The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 15
September 15th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Miami Passes Anti-Gay Ordinance, Launches “Super-Secret Inquiry”: 1954. The Miami City Commission took a somewhat comical turn in its long-running anti-gay hysteria campaign (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1,Sep 2, and Sep 7) when it unanimously voted to earmark $5,000 — that’s $43,000 in today’s money — so that city manager Arthur Evans could launch what was described by The Miami News as a “super-secret investigation of morals and gambling conditions in Miami.” The Commission also voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance which made it a violation for persons of the same sex to “embrace, caress or dance in public or to adopt mannerisms or facial makeup or dress of the opposite sex.” The News didn’t indicate what the penalty for violating the ordinance would be.
Earlier that week, Miami’s mayor Abe Aronovitz announced that he was drawing up an ordinance which would prohibit Miami bar owners from selling liquor or bear “to known sex perverts” and direct the offending bars be referred to the State Beverage Department with a recommendation that their licenses be revoked. In announcing that proposal, Aronovitz said, “I think it is a far greater menace to sell liquor to perverts than to minors.” So far, I haven’t been able to learn what came of that proposal. If you have any info, please let me know in the comments.
Ann Bannon: 1932. Born Ann Weldy, the future “Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction” experienced her first stirrings over her sexuality while a sister at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the early 1950s. Noticing that a younger sorority sister was being flirtatious with an older one, she felt both awkward and fascinated. “I saw a lot of it happening and I didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t even know how to put it—I was absolutely consumed with it, it was an extraordinary thing.”
She nevertheless married after graduating in 1954 — becoming Ann Holmquist in the process — and soon became the mother of two children. But she clearly couldn’t put her sorority experience out of her mind. She had read two lesbian novels: Radclyffe Hall’s dismal 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness — practically required reading for every lesbian in the 1950s — and Vin Paker’s Spring Fire from 1952. Because Spring Fire was set in a boarding school, Bannon could more easily identify with that story line. She also decided to try her hand at fiction writing. She wrote to Packer — real name Marijane Meaker — asking for advice on how to get published. To her surprise, Meaker answered with an invitation to meet in Greenwich Village. There, the young mother could see “Emerald City, Wonderland, and Brigadoon combined — a place where gay people could walk the crooked streets hand in hand.”
Ann Weldy Hulmquist then took the pen name of Ann Bannon, wrote Odd Girl Out based on her own sorority experience, and saw her book published by Gold Medal Books in 1957. It became the second best selling original paperback that year. Between 1957 and 1962, she wrote four others — I Am a Woman, Women in the Shadows, Journey to a Woman, and Beebo Brinker. But with the completion of her fifth novel, Bannon decided that her writing career had run its course. She went back to college to earn a master’s and a doctorate in linguistics, and became a professor and, later, an associate dean at Cal State in Sacramento. She remained largely unrecognized, although her novels were rediscovered and re-issued several times over the years. Occasionally, one of the university librarians would bump into her and comment on a new edition the library received, or a student would find out who she was.
It wasn’t until her difficult marriage ended in a bitter divorce in the 1980s and she retired in the late 1990s, that she finally began torealize how important those little mass market paperbacks were to generations of lesbians who had little other media or literary representations to draw on. As Bannon recalled in 2002:
To the persistent surprise of many of us, and of the critics who found us such an easy target years ago, the books by, of and for women found a life of their own. They — and we — may still not be regarded as conventionally acceptable ‘nice’ literature, as it were — but I have come to value that historical judgment. We wrote the stories no one else could tell. And in so doing, we captured a slice of life in a particular time and place that still resonates for members of our community.
In 1997, her work was included in Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, a collection of authors who had made the deepest impact on the lives and identities of gays and lesbians, which was used as a college textbook for LGBT studies across the country. In 2004, three of her novels were translated into an award-winning play titled “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles,” which had two successful runs in New York in 2007 and 2008. The second run was staged with Lily Tomlin and her partner Jane Wagner as executive producers. In 2008, Bannon was given the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation. She still tours the country, visiting paperback-collecting and pulp fiction conventions, and she is often invited to speak at colleges and universities. You can find out more at her web site.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?