Join us for a livestreamed author talk with Dr. Cookie Woolner (she/her) of the University of Memphis as she discusses her book, The Famous Lady Lovers: Black Women and Queer Desire Before Stonewall (University of North Carolina Press, Sept. 2023), which draws upon research conducted at numerous archives, including the Chicago History Museum.

Black queer women have shaped American culture since long before the era of gay liberation. Decades prior to the Stonewall Uprising, in the 1920s and 1930s, Black “lady lovers”—as women who loved women were then called—crafted a queer world. In the cabarets, rent parties, speakeasies, literary salons, and universities of the Jazz Age and Great Depression, communities of Black lady lovers grew, and queer flirtations flourished.

Dr. Woolner uncovers the intimate lives of performers, writers, and educators such as Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Lucy Diggs Slowe, along with the many everyday women she encountered in the archives.

This program is offered in a hybrid manner. Registration is required for all attendees:

Cookie Woolner headshot Dr. Cookie Woolner. Photograph by Lucy Garrett
The Famous Lady Lovers cover
Ethel Waters LC-USZ62-115134 Portrait of Ethel Waters, Aug. 28, 1938. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-115134
Bessie Smith LC-DIG-ppmsca-09571 Portrait of Bessie Smith, Feb. 3, 1936. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-09571
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