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LGBT People Of History Part Twenty Two Gladys Bentley
Born on August 12th 1907 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gladys Bentley was the daughter of George L. Bentley and his wife, Mary Mote.
At 16 Gladys left Philadelphia for New York where she became a part of the Harlem Renaissance, where she began performing in rent parties and buffet parties and eventually night clubs and speakeasies. Gladys Bentley was a blues singer during the 1920s and 1930s. Gladys was openly lesbian and performed at “The Clam House" which was located on 133rd Street which became one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies during the 1920s.
In the 1930s however Gladys was a headline act at Harlem's Ubangi Club. She dressed in men's clothes, most famous for her top hat and tuxedo. In the club Gladys played piano, and would perform her very own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes in her very deep, growling voice.
She would flirt outrageously with women in the audience.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Gladys moved to Southern California as the speakeasies had started to fall into decline. In Southern California Gladys became known as “Americas Greatest Sepia Piano Player” and also was termed “The Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs.” She performed at Joquins' El Rancho in Los Angeles and also she performed at Mona's Club 440 in San Francisco.
She was harassed constantly for wearing men’s clothing.
Gladys changed her image during the McCarthy Era as she began to wear dresses and put away her men’s clothing. She made claims that she had married the newspaper columnist, J. T. Gibson, though soon after this he openly and publicly denied that they had ever wed. In 1952 Gladys did marry a man named Charles Roberts. He was a cook and he was 16 years younger than Bentley. Gladys lied on the marriage certificate, writing her age as 36 rather than 45 - sadly her marriage to Charles eventually ended in divorce.
Gladys studied to become a minister and made claims that she was cured of being a lesbian by taking female hormones.
Sadly in 1960 aged 52 Gladys died of pneumonia.
Callum & Ian
With Thanks To Wikipedia and also to http://www.queerculturalcenter.org
Here Are Links To Our Many Other LGBT People Of History Series
- LGBT People Of History Collection
Here are the links to each of the LGBT People Of History hubs that Ian and I have wrote. As mentioned above, each time a new one is published you will find it on here.
- LGBT People Of History Part Twenty Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich is quite simply a legend. We do not say was because legends do not die! She was born in 1901 in Berlin. As a child, she was a violinist but as a she injured her hand she had to give it up. She spent a lot of the 1920s in the flouris
- LGBT People of History 21 - Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo (1905 – 1990) was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson in Sweden. She became a star of the silver screen, always beautifully lit and mysterious. She is consistently voted into the top five of movie actresses.