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Early lesbian history seems to be made up largely of pair bonding rather than larger networks. Numerous female/female marriages can be documented back through the 17th century. In the early 1730s, Lady Frances Brudenell, the bisexual widowed Duchess of Newburgh, ruled a social circle of tribades in Dublin, her primary lover being Lady Allen. In France, the lesbian Sect of Anandrynes was founded in 1770 by Thérèse de Fleury. The leader of the group was the actress Francoise Raucourt, who was imprisoned by the Jacobins in 1793 but released; Napoleon was an admirer. When she died in 1815 the curé of St Roch ‘refused to admit her body to the church. A mob of 15,000 broke in bearing her coffin, and an order of Louis XVIII assured her the last rites’ and she was buried in Père Lachaise.
The rise of the women’s movement in the later 18th century enabled women to work together towards intellectual and cultural goals, within a ‘homosocial’ environment. Most of the Bluestockings were unmarried, widowed or separated, who set up all-female establishments. By the late 19th early 20th century lesbianism and feminism was recognized: ‘It is pretty certain that such comrade-alliances, of a quite devoted kind, are becoming increasingly common, and especially among women who are working out the great cause of their own sex’s liberation.’ (Edward Carpenter)

The Velvet Icon Gallery is our tribute to some of the most popular female Gay Icons throughout world history.

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