To mark Pride Month 2023, we chased through the Dark Atlas an archive for stories that have long been overlooked in mainstream American history: stories of people across the centuries – from as far back as Colonial Williamsburg – who would now be considered part of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Lust is nothing new,” says Michael Bronskihistorian at Harvard University and author of A queer history of the United States. “There’s no reason to think that whatever is happening now in terms of desire and sexual activity didn’t happen then.” The challenge for historians is to track down these long-lost stories from a time when society demanded they be hidden.
by Sabrina Imbler
“I just want to tell the whole Colonial Williamsburg story,” says Aubrey Moog-Ayers, an apprentice weaver at Virginia living history museum. Several years ago, a gay couple asked if anyone at Colonial Williamsburg is known to have been queer. Moog-Ayers started researching on her own time, but she still wasn’t quite sure what to say to people when the question arose. So she and other staff members signed a petition asking the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to delve into the city’s queer history — an ongoing investigation to better understand the lives of those who lived in and visited the community.
By Sabrina Imbler
According to Peter Boag, people who did not conform to traditional gender norms were part of everyday life in the Old West., a historian at Washington State University. Looking for a book on the gay history of Portland, writes Sabrina Imbler, Boag came across hundreds and hundreds of stories of people dressing against their assigned gender. Trans people have always existed all over the world. So how had they escaped notice in the annals of the Wild West?
by Anya Jabour
At a time when women were considered “passionless”, romances between young women – often referred to as “smashes” and ranging from one-sided adoration to mutual devotion—were common in women’s colleges, and Valentine’s Day was the ultimate salute to these relationships. Anya Jabour explores holiday joy at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, new Yorkin the Victorian era, and the societal fears that ended the tradition.
by Emma Banks
Queer archives are particularly vulnerable, writes Emma Banks. Most operate on a shoestring budget, many with facilitators who are understandably skeptical of help from government or mainstream institutions, both of which could provide financial support. Queer archivists also face the problem of erasure – records are discarded out of bias or because current custodians simply don’t recognize the value of the objects. Banks explores how Pacific Northwest archivists are overcoming these obstacles.
by Sarah Durn
As part of Dark AtlasIt is She was there series about scholars rewriting women long forgotten in history, Sarah Durn interviewed Wendy Rouse of San Jose State University about her book Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movementdetailing the queer suffragists of the UNITED STATESthe female cavalries they led, and why so many of their stories have gone untold.