Trailblazing Sapphic Sisters Throughout History

Bravo to these inspiring Lesbian trailblazers, throughout history. Discover pioneering lesbians like Queen Christina of Sweden, queer female pirate Mary Read...
Thank you, sapphic sisters for their courage. Shine bright like a diamond.

Fancy a queer quiz?

Lesbian Pioneers

V sorry - my lockdown 2 project got sooooooooooo much bigger than I anticipated - so I have launched before this section is complete :(

Did you know at one time Lesbians were called.. inverts, tribades, uranians... Check out a history of Lesbian terminology. This section covers some truly inspiring Lesbian trail-blazers throughout history who haven't been mentioned in the other sections and who excelled in: women's rights, science, exploration, business, sport... some of whom changed history!

Please, do come back to see which slick lesbian pioneers I add.

Sapphic Poets: Sappho


As we all know Sappho was a Greek poet from the island of Lesbos who was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets of her time.

Sappho primarily wrote love poetry which was written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre. Most of Sappho's poetry is now lost, and what is extant has mostly survived in fragmentary form; two notable exceptions are the "Ode to Aphrodite" and the Tithonus poem... more

Greek Poet: c. 630 – c. 570 BCE

Sapphic Classical Musician: St. Hildegard von Bingen

St. Hildegard von Bingen

St. Hildegard was a German Benedictine abbess (a female superior of a community of nuns) who founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. St. Hildegard is one of the most renowned composers of sacred monophony.

What is monophony? In music, monophony, consists of a melody sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player... more

German Composer: 1098 - 1176 C.E.

Famous Historical Lesbians: Benedetta Carlini

Benedetta Carlini

Benedetta Carlini was a nun who became an abbess (female superior) of the Convent of the Mother of God, at Pescia, Tuscany, Italy during the Baroque era.

Fameseeker? Benedetta experienced supernatural visitations and went into trances, speaking in the voices of angels! Historically other nuns such as Venerable Ursula Benincasa had also had visions. While Benedetta... more

Italian Nun: 1591 – 1661

Famous Historical Lesbians: Maud Galt

Maud Galt

Maud Galt was a Scottish lesbian accused of witchcraft by her maidservant. Maud lived in Kilbarchan, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland with her husband John Dickie, and two servants.

An intriguing case - in September 1649, one of Maud's servants, Agnes Mitchell, lodged a complaint against her employer, Maud Galt, at a Kirk Session when she accused her of... more

Scottish Accused of Witchcraft: c. 1620 – c. 1670

Famous Historical Lesbians: Sarah White Norman

Sarah White Norman

In 1648, in Plymouth Colony, America, Sarah White Norman and Mary Vincent Hammond (1633 - 1705) were charged with "leude behauior each with other vpon a bed." To date, their trial documents are the only known record of sex between female colonists in North America in the 17th century.

Both Sarah and Mary ... more

English Colonist Accused of Lewd Behaviour: ca. 1623 - 1654

Famous Historical Lesbians: Queen Christina of Sweden

Queen Christina of Sweden

At The Battle of Lützen in 1632, when her father died , 6-year-old Christina was sworn in as King of Sweden in February of 1633. Her mother ruled on her behalf until she was 18 and during Christina's status as "girl-king" she was educated as a noble young man which gained her the reputation as one of the most highly educated women in Europe during her day. Her refusal to marry resulted in her growing unpopularity among the Swedish people, and... more

Swedish Queen: 1626 – 1689

Sapphic Poets: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is considered one of the greatest Mexican poets, an early advocate of women’s rights, and some say, Mexico’s first lesbian feminist writer.

Sor Juana loved learning and when she was 16, she asked for her parents’ permission to disguise herself as a male student in order to attend university, which did not accept women. They refused. Interested not in marriage but ...more

Mexican Poet: 1648 - 1695

Sapphic Classical Music: Julie d'Aubigny, Mademoiselle Maupin

Julie d'Aubigny, Mademoiselle Maupin

La Maupin was a cross-dressing bi opera singer and skilled swords-woman who killed at least three men in duels. Touché! Swashbuckling Julie d'Aubigny, aka La Maupin, was a resident opera singer at the Paris Opera and the Opéra du Quai au Foin in Brussels. The role of Clorinde in Tancrède was composed specifically for her contralto range by André Campra, in 1702.

