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11 Historic Women We Wish We Could Bring to The Dinah

11 Historic Women We Wish We Could Bring to The Dinah

11 Historic Women We Wish We Could Bring to The Dinah

Each of these famously queer ladies passed before the first Dinah Shore in 1990, but we're willing to bet they'd appreciate a poolside cocktail to kick back and heat up with thousands of fellow lesbians.

sunnivie

As we pack our bags to head to the 23rd annual Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., we're looking forward to reveling in a sea of sexy lesbian, bi, and lady-loving ladies. But we can't help but notice that there are some important out ladies of history who we think would have loved the chance to party it up in the desert. 

Each of these famously queer ladies passed before the first Dinah Shore in 1990, but we're willing to bet they'd appreciate a poolside cocktail to kick back and heat up with thousands of fellow lesbians. 

All photoshop by Boo Jarchow. 

 

Josephine Baker was an iconic American-born French jazz singer and dancer, whose name to this day evokes images of glamour and an aura of decadent sexuality — which would be a perfect fit at the Dinah. Baker was married to four different men and adopted 12 children, but a biography written by her lifelong friend and confidant Jean-Claude Baker illuminates the distinctly queer aspects of her life. Born a black woman to a poverty-stricken family in rural Mississippi in 1906, Baker soon discovered her passion and talent for performing — and by 1920 was traveling with Clara Smith as the lead singer's "lady lover," a title that had both professional and personal implications, according to the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. A former colleague of Baker's told Jean-Claude Baker that show business was a safer place for burgeoning queers, though bullish lesbians were still not accepted. "I guess we were bisexual, is what you would call us today," said Maude Russell.

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Virginia Woolf is a name likely known by any feminist literature geek who knows her stuff, and although the modernist author lived in England during the buttoned-down first half of the 20th Century, we're pretty sure she'd hold her own at the Dinah. We'd even let Woolf bring her longtime lover, Vita Sackville-West, along for the fun. And since members of Woolf's sociopolitical party, the Bloomsbury group, were notoriously accepting of gays, we imagine she'd even have a few friends to bring to help split hotel costs.

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Rumors have long swirled about Emily Dickinson's possible bisexuality, and when a photograph from 1859 recently surfaced showing Dickinson sitting with her arm around another woman, some jumped on the image as conclusive proof. The photo, which features the (unconfirmed) likenesses of Dickinson and Kate Scott Turner, also challenges widespread presumption that Dickinson was a hermit who never left the house. That's good news for our hypothetical Dinah crew — who would undoubtedly give the reclusive poet plenty of, ahem, literary inspiration. 

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We really, really wish Mexican-born painter Frida Kahlo were around to attend the Dinah. The passionate artist had a reputation as a strong-willed spitfire, and between marriages to Diego Rivera, Kahlo was rumored to have relationships with women, including Josephine Baker. I guess we know who will be bunking together! 

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Actor Greta Garboreportedly called her same-sex trysts "exciting secrets." We know more than a few lovely ladies who'd like to get secretive with the sexy, gender-bending Hollywood star. Letters made public after Garbo's death in 1990 reveal what some say is evidence of an affair with Mercedes de Acosta, though the notoriously private star didn't leave many concrete details to confirm her Sapphic identity. Still, we think she'd fit right in at the Dinah — though perhaps she'd prefer to keep to her own hotel room.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Willa Cather rose to prominence with her novels about living on the American plains, adopting a butch, no-nonsense tone in works like O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and The Song of the Lark. While attending college at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, Cather reportedly used the name "William," and donned masculine clothing and a short haircut. She spent the last four decades of her life living with editor Edith Lewis — which some skeptics say still doesn't prove that she was a lesbian. We'd beg to differ, and think the fierce pioneer woman would handle the lesbian-filled desert with no problem.

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American actor Tallulah Bankhead, with her deep voice, flamboyant personality, and staunch support of liberal causes was married to two different men, but described herself as "ambisextrous." Bankhead was implicated in relationships with several other ladies on this list, including Baker, Garbo, and Dietrich, and said she was unsurprised by the results of Alfred Kinsey's landmark research discovering that sexuality exists on a continuum. Saying Kinsey's findings were "old hat," to her, she said she had many "momentary love affairs. A lot of these impromptu romances have been climaxed in a fashion not generally condoned," said Bankhead, cryptically. "I go into them impulsively." 

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German-American actor Marlene Dietrich's long-running career on stage, in film, and on television required her to continually reinvent herself — sometimes by having affairs with men. But according to a biography written by Dietrich's daughter, subtly called Mommie Queerest, Dietrich much preferred the carnal company of other women. In the early days of her career in Germany, Dietrich was a regular guest at Berlin's drag balls, and a staple of the Weimar Republic's burgeoning gay community. Once Hollywood got a hold of Deitrich, she was more frequently seen in elegant gowns, but her femmed-up appearance didn't change her penchant for women. 

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Gertrude Stein's name is nearly synonymous with feminist literature, and as an ex-pat living in Paris during the Roaring '20s, she and her partner Alice B. Toklas established an intellectual salon for some of the best and brightest authors and artists of that generation, including Ernest Hemingway, Thorton Wilder, and Pablo Picasso. In case that weren't enough, Stein is also credited with writing one of the earliest coming out stories, Q.E.D., written in 1903 but not published until 1950 under the titleThings as They Are. An infamous butch, Stein equated masculinity with genius, and as a self-proclaimed genius, clearly resonated with the fierce, empowered, gender-bending women she'd find at the Dinah.

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American-born author Anais Nin is perhaps best known for her diaries and journals, but was also renowned for her erotic writings. As one of the few women writing erotic prose at the time, Nin's stories sometimes alluded to same-sex encounters. Nin was twice married to men, but is rumored to have had affairs with women, though there is some debate over the extent to which the trysts took place. Nin was quoted as saying that while she often found women erotically pleasing, she "never liked kissing a woman's sex." Perhaps some modern ladies at the Dinah could help change her mind on that front. 

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Sappho is, in many ways, the original lesbian. No Sapphic gathering would be complete without a mention of the Greek poet from the isle of Lesbos, who dared to write about the love that dare not speak its name. Since she was, more or less, one of the first out queer women, we think she could teach even the most seasoned Dinah-goers a thing or two about loving ladies. 

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Sunnivie Brydum

<p>Sunnivie is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor at&nbsp;<em>The Advocate</em>. A proud spouse and puppy-parent, Sunnivie strives to queer up the world of reporting while covering the politics of equality daily.</p>

<p>Sunnivie is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor at&nbsp;<em>The Advocate</em>. A proud spouse and puppy-parent, Sunnivie strives to queer up the world of reporting while covering the politics of equality daily.</p>