon

Photo Credits: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Phyllis Lyon was the life-long partner of Del Martin and a lesbian activist. Along with Del, Lyon was the first-ever editor of The Ladder and was involved in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. She served on the board of the Council of Religion and the Homosexual where she was part of the organization of the Mardi gras Ball on New Years Day in 1965.

After working at the Glide Foundation, she was a founding member of The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, a graduate school that grants degrees in sexology. Along with her numerous publications on lesbianism and the mistreatment of women, she was also the leader of the campaign to declare that homosexuality was not a mental illness. Her activism carried out through her older years, and she married Del back in 2004.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was a poet that was known for her reluctance ever to leave her home or come into contact with other people. Throughout her life, she had written over 1,800 poems with under a dozen of them ever actually being published during her lifetime. She became romantically involved with a woman named Susan Gilbert while studying at Amherst Academy in her teenage years.

Even after Susan married Emily’s brother Austin, the two stayed close romantically and communicated through letters. However, the relationship between the two was edited out of the letters by Susan’s daughter before their publication. Her daughter feared that Dickinson’s supposed lesbianism would take away from her poetry and give her a bad name.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Photo Credits: Keystone/Getty Images)
Photo Credits: Keystone/Getty Images)

Eleanor Roosevelt was the First lady of the United States while her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt was president between 1933 and 1945. She is best-known for her social and political activism work as well as her role as a politician both during and after her husband’s terms as president. She was described as the “First lady of the World” by Harry Truman due to her human rights achievements.

It has since been understood that Franklin and Eleanor’s relationship was based on an “intellectual and political partnership.” She was known to be involved in a lesbian social circle where she had a romantic relationship with a woman named Lorena Hickok. Although it was considered to be doubtful at first, it has since become widely accepted.

A’Lelia Walker

Photo Credits: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credits: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

A’Lelia’s mother was the first self-made millionaire in the United States after she released a successful line of hair and beauty products for African-American women. In turn, her daughter played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance and was known to throw parties for European royals and the local intellectuals of the times.

A’Lelia was also crucial in normalizing homosexuality and bisexuality among the upper class in Harlem. This is because she was a highly-popular woman, and those that wanted to be in her good graces would put aside their moral reservations about different sexual orientations. A’Lelia had created a welcoming environment for people regardless of their sexual orientation, and people who had a problem were not welcome at her residence if they made it apparent.

Laverne Cox

Photo Credits: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images Fragrance Foundation
Photo Credits: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images Fragrance Foundation

Laverne Cox is best-known for acting the role of Sophia Burset on the hit television series Orange is the New Black. Her performance isn’t the only thing that she’s famous for. She’s also the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a television show.

She also made the documentary Free CeCe, about a transgender woman that was sentenced to 41-months in prison for defending herself in a hate crime attack. Along with her documentary and role in the television show, she is an active speaker on gender identity issues and transgender equality.

Martina Navratilova

Photo Credits: Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage
Photo Credits: Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage

Martina Navratilova is considered by many to be one of the best tennis players of all time. Throughout her career, she broke numerous records and won countless awards and tournaments for her tennis skills. In 1981, she came out as a bisexual during an interview with New York Daily News and said that she had a sexual relationship with Rita Mae Brown.

She asked the Daily News not to publish the article until she was ready to come out publicly but they did so anyway. She has since been heavily involved in various forms of activism including gay rights. In 2000, she received the National Equality Award from the gay and lesbian lobbying group Human Rights Campaign.

Ellen DeGeneres

Photo Credits: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The People’s Choice Awards
Photo Credits: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The People’s Choice Awards

During the early stage of her career, Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997. During that time, the character she was playing named Ellen Morgan simultaneously came out as a lesbian to her therapist that was performed by Oprah Winfrey.

From then on, The Oprah Winfrey often included information about LGBT issues and the community. She was then the first openly gay actress to play an openly gay character on television. In 2011, DeGeneres was named the Special Envoy for the Global AIDS Awareness by Hillary Clinton and is an influential speaker for the LGBT community.