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Out and proud in lesbian visibility week!

Queen Victoria was the first royal to deny lesbianism existed. Preferring to believe it wasn’t a thing hence did not need to be criminalised!

Fast forward to 1918 and a young Canadian actress by the name of Maud Allen was in London a production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome.

Oscar Wilde’s play Salome was banned and so a private showing of it was happening in London.

Our girl Maud was in the lead doing the dance of the severn veils. It totally shocked member of parliament Noel Permberton-Billig who ran a newspaper called The Vigilante. A puritan with an axe to grind, PB wanted to clean up and call out all the impure stuff that Edwardians were so good at hiding.

He wrote a piece entitled ‘The cult of the Clitoris’ and implied that Maud was a lesbian and a member of the cult who loved women. He accused Margaret Asquith wife of former prime Minister  Herbert Asquith of having an affair with Maud.

Permberton-Billing speculated that Allan’s performance attracted many high profile homosexuals who were named in a black book with allegedly 47’000 names inside.

You have to remember world war I was still raging and scapegoats were being looked for all over the place. Lascivious women with foreign accents who had studied music in Germany and were in same sex relationships were were a perfect scapegoat especially as he said they were open to blackmail.

That black book never was found

Maud took Permberton-Billing to court - a trial of 6 days

Instead of the male judge concentrating on the libellous claim Maud had bought against PB he concentrated more on her attire in the play which he said was next to nothing. She lost and Pemberton-Billing was declared NOT GUILTY to cheers in the gallery.

Margaret Asquith paid for an apartment overlooking Regents park for Maud to live with her female lover Verna Aldrich.  Make what you will of that.

In 1921 a bill to criminalise lesbian relationships was debated in the commons. They decided this would give visibility to lesbians therefore have the effect of recruiting more to the cult of the clitoris so it was dropped.

Invisibility has been a reoccurring feature in the lives of lesbians in the 126 years since that case.  We are still playing catch up.  On my tours I am always keen to point out the authors and composers, inventors and philanthropists who are lesbian.  Reclaiming a past which is still largely invisible.

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