Last time on “80 More Gays”: The true gender of 71) Dr. James Barry (c.1795-1865) was a secret known to few in his lifetime, including a South American independence fighter who was a compatriot of 71) Carlos de Montúfar (1780-1816) and Simon Bolivar after whom Bolivia is named, a country which attracted many German settlers and military advisors including, 73) Ernst Röhm (1887-1937) who was assassinated on evidence faked by an SS officer who was himself killed, leading to the Lidice Massacre memorialised by 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).
The Lidice Massacre, ordered by Hitler in retaliation for the killing of the Protector of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia (the modern Czech Republic), shocked the world. Hitler believed the village of Lidice, 14 miles from Prague, had harboured some of the assassins. He ordered the execution of every man in the village on 10th June 1942. The women were either sent to concentration camps or sent for “Germanisation”, and most of the children were “adopted” by SS officers. Children not accepted for adoption were killed. The village itself was razed to the ground, even the cemetery (the bodies were dug up and burned, the gravestones pulverised). Only one person survived, a man who was in prison for manslaughter. He was released in December 1942 and went home, only to find that the village, his family, friends and fellow villagers, had all gone. No-one had told him of the massacre.
The international response was quick and long-lasting. In Stoke-on-Trent, a town just a few miles down the river from where I live, the local doctor and future Member of Parliament began a fund-raising campaign to rebuild Lidice. In other countries towns added Lidice to their names, and various streets and memorials were named after it.
The world’s press covered the massacre extensively, and 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote an article in The New York Times magazine. This inspired her to write a verse play called “Murder of Lidice”.
Before World War II Edna was an active pacifist and in 1919 she wrote “Aria de Capo”, an anti-war play. From 1940 she began writing poems for the Writer’s War Board and openly supported the Allied Forces. This caused her reputation to tarnish a little, at least with the critics who saw Edna’s war writings as too political.
Edna’s writing career began when her mother persuaded her to enter a poetry contest in “The Lyric Year” magazine in 1912. Edna’s poem came fourth though many people, including the contest’s winner, thought it should have come first. The controversy led to Edna’s introduction to New York literary circles and a scholarship to Vassar College.
From then on Edna’s poetry and plays became popular and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. It was at this time that she entered into a loving, open marriage with Eugen Jan Boissevain (1880-1949) and they lived together until his death. Edna died the following year.
The couple moved into a house in New York, number 75½ Bedford Street (pictured below), said to be the narrowest house in the city, being only 9½ feet wide (3 meters). Its narrowness results from it originally being a carriage entrance between two buildings. Edna and Jan only lived there a year. Many others have occupied the narrow house at various times, including 75) Margaret Mead (1901-1978).
Margaret Mead was a leading anthropologist of her generation. I wrote about a book she and her partner wrote in 1977 called “An Interview with Santa Claus”. This is an example of how she helped to popularise anthropology among the public. Santa Claus? Anthropology? Yes, because Margaret used her knowledge of culture and history to give an explanation for the evolution of this Christmas icon in a way that children could understand without destroying the seasonal magic.
The field of anthropology goes hand in hand with archaeology. Through archaeology ancient communities are revealed and their ways of life are revealed through anthropology. The growth of interest in gender and sexuality in non-Western cultures was pioneered by Margaret Mead. She was a panellist at the first meeting to discuss homosexuality in anthropology called by the American Anthropological Association in 1974. Since then there has been a growth in queer anthropology and queer archaeology.
In April 2013 I chose archaeology for my “Ology of the Month” in a year where I wrote many science-based articles. Have a look at them. I wrote about several queer discoveries and lgbt archaeologists including the discovery of the most northern civilisation near the North Pole by a gay Danish archaeologist. I’ve also written since then about other queer archaeologists and anthropologists and their historic discoveries, like the discovery of a whole new humanoid species and the discovery of Europe’s oldest known urban community. I’ve even written about Lawrence of Arabia’s contribution to archaeology.
One of those 2013 articles for my Ology of the Month was about Mayan cave paintings and their sexual nature. Studies into Mayan gender and culture have been continued by other archaeologists and anthropologists like 76) Chelsea Blackmore.
Next time on “80 More Gays”: From the jungles of Central America and the deserts of South Africa we are guided to the snows of Canada.