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10 queer women honored on stamps

10 queer women honored on stamps

Over 50 queer women worldwide have appeared on countries’ official postage stamps, elevating the status of queer women’s history by federal governments. Here are ten examples of those stamps and the stories of those queer historical figures in honor of Women’s History Month.

Colette (1873-1954)

Colette was one of the great French writers, a Nobel Prize in Literature nominee. She engaged in romances with women while married to men and published works with sensuous sapphic themes. She appears on the stamp above in France and just had a stamp released in early 2023 in Monaco. 

Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695)

Sor Juana (Sister Juana) is considered one of the most prolific poets of the Spanish language and lived in Mexico when it was called New Spain. Born into poverty when women were not permitted to get an education, Juana decided to become a nun to provide herself with food and shelter without marrying a man. She used her time in the convent to become one of the most educated women in the world, an advocate for women’s right to education, and wrote poetry—including some steamy pieces to women. 

Greta Garbo (1905-1990)

Successful Swedish-American actress Greta Garbo was part of Hollywood’s so-called Sewing Circle, Old Hollywood darlings who were sapphically inclined, often with each other. Besides Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead were members of this unofficial club—and rumored lovers of Garbo’s. Garbo’s nearly-30-year on-again-off-again lover was Mercedes de Acosta, whose relationship ended when de Acosta sold a tell-all biography about Garbo without her permission when de Acosta was broke. Sweden and the U.S. both released stamps in Garbo’s honor around the centennial of her birth.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Famed painter Frida Kahlo is a national hero in Mexico and a worldwide icon for bisexuals. As a disabled, communist woman of color, Kahlo’s art was classified as surrealism by the white art establishment who didn’t understand her, but she said, “I paint my own reality.” Married to fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera, she often slept with women and men outside of the marriage.

Virgínia Quaresma (1882-1973)

Virgínia Quaresma was the first professional female journalist in Portugal and achieved this feat despite intense sexism and being out as a lesbian. She became one of the first women to graduate from the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Arts in 1903 and used her journalism skills to bring attention to violence against women. She was a leading feminist at the turn of the century, using her access to newspapers to argue for women’s equality. Quaresma eventually settled with her partner, Maria, in Brazil.

“Ma” Rainey (1886-1939)

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey from Georgia was known as the “Mother of the Blues” because she was one of the very first to record a song of the genre in 1923 and recorded over 90 more over the next five years, truly helping to found the field. She was open about her bisexuality in her songs and life. The U.S. released a stamp featuring her in 1994 as part of a collection of stamps with blues and jazz singers on them. 

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Sally Ride is on a 2018 U.S. stamp and a 2022 U.S. coin to honor that she was the first American woman to go into space. Her 2012 obituary acknowledged her surviving female partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, making many aware that the trailblazer wasn’t straight for the first time. O’Shaughnessy continues the science education company Sally Ride Science that they had co-founded together, and she accepted Ride’s Presidential Medal of Freedom on Ride’s behalf in 2013.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

The U.S. has released three stamps in honor of the “First Lady of the World” Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt was much more than President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Lady (and fifth cousin). She used the office for advocacy in a way that had never been done before and held her own weekly press conferences, and wrote a weekly column, making her own political opinions known. The woman behind the woman encouraging her to do this was Lorena “Hick” Hickok, Eleanor’s partner of three decades while married to FDR (while he had his own long-term mistress). After her time in the White House and Franklin’s death, Eleanor became a delegate to the United Nations and led the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sappho (c. 610-c. 570 BCE)

Sappho of Lesbos is such a famous lesbian the words lesbian and sapphic are based on her homeland and name. She’s not only honored for writing about her love of women, but her lyric poetry was so revered that Ancient Greek philosopher Plato called her the Tenth Muse (a nickname also used centuries later for Juana Inés de la Cruz). Greece honored her with a stamp in 1996.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956)

Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias was one of the greatest female athletes the U.S. has ever seen—The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year six times between 1932 and 1954. She excelled in archery, baseball, basketball, billiards, bowling, boxing, diving, golf, roller skating, softball, swimming, and track and field, but pursued golf and track and field the most. She won two gold medals and a silver in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics and had a prolific golf career; she won 10 LPGA major championships. While Zaharias was married to professional wrestler George Zaharias, she was in love with professional golfer Betty Dodd and lived with her for the final years of her life. 

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