Once upon a time, the words we use to refer to our sexual orientations and gender identities were also used to mean other things. For example, “gay” means “happy,” whatever that is. This means many archival documents are unintentionally loaded with brilliant subtext their creators were hardly aware of at the time. Luckily, I’m here, now, armed with a newspapers.com membership and a keen eye for rampant early 20th century queerbaiting.
1. The Roseburg Review, Oregon – May 13, 1916
Tell me more about these “dyke headquarters”
2. The Pittsburgh Press, Pennsylvania — July 30, 1912
Also the title of an A-Camp workshop I would definitely attend
3. The Wilson Advance, North Carolina — March 16, 1893
4. The Observer, London, UK – August 25, 1929
5. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania — May 10, 1903
but her mother insisted she would look so cute if she just tried the dress on
6. The Minneapolis Star, Minnesota — May 5, 1922
YES DADDY I DO WANT TO GO TO DREAMLAND
7. The Lincoln Evening Journal, Nebraska – June 23, 1932
Is it though
8. The Arizona Daily Star, Arizona – February 11, 1912
Why the scare quotes, Edith
9. The Harrisburg Telegraph, Pennsylvania — April 5, 1947
early inspiration for butcheswithbabies.tumblr.com
10. The Wilkes-Barre Record, Pennsylvania – August 13, 1901
Listen if all the family is not present at the fifth annual reunion, I will be CRACKING SKULLS.
11. The Pickens Sentinel, South Carolina – December 14, 1904
…because every time we explain our fads to you, YOU STEAL THEM
12. The Decatur Herald, Illinois – August 2, 1927
Prime example of the slippery slope from homosexuality to having dinner with rabbits and toads
13. The Frederick News, Maryland – May 29, 1899
the “purpose” of “promoting” the “literary talent” of “the college”
14. The Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pennsylvania – February 4, 1914
Early working title for J. Halberstam’s “Female Masculinity”
15. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri – February 8, 1922
Well Kabakoff can fuck entirely off
16. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York — August 5, 1909
Early working title for “Ramona Quimby, Age 8”
17. The Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico — April 12, 1904
It’s about damn time
18. The Benton Harbor News-Palladium, Michigan — July 7, 1915
OKAY WE GET IT, YOU’RE GAY
19. The Brownsville Herald, Texas — November 28, 1948
Early working title of “Finding Nemo”
20. The Seattle Star, Washington – Sep 14, 1912
HEY VETERAN DETECTIVE, SHE ONLY DATES WOMEN OKAY, SHE’S NOT INTO YOU, LEAVE HER THE FUCK ALONE
21. The Pittsburgh Press, Pennsylvania – March 20, 1888
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave your girlfriend
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Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.
Riese has written 3018 articles for us.
going to try to work “THEIR FADS ARE INEXPLAINABLE” into conversation as often as possible; will probably only succeed in sounding even older than I already am.
Just wanted to say that’s some top notch captioning on number 5.
We have a street in my town called Gay Street, named after one of the Gay family (might or might not be the same as the one you linked).
We have both a Gay Street and a Gayland Road!
Gays – By Far the Handsomest Stock,
the alternative tagline for A-Camp
(New Spring Novelties Are Arriving)
Ok who’s printing out “Hotel de Queer: Regular and Transient Guests” and hanging it on their bedroom door?
I’m so up for this!
I already have a sticker on my bedroom door that says “bollera y contagiosa” which is basically “dyke and contagious” in Spanish ;)
#8 is absolutely my tombstone tho
Oh, those satisfying Dyke packages. Also, what did a “Lesbian Literary Society” at a Woman’s College mean in 1899, I wonder?
Somewhat related (though not specifically queer): Unintentionally dirty gospel album covers.
They only read books from Lesbos?
Oh man, I meant the island, but typing that word just took me DIRECTLY BACK to fourth grade.
I think it might have something to do with like, Sappho maybe being the best-known female poet within the cannon of very-long-dead ancient western civilization poets and she was from the Isle of Lesbos? That’s my best guess. I could be wrong about literally everything in this paragraph though ’cause my intense interest in history drops off once we get earlier than the 19th century
Why haven’t you made these into tshirts?
I’m guess Dyke Remedies was targeted advertising to unhappily married ladies.
“The Story of the Queer Little Girl” is gonna be my new Facebook cover image.
I had the same thought with the Gay’s advertisement. I saved half of these to my computer so I can use them everywhere possible.
Is “Butch Spills Much Oratory” old-timey speak for Connie Lingus?
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
See! We’re friendly!
And people accuse us of being feminist killjoys, humph!
“A great lady must at times be, or seem to be, a queer woman” :) true. :)
I also love the way they dropped the patronising ‘lady’ and replaced it with ‘woman’ once they made it clear they were talking about queer women… And not just in that one line but all the way through.
Gay did have sexual implications in what I think is around this time – a man who was a womaniser was ‘gay’…
Also who writes under the byline ‘Daddy’ unless it’s porn…
“It’s about damn time” is my favorite :)
#5 + The caption made me laugh out loud. Golf clap
Well, I’m so gay I assumed the veteran detective of number 20 to also be a lesbian before I read your caption. This was great.
I love all of these! I presume they were found during research for actual gay things which also makes me excited because I really love all the queer history posts!
#3 I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “gay” written so many times in one image before. It’s giving me something to aspire to in my every day life.
#11 that caption is SPOT ON!
Riese, can I just hire you to caption my life? Also, I second the request for t-shirts.
Please enjoy this vintage photo from my alma mater’s yearbook in the early 60s. It’s pretty much my favorite thing ever.
Ugh, first time I try to post a photo and it’s an utter fail. Attempt #2.
Nooooo ugh here have the link. https://68.media.tumblr.com/29305a2ef9281d0da60f059e3a255016/tumblr_op5dgjzDxP1qhr06lo1_1280.jpg
I want so many of these on a poster!