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The story of a lesbian marriage in historic Colonial Williamsburg

Published Thursday, Aug. 12th, 2021

Outside the Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, VA.

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.


Read the full scoop in Donald Padgett’s article for Out Traveler


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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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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