The UK’s first LGBTQIA museum continues to celebrate and preserve lesbian histories
BY SAM GRIERSON, IMAGE BY RAHIL AHMED
“And that night they were not divided” these iconic words depict the start of the physical affair between Stephen Gordon and her lover Mary Llewellyn, in John Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness. It was banned in 1928 for being “obscene” and was not free to print again until 1949, after the censored author’s death. Hearing these words again, I was transported back to my 15 year old self, buying a copy of this illicit novel with its striking front cover, Medallion by Gluck, and hiding it under my bed. Even in 1991 it still wasn’t safe to be seen with this book unless you could handle a lot of uncomfortable questions and disapproving looks.
Hall herself a lesbian, lived with her lover Una Vincenzo Troubridge, a successful translator and sculptor. Troubridge sculpted Hall in a bronze statuette and captured her spirit, in full length in her typical masculine style of dressing. Queer Britain, the UK’s first LGBTQIA Museum, was recently gifted this rare statuette depicting her partner of over 25 years.
“We have always been here in history,” says trustee, Anjum Mouj at the Queer Britain reception to welcome the donation, “across all walks of life. We are going to be out and proud and stand tall. This venue is about us and it is by us”.
Nearly 100 years later the statue is standing tall in a queer safe space in London during LGBT+ History Month, the collective feeling of shared pride and happiness was palpable. The writer and historian Diana Souhami reminded us “this statuette is linked to homophobia and censorship, but it is also linked to love between women and the joy of being ourselves”. It has traversed the years of censorship to arrive here, to tell another part of the story within these walls.
Pippa Dale, Director at London Stock Exchange Group, is one of the instrumental forces securing the statuette for the museum, she sees it as a way of recognising the importance of “lifting each other up” and “spotlighting all within the LGBTQIA+ community”. Pippa Dale launched the start of a fundraising campaign the “Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge Circle” to raise £25,000 to be able to support Queer Britain and leave a legacy for future generations. To be a part of our shared history and future journey with Queer Britain, please click this link.
LGBT+ History Month, because being visible matters.
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