The final birthday post for March, and again no specific birthday so here is a late one:
Margaret Webster March 15, 1905 – November 13, 1972
American born actor who became well known on stage in the UK before returning to the US as a highly successful Broadway stage director, noted for record breaking long runs, and for employing black actors at a time when this was still unusual. She met and started a relationship with Eva Le Gallienne, who starred in several of her productions.
In 1946, Margaret and Eva co-founded the American Repertory Theater with producer Cheryl Crawford. The relationship with Eva ended in 1948, and in 1950 Margaret became the first woman to direct at the New York Metropolitan Opera. She worked in theatre and opera untl her death from cancer in 1972.
Birthdays seem to be scarce in this neck of the calendar, so here’s a bit of not quite history for you.
Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Where thou diest there will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
I have a great fondness for the King James version of the Bible – it is great poetry – and I make no apology whatsoever, to either people offended that I’ve included what is not (in my view) a real person, nor to those who are offended that I’ve suggested someone in the bible is a Lesbian. If a woman said those words to me, I know what I’d think.
No particular birthday today so let’s celebrate
Louisa Lumsden CBE (1840-1935), the first prominent female figure at the University of St Andrews.
Louisa was one of the original students of Girton College Cambridge. She taught classics there and later at Cheltenham. In 1877 she became Head of St Leonard’s school in St Andrews. In 1895 she was warden of a new university hall of residence, but resigned in 1900.
Although her initial energies were put into women’s education, she was a strong proponent of women’s suffrage In 1908 she was president of the Aberdeen Suffrage Association. She had a horse-drawn caravan, which was used for campaign tours. although never a militant herself, she admitted to fellow-feeling.
One has a mean feeling when one is quietly enjoying the good things of life and others are in prison for their convictions.
Today let us raise a glass to
28 March 1931 – 27 November 2007
Jane Rule was the author of many lesbian novels, and an early exponent of the happy ending, most famous for her 1964 novel Desert of the Heart (filmed as Desert Hearts), what a relief it was to find her books!
In 1954 Jane met Helen Sonthoff, a work colleague who became her life partner until Helen died in 2000.
I didn’t want to be a boy, ever, but I was outraged that his height and intelligence were graces for him and gaucheries for me.
Love is the terrible secret people are suspected of unless they’re married, then one always suspects they don’t.
The message of women’s liberation is that women can love each other and ourselves against our degrading education.
Coming out, all the way out, is offered more and more as the political solution to our oppression.
“What were we meant for then?”
“To love the whole damned world,” Ann said…
“I live in the desert of the heart,” Evelyn said quietly, “I can’t love the whole damned world.”
“Love me, Evelyn.”
A glass of port for today’s birthday girl:
Elizabeth Vassell Fox, Lady Holland
25th March 1771-1845
Elizabeth had an affair with Henry Fox and gave birth to his child while she was married to her first husband Godfrey Webster. She married Fox immediately following her divorce from Webster and became hostess to many Whig party soirees. She had a reputation for rudeness and domineering, yet she continued to hold parties long after her husband died, which presumably she enjoyed, and people came to, when she no longer had political influence to make them put up with her. She undoubtedly quarreled with people, notably Caroline Lamb, and it was a time for people to air their grievances in public, but equally to sing their praises.
Lady Holland has certainly organised a good system of society—ten people every day at dinner, and a few in the evening, and there is always an author for the good of one’s mind, and a doctor to prevent one’s dropping down dead, and the rest are people who know each other well, and have the same politics.
Emily Eden May 1833
Elizabeth’s journal for 1791 to 1811 is available on-line as is her travel journal of 1802 and 1805 when she travelled to Spain. Charles Greville described her as
a social light which illuminated and adorned England, and even Europe, for half a century.
Elizabeth was also responsible for dahlias being established as a favourite flower in England, which is something she does need to be forgiven for. Never mind. My favourite quotation from Elizabeth herself:
As nobody can do more mischief to a woman than a woman, so perhaps might one reverse the maxim and say nobody can do more good
And another date with no birthday, so let’s skip back a couple of months and one that got away:
Eva La Gallienne 11 January 1899-3 June 1991
Eva was an actor and producer, born in England and who became part of the milieu of lesbian actors in Hollywood, performing herself on stage as Emily Dickinson, Peter Pan Elizabeth I and Hamlet with great success. in 1980 she earned an Oscar nomination for her work in the film Resurrection, at the time she was the oldest Oscar nominee.
Eva had affairs with many of the members of the ‘sewing circles’: Alla Nazimova, Tallulah Bankhead, Beatrice Lillie, Laurette Taylor and Mercedes de Acosta.
In 1927 Eva was named as co-respondent in the divorce of her then lover Josephine Hutchinson.
People hate what they don’t understand and try to destroy it. Only try to keep yourself clear and don’t allow that destructive force to spoil something that to you is simple, natural, and beautiful.
In the late 1930s Eva started a relationship with theatre director Margaret Webster. and they later founded the American Repertory Theater together. She also later had a relationship with Marion Evensen.
So Eva, get your glad rags on, you’re invited to the party…
Another no-show so today let’s raise a glass for Eugenie (Evgenia) Souline, for whom I can find no dates. Eugenie was a Russian born nurse, who had a relationship with Radclyffe Hall, living in an uncomfortable three-way relationship with Una Troubridge for the last nine years of Radclyffe Hall’s life.
On her deathbed, Hall revoked a previous will that had provided Souline with an income, and instead left everything to Una, asking Una to “make such provision for our friend Eugenie Souline as in her absolute discretion she may consider right”.
Una provided Eugenie with a small allowance and burned her letters to Radclyffe Hall. However RH’s letters to Eugenie survive
A torment of tenderness, of yearning over you, of longing to take you in my arms and comfort you innocently and most gently as I would comfort a little child, whispering to you all sorts of foolish words of love that have nothing to do with the body. My spirit cries our to you Souline, and it tells you that love is never a sin, that the flesh may be weak but the spirit is strong. Yesterday it was my spirit that saved you. Must I always save you. God help me I ought not to write like this but I love you. I love you.
Eugenie died in 1958.