An example of her many shenanigans ... more

French Opera Singer: 1670/1673 - 1707

Famous Historical Lesbians: Mary Read

Mary Read

Mary Read aka Mark Read and Anne Bonny are two of the most famous swashbuckling yet ruthless female pirates of all time! Swearing and cursing, they wore billowing jackets, long trousers and handkerchiefs wrapped around their heads, wielding a machete and pistol in either hand.

At a young age Mary's mother disguised her as her dead son, in order to receive financial support from her late husband's mother. ... more

English Pirate: 1685 – 1721

Famous Historical Lesbians: Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny was born in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland and was the illegitimate daughter of lawyer William Cormac and the family maid Mary Brennan. After his wife left him, over time her father grew so fond of Anne that he moved her into his house.

To avoid scandal, her father dressed her as a boy and introduced her as "Andy", the child of a relative entrusted to his care. When ... more

Irish-Amrican Pirate: 1697 - 1782

Famous Historical Lesbians: The Ladies of Llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen

The Ladies of Llangollen were Eleanor Butler (1739 – 1828) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755 – 1831) - two very posh Irish women who defiantly escaped to a Welsh Gothic mansion, Plâs Newydd, in Llangollen to live their lives together in sapphic bliss for fifty years.

Eleanor Charlotte Butler was a member of the Butler family, the Earls (and later Dukes) of Ormond while Sarah Ponsonby was a ... more

Irish Ladies of Independance: 1739 – 1831

Famous Historical Lesbians: Mademoiselle Raucourt (Françoise Saucerotte)

Mademoiselle Raucourt

Mademoiselle (Mlle) Raucourt a.ka. Françoise Marie Antoinette Saucerotte, was a famous French actress and a priestesses of... the Lodge of Lesbos! Her life spanned the days of Queen Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution, Napoleon's Empire and the Bourbon Restoration.

At the age of 16, Mlle Raucourt made her debut at the Comédie Française (one of the few state theatres in France) as ... more

French Actress: 1756 –1815

Famous Historical Lesbians: Deborah Sampson

Deborah Sampson

Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Was she? In 1797, Herman Mann with Deborah's cooperation wrote a biographical memoir of her: The Female Review which divulges several references to Deborah’s romantic involvement with women during the time she was posing as a man

American Revolutionary War Soldier: 1760 - 1827

Famous Historical Lesbians: Jane Pirie

Jane Pirie

Jane Pirie's court case was the loose inspiration of Lillian Hellman's 1934 play The Children's Hour.

In 1809, Miss Jane Pirie opened a fashionable and respectable girls' school in Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh with her friend and co-founder Miss Marianne Woods (1781–1870). A year later, a 16-year-old pupil, Jane Cumming (who was the illegitimate child of ... more

Accused Scottish Headmistress: 1779 – 1833

Famous Historical Lesbians: Anne Lister

Anne Lister

Anne Lister wrote diaries, which contain over four million words and are written largely in secret code, documenting a lifetime of lesbian relationships.

One sixth of Anne Lister's diaries are encrypted in code which was derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek. It was deciphered by John Lister (a descendant) and his friend Arthur Burrell, in the early 1930s.

English Landowner: 1791 – 1840

Famous Historical Lesbians: Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing but was a social reformer and statistician pioneering data visualisation by using graphical presentations of statistical data.

Was Florence Nightingale a Friend of Dorothy? Much speculation! She rebuffed at least four proposals and never married. In a memoir she states, "I have lived and slept in the same beds with English Countesses and Prussian farm women. No woman has excited passions among women more than I have".

English Nurse: 1820 - 1910

Famous Historical Lesbians: Frances Harper

Frances Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was an African-Americans abolitionist, suffragist, social reformer, poet and writer who was one of the first African-American women to be published in the US. Writing for newspapers against slavery she became known as the "Mother of African American journalism".

Frances was raised by her maternal aunt and uncle, Henrietta and ... more

African-American Abolitionist & Poet: 1825 - 1911

Famous Historical Lesbians: Mary Edwards Walker

Dr. Mary Walker

Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman and one of only eight civilians to receive the US Presidential Medal of Honor. Dr. Mary Walker was a surgeon (the first female U.S. Army surgeon during the Civil War), prisoner of war, abolitionist and women's suffrage movement advocate.

