LGBTQ in American History (1900-1950)
Photo of Gertrude and Alice
1907 – Gertrude Stein meets Alice B. Toklas, sparking a legendary romance. In Paris, the two women set up a salon that connects many great writers and artists, including gays. Stein publicly declares her love for Toklas in print in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, published in 1933.
1917-1935 – The Harlem Renaissance. Historians have stated that the renaissance was “as gay as it was black.” Some of the lesbian, gay or bisexual people of this movement included writers and poets such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston; Professor Alain Locke; music critic and photographer Carl Van Vechten, and entertainers Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and Gladys Bentley.
1924 – The Society for Human Rights, the first gay rights organization, is founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago. The organization ceases to exist after most of its members are arrested.
1928 – Radclyffe Hall, an English author, publishes what many consider a groundbreaking lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness. This causes homosexuality to be a topic of public conversation in the United States.
1948 – Alfred Kinsey, an American biologist and sexologist at Indiana University publishes Sexual Behavior of the Human Male, which discusses male homosexuality. (Also known as the Kinsey Reports).
1950 – U.S. Congress issues the report, “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government.” It is distributed to members of Congress. The report shows that the federal government had covertly investigated employees’ sexual orientation. It states that since homosexuality is a mental illness, homosexuals “constitute security risks” to the nation.
1950 – The Mattachine Society forms in Los Angeles, California, by activist Harry Hay and is one of the first sustained gay rights groups in the United States. The Society focuses on social acceptance of homosexuals. The organization continues today with different objectives.