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Published Thursday, Aug. 12th, 2021
Nearly 300 years before same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S., a wealthy woman in Virginia asked for a marriage license to marry her partner -- another woman who worked at the local post office.
The woman was turned away by a clerk that told her that women could only marry men.
Defiant and undeterred, she did what any badass colonial-era lesbian in her shoes might do -- she came back the next day and tried again. This time, she showed up dressed as a man.
Seemingly swayed, the clerk agreed, and the woman was given a license to marry to her bride. (Hell yeah!)
This story of queer love and life is just one of many uncovered over the last couple years by researchers in Colonial Williamsburg, as part of the area’s Gender and Sexuality Diversity Committee’s work to document local LGBTQIA+ history.
Researcher Ren Tolson is credited with uncovering the same-sex marriage certificate, and shared the story with local reporters. It’s since drawn national attention, reminding us all that LGBTQ+ folks are and have always been a fundamental part of our collective history.
Tolson also wrote about Anne Lister, who’s private diaries detail what flirting and romance were like for lesbian and bisexual women living in the 1800s. Read Tolson’s article, Pride and Prejudice: Honoring historic LGBTQIA+ voices, on the Colonial Williamsburg blog. (Anne Lister became a household name a couple years ago when the show Gentleman Jack first aired.)
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