Mary Walker gained her medical degree at Syracuse Medical College in ... more

American surgeon: 1832 – 1919

Famous Historical Lesbians: Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake

Sophia Jex-Blake was a trailblazing English physician. Sophia Jex-Blake led the campaign to secure women access to a University education, was the first practising female doctor in Scotland, and third in Britain and who helped found two medical schools for women, in London and Edinburgh at a time when no other medical schools were training women.

While studying at Queen’s College ... more

English Doctor: 1840 – 1912

Famous Historical Lesbians: Mary Benson

Mary Benson

Mary Benson was the wife of Revd. Edward Benson (who rose to become the Archbishop of Canterbury) and was described by Gladstone, the British Prime Minister, as the 'cleverest woman in Europe'. For the Victorian era the Benson family was somewhat queer.

When Mary Sidgwick was 11 years old, Edward Benson aged 23 choose Mary (his second cousin) to become his wife ... more

English Mother: 1841 – 1918

Famous Historical Lesbians: Anna Elizabeth Dickinson

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the first woman to give a political address before the United States Congress. Anna was a charismatic public speaker - an advocate for the abolition of slavery and racial equality and women's rights, who rose to fame during the Civil War.

She was also the first white woman on record to summit Colorado's Gray's Peak, Lincoln Peak, and Elbert Peak (on a mule), and ... more

American Public Speaker: 1842 - 1932

Famous Historical Lesbians: Michael Field

Michael Field

In 1884, The Spectator, a prominent British magazine heralded the arrival of a new literary phenomena: poet and playwright Michael Field with a review of his verse drama Callirrhoe: Fair Rosamund. Indeed there was such a buzz over this work that critics proclaimed Michael Field the next Shakespeare — without any idea of who Michael Field was.

London's artistic circles delighted in ... more

English Co-authors: 1846 – 1914

Famous Historical Lesbians: Sofia Kovalevskaya

Sofia Kovalevskaya

Sofya Kovalevskaya was a pioneering Russian mathematician who made significant contributions to analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics. Moreover, Sofya was the first woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematics, the first woman appointed to a full professorship in northern Europe and one of the first women editors of a scientific journal (Acta Mathematica). ... more

Russian Mathematician: 1850 - 1891

Famous Historical Lesbians: Dr Margaret Todd

Dr Margaret Georgina Todd

Margaret Georgina Todd was a Scottish doctor and writer who coined the term isotope.

After hearing that the Scottish Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons had opened their exams to women, Margaret became one of the first students at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women which had been founded by Dr Sophia Jex-Blake. Though a four-year course, she took eight years to ... more

Scottish Doctor: 1859 – 1918

Famous Historical Lesbians: Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Bates was an American professor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts and author, known for her anthem "America the Beautiful", but also for her many books and articles on social reform.

Throughout her long career at Wellesley she shared a house with her "companion" Katharine Coman a social activist and also a professor Wellesley.

American Professor: 1859 - 1929

Famous Historical Lesbians: Elsie de Wolfe aka Lady Mendl

Elsie de Wolfe

Elsie de Wolfe aka Lady Mendl was one of the first famous interior designers and in 1935, Paris experts named her the best-dressed woman in the world.

Elsie's lifelong companion was pioneering American theatrical and literary agent and producer, Elisabeth Marbury, with whom she lived in New York and Paris.

American Interior Designer: 1859 - 1950

Famous Historical Lesbians: Jane Addams

Jane Addams

In 1931, Jane Addams became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and is recognised as the founder of the social work profession in the United States.

Jane's first romantic partner was Ellen Starr an American social reformer and then came her life-long partner of over 30 years was a Chicago-born philanthropist Mary Rozet Smith.

American Suffragette & Reformer: 1860 – 1935

Famous Historical Lesbians: Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts in August 4, 1892.

Backstory: Lizzie Andrew Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts to wealthy yet frugal businmann Andrew Jackson Borden and Sarah Anthony (née Morse). She had an older sister, Emma Lenora Borden. Three years after the death of Lizzie mother ... more

American Murderess?: 1860 – 1927

Famous Historical Lesbians: Princesse Edmond de Polignac

Princesse Edmond de Polignac

Winnaretta Eugénie Singer was an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune (her father Isaac Singer had 24 children!) and a Patron of the Arts using her funds for notably establishing a musical salon in the music room of her mansion on Avenue Henri-Martin (today, Avenue Georges-Mandel), Paris, where her protégés included Chabrier, d'Indy, Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel (who dedicated his piano work "Pavane pour une infante défunte" to the Princesse de Polignac)... more

American-French Patron of the Arts: 1865 – 1943

Famous Historical Lesbians: Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was a famous American dancer known as a great innovator in dance and "The Mother of Dance" who performed throughout Western Europe, the Soviet Union and the Americas.

