Emory Report

April 5, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 26

Volunteer history project uncovers Boston's gay, lesbian past

It's only fitting that America's oldest city lays claim to having the "longest gay and lesbian history." Or so say Nancy Richard and Tom Huth of The History Project, a Boston-based group of historians, archivists, writers and designers committed to uncovering and preserving the history of gay and lesbian life there.

Richard, an archivist at Northeastern University, and Huth, an architect, will appear in 207 White Hall on April 9 at 7 p.m. to discuss their project and perform readings from a groundbreaking exhibit mounted at Boston Public Library in the summer of 1996. The exhibit, "Public Faces, Private Lives: Boston's Lesbian and Gay History 1600-1969," proved to be the most successful in the library's history, attracting more than 60,000 visitors.

The History Project introduces Boston men and women who flaunted conventional gender roles, were unapologetic about their lifestyles and tried to make sense of their own sexuality-sometimes at great personal expense.

Through newspaper accounts, private archives, advertisements and other sources, the project unearthed people such as Ann Bailey who, impersonating a man and calling herself Samuel Gay, enlisted in the army in 1777. The group also found examples of famous "Boston marriages"-intimate relationships between two women-including that of Katherine Lee Bates, author of America the Beautiful.

During their lecture, Richard and Huth will describe the evolution of The History Project and talk about the group's book, Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland, based on the library exhibit and published last year. Their talk is free and open to the public. For more information call 404-727-0272.

--Stacey Jones

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