In 1880, on the first anniversary of her marriage, author Sarah Orne Jewett penned a romantic poem to her partner Annie Adams Fields. “Do you remember, darling, a year ago today, when we gave ourselves to each other? … We will not take back the promises we made a year ago.” Sarah and Annie lived together in a “Boston marriage,” which was a committed partnership between women.
For several years at the end of the nineteenth century, same-sex marriage was relatively common and even socially acceptable. Homosexuality itself was taboo but friendships among women were common. Women existed in a sphere separate from that of men. Public life, work and earning money were male activities.
In New England women took this concept one step further by “getting married” combining households, living together and supporting one another. They attended college, found careers and lived outside their parents’ home. As they did so with other women, their activities were deemed socially acceptable.
In 1885, novelist Henry James explored the phenomenon in his book “The Bostonians”. The practice became less common in the 20th century, but did not die out; In the 1950s, Your Activist lived a few doors away from a similar arrangement.
“Peggy and Buck. Peggy said to be intersex.” Photographer: Ben Wittick | 1880-1890 | Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum | 15010
Writing in Fusion, Jorge Rivas notes:
The Navajos have a rich, documented history of accepting and even honoring people that identified with different genders and sexual preferences. … “We were recognizing same-sex unions between a man and a man and a woman and a woman long before white people came on to this land,” Alray Nelson, lead organizer at the Coalition for Navajo Equality, a local community group working to end the ban on gay marriage, told Fusion.
There are drawings, photographs, oral histories, and even language that may be evidence LGBT Navajo tribe members were once accepted. The Navajo language has at least one term for tribe members that don’t fit traditional heterosexual roles: nádleehí.
“Historically our society was more accepting of a person who was nádleehí,” said Dr. Jennifer Denetdale, a University of New Mexico associate professor and a member of the Navajo Humans Rights Commission.
Location, date and photographer not known | Political Affairs | 14159
In looking back on the history of what we today call the struggle for Gay Rights or Gay Liberation, the Communist and Socialist contributions to that struggle are deserving of both recognition and analysis, <a href="“>writes Norman Markowitz in Political Affairs.
Gays have been involved in the struggles for the emancipation of the working class as revolutionary agitators, labor organizers, and partisans of socialist, communist and anarchist movements since the days of the Paris Commune and the First International, when for many those three categories were interchangeable. Appeals were made to both Marx and Engels to bring the oppression of homosexuals into the larger struggle for the emancipation of the working class. (Marx refused and Engels was hostile to the idea.)
Gays involved in organizing trade unions and other activities for the socialist movement in Germany and other countries found themselves targeted by the police and abandoned by their unions and parties. The socialist movement, struggling to achieve elemental political democracy in a world where the working class did not even have the right to vote outside of a few countries, found itself divided on many questions, including how to respond to colonialism, the question of women’s rights, and the rights of oppressed national minorities.
The first significant support that gay civil rights received in world history came at the end of the 1890s from the flagship Marxist socialist party of the Second International, the German Social Democratic Party.