Isadora Duncan rejected traditional ballet steps to stress improvisation, emotion, and the human form. Thus her dance teaching and performances helped free ballet from its conservative restrictions and was a prelude to... more

American Dancer: 1877 - 1927

Famous Historical Lesbians: Angelina Weld Grimké

Angelina Weld Grimké

Angelina Weld Grimké was an American poet, playwright and journalist and an important forerunner of the Harlem Renaissance which spanned the 1920s and was an intellectual revival of African-American art and literature centred in Harlem, NYC.

In 1916, Angelina Weld Grimké three-act play Rachel, became one of the first plays to protest lynching and racial violence, and ... more

African-American Journalist / Teacher / Poet / Playwright: 1880 - 1958

Famous Historical Lesbians: Marion Morgan

Marion Morgan

Marion Morgan was an American choreographer and movie screenwriter. She started out as physical education teacher at the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School. Later Marion was hired as a dance instructor for the summer program at the University of California, Berkeley where she recruited girls for a dance troupe to perform in vaudeville on the Orpheum Circuit.

The Mabel Morgan Dancers ... more

American Choreographer: 1881 – 1971

Famous Historical Lesbians: Nina Vedeneyeva

Nina Vedeneyeva

Nina Vedeneyeva was a Russian physicist involved in the study of mineral crystals and their coloration. (I studied Geology and Crystallography was my hardest EVER subject!). In 1907, Nina entered the St. Petersburg's Chemical Department of the Bestuzhev Courses (the most prominent women's higher education institution in Imperial Russia), received her degree from the USSR Academy of Sciences (1912) and passed her ... more

Russian Physicist: 1882 – 1955

Famous Historical Lesbians: Renée Schwarzenbach-Wille

Renée Schwarzenbach-Wille

Renée Schwarzenbach-Wille was an German equestrian sportswoman who competed in main show jumping events in Switzerland and Germany, including the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Her pedigree was top notch - the daughter of Swiss General Ulrich Wille (the Head of the Swiss Army during World War I and son of novelist Eliza Wille) and Countess ... more

Swiss Equestrian: 1883 – 1959

Famous Historical Lesbians: Lucy Diggs Slowe

Lucy Diggs Slowe

Lucy Diggs Slowe was an American educator and a woman of an incredible amount of "firsts!"

Lucy was the first female pupil from Baltimore Colored School and the first scholarship recipient from the school to attend Howard University, Washington, D.C (the top historically black college in USA). Just before graduating in 1908 from Howard University she was one of a group of students led by ... more

African-American Educator: 1885 – 1937

Famous Historical Lesbians: Olga Tsuberbiller

Olga Tsuberbiller

Olga Tsuberbiller was a Russian mathematician who wrote the school textbook Problems and Exercises in Analytic Geometry (1927) which is still used as a standard text for in Russian high schools and technical institutions and has been reprinted in Russian more than 35 times and has been translated into Chinese, Czech, German, and Polish.

In 1955, Olga Tsuberbiller was ... more

Russian Mathematician: 1885 - 1975

Famous Historical Lesbians: Lady Una Troubridge

Lady Una Troubridge

Una Troubridge was a British aristocrat, sculptor, literary translator, the famous lover of novelist Radclyffe Hall.

Una's real name was Margot Elena Gertrude Taylor, but her family nicknamed her Una, and she apparently chose the middle name Vincenzo for herself, in honour of her Italian relatives. After graduating from the Royal College of Art Una set up a sculpture studio and famously ... more

English Literary Translator: 1887 – 1963

Famous Historical Lesbians: Elspeth Champcommunal

Elspeth Champcommunal

Elspeth Champcommunal (nee Hodgson) was a respected British fashion designer, the first editor of British Vogue and one of the founders of The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers (IncSoc) (founded to promote and preserve British fashion during WWI and was the predecessor of The British Fashion Council)... more

British Fashion Designer & 1st Editor British Vogue: 1888 – 1976

Famous Historical Lesbians: Dorothy Todd

Dorothy Todd

Dorothy "Dody" Todd was the 2nd editor of British Vogue from 1922 – 1926 (succeeding also lezza, Elspeth Champcommunal!). Dorothy progressed on Elspeth Champcommunal's goal to make British Vogue more than just a hats and frocks, fashion glossy.

Under Dody Todd's slick editorship, she included innovative, modernist literature (poems, essays and articles) and avant-garde art with ... more

2nd Editor of British Vogue: 1888 - 1966

Famous Historical Lesbians: Violette Morris

Violette Morris

Violette Morris was a French athlete who won two gold and a silver medal at the Women's World Games hosted in Paris, in 1922. Though she drove French ambulances for the Red Cross during the WWI, during World War II, she was accused of collaborating with Nazis and the Vichy France regime and was nicknamed the "Hyena of the Gestapo".

Athlete - you name it, she did it! ... more

French Athlete: 1893 – 1944

Famous Historical Lesbians: Gladys Calthrop

Gladys Calthrop

Gladys Calthrop (née Treeby) was a British artist and leading stage designer who was notable for her set and costume designs for many of Noël Coward's plays and musicals.

While on holiday in Italy, in 1921, Gladys was introduced to witty English playwright, composer and director Noël Coward which an initiated a long time friendship and collaboration. Three years later she commenced ... more

English Stage Designer: 1894 – 1980

Famous Historical Lesbians: Dolly Wilde

Dolly Wilde

Dorothy "Dolly" Wilde was the niece of Oscar Wilde and a popular, witty socialite in the intellectual Paris salons. Despite being a gifted storyteller, unlike her legendary uncle, she didn't take advantage of her talents producing only a few written works, mostly translations and circa 200 letters to her friends and lovers.

Seeking adventure, in 1914, Dolly travelled to France to drive ambulances in WWI ... more

English Socialite: 1895 - 1941

Famous Historical Lesbians: Madge Garland

Madge Garland

Madge Garland (née McHarg) was key figure in the history of British fashion journalism, the British fashion industry and the training of fashion designers.

Madge's parents prevented her from taking up a university place at Cambridge so she left home and began her career as an errand girl on Fleet Street. Just after the arrival of British Vogue's second editor Dorothy Todd ... more

Australian-English Fashion Editor: 1898 - 1990

Famous Historical Lesbians: Ruth Ellis - activist

Ruth Ellis

Ruth Charlotte Ellis was an African-American LGBT rights activist and kind facilitator.

Ruth graduated with a diploma from Springfield High School in 1919, at a time when fewer than 7% of the African-American population graduated from American high schools. Thereafter, she learnt printing and type-making skills and eventually set up her own print shop out of her house in Detroit: the ... more

African-American Activist: 1899 - 2000

Famous Historical Lesbians: Marion Barbara 'Joe' Carstairs

Marion Barbara 'Joe' Carstairs

Marion Barbara 'Joe' Carstairs was an heiress to an oil fortune (Standard Oil) and speedboat champion, known as the "fastest woman on water".

Aged just 16, Carstairs served in France with the American Red Cross, driving ambulances in WW1 where she met and had an awakening fling with Dolly Wilde (Oscar Wilde's niece). After the war, she stayed in France and ... more

British Power Boat Racer: 1900 – 1993

Famous Historical Lesbians: Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead was the most influential American cultural anthropologist. Her reports detailing the attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures influenced the 1960s sexual revolution.

Considering so few woman at the time had access to higher education Margaret Mead earned her: Bachelor's degree from Barnard College (a private women's ... more

American Cultural Anthropologist: 1901 - 1978

Famous Historical Lesbians: Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin was a prolific writer. From the age eleven until her death Nin wrote journals prolifically. So far sixteen volumes of her journals have been published which detail her private thoughts and personal relationships. She also wrote several novels, short stories, volumes of erotica, essays and critical studies.

Was she bi? Ignoring the pulp erotica of lame movie Henry and June (1990) ... more

American-Cuban-French Diarist: 1903 - 1977

Famous Historical Lesbians: Mary Renault

Mary Renault

Mary Renault was an writer best known for her historical novels set in ancient Greece and fictional portrayals of Alexander the Great, Plato, Socrates and Theseus.

Mary read English at St Hugh's College, Oxford, then an all-women's college, and earned an undergraduate degree in 1928. It is important to point out that although a relative few women had been studying at Oxford for ... more

English-South African Writer : 1905 - 1983