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Famous Lesbians in History: Ultimate List [2023 UPDATED]

Throughout history, there have been a number of notable queer women who have made their mark on the world.

From Queen Christina of Sweden to Anne Lister, these brave individuals were not afraid to express themselves and live openly as lesbians, even when it was illegal or not talked about.

Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689)

Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689) was queen regnant of the Swedish Empire from 1632 until her abdication in 1654. She was known for embracing non-traditional gender roles and, by some accounts, had romantic relationships with women.

Queen Christina of Sweden was born in December 1626 and came to the throne at age 6.

She was an intelligent and highly educated ruler, who sought to reshape her country by introducing reforms in government, education, and religion.

During her reign she played a major role in both Swedish and European politics and was a patron of the arts.

She had a strong interest in science and philosophy, often conversing with leading scientists of the time.

She is remembered for her progressive views on gender equality and religious tolerance, which made her an influential figure in Europe during her lifetime.

She was also a renowned military leader; she fought several successful wars against Denmark and Russia, expanding Sweden’s borders.

These wars also allowed her to strengthen Sweden’s position as a great power in Europe.

Despite her success, she ultimately abdicated from the throne and converted to Catholicism in 1654.

She moved to Rome and lived there until her death in 1689.

Her legacy of promoting religious tolerance, gender equality, and education reforms continue to be remembered today.

Anne Lister (1791–1840)

Anne Lister was a remarkable woman who lived in the early 19th century.

She was an explorer, industrialist and diarist who left behind thousands of pages of detailed diary entries that provide an insight into her life and times.

She wrote about everything from her travels to her passions and romances with other women.

Lister was a pioneering figure who broke free from the confines of traditional gender roles and social convention.

She was an astute businesswoman, owning several properties and coal mines in West Yorkshire. She managed some estates as well, becoming a successful landowner and investor.

As well as being a successful entrepreneur, Lister is remembered for her passionate love affair with another woman. She met her lover, Ann Walker, when she was 33 and the two women soon embarked on a passionate affair that lasted until Lister’s death in 1840.

Lister’s diaries provide an intimate window into her life and loves.

Her writing is often frank and open about her relationships with other women, making her a pioneering figure in LGBTQ history.

She was also passionate about the outdoors and wrote extensively about her adventures hiking, riding, and exploring across England.

The BBC series Gentleman Jack follows her life and relationship with Anne Walker.

Radclyffe Hall (1880–1943)

Radclyffe Hall was an English author best known for writing the lesbian-themed novel The Well of Loneliness.

The book, which was published in 1928, caused controversy due to its frank depiction of same-sex relationships and Hall was charged with obscenity.

by Unknown photographer, bromide print, circa 1930

Audre Lorde (1934–1992)

Audre Lorde was a poet, essayist, and activist who explored issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class in her work. She was very influential in the history of black women.

She spoke out for marginalized communities, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people. Her writing explored themes of racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia.

Lorde wrote extensively about her identity as a “black lesbian mother warrior poet” and her commitment to the liberation of all oppressed people.

She was a strong advocate for self-care, emphasizing that it was essential for living an empowered life and engaging in effective activism.

Her most famous works include The Cancer Journals (1980), Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) and Sister Outsider (1984).

Lorde’s work is widely quoted and has been influential in movements for social justice, such as Black Lives Matter.

Billie Jean King (b. 1943)

Billie Jean King is a retired American tennis player who won 39 Grand Slam titles during her career. She was one of the first professional athletes to come out as lesbian and remains an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Billie Jean King, seen here in 1977, learned to play tennis on the public courts near her Long Beach, Calif., home.

Sally Ride (1951–2012)

Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space and is one of the most famous female astronauts in history.

She worked as a physicist and astronaut for NASA, and came out as a lesbian after her death in 2012.

She remains an inspiration to young women everywhere who dream of pursuing careers in science and technology.

Ellen DeGeneres (b. 1958)

Ellen DeGeneres is an American comedian, television host, actress, and producer best known for her daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

She began her career as a stand-up comedian in the 1980s before landing a role on the popular sitcom Ellen in 1994.

In 1997 she came out publicly as gay, becoming one of the first major television figures to do so. DeGeneres has been a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, and in 2008 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2003 DeGeneres launched her own talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show which has won numerous awards over its 17-season run.

As well as her work on television, DeGeneres has also appeared in films such as Finding Nemo (2003) and The Lion King (2019).

Her work has been recognized with several prestigious awards, including 15 People’s Choice Awards and 20 Emmy Awards.

In 2019, she became the first person to win the Carol Burnett Award for her contributions to television entertainment.

Frieda Belinfante (1904-1995)

Frieda Belinfante was a Dutch cellist, orchestra leader, and World War II resistance fighter.

She was a lesbian who refused to hide her identity, even during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She later became the first openly gay elected official in Amsterdam and continued to fight for LGBTQ rights until her death in 1995.

Leslie Gore (1946-2015)

Leslie Gore was an American singer, songwriter and actress who found success in the 1960s with popular hits like “It’s My Party” and You Don’t Own Me.”

The Grammy Hall of Famer was born on May 2nd, 1946 in New Jersey and began her career at 16 when she signed with Mercury Records.

With a powerful voice and a knack for writing songs about teenage life, she released 12 studio albums throughout her career. In addition to her music career, Gore was also an advocate for LGBT rights.

During her illustrious career she was nominated for 3 Grammys and won many awards. In 2021 she was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

She passed away on February 16th, 2015 after a long battle with lung cancer.

Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940)

Selma Lagerlöf was a Swedish author, best known for becoming the first female Nobel Prize laureate in Literature in 1909. Her works were filled with vivid descriptions of nature and rural life that earned her worldwide acclaim.

She also wrote about social issues such as poverty, gender roles, and religious themes. Although she often faced criticism for her writing, she persevered and became a beloved author in Sweden and around the world.

Her literary themes of justice, faith, and courage are still relevant today. She is remembered for her strong will and determination to make her voice heard through literature.

Her best-known work is Gösta Berling’s Saga (1891), a novel which has been adapted for the screen several times.

Other notable works by Lagerlöf include her children’s book series The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Jerusalem, a biblical epic about Jesus’ life. Her works have been translated into over 50 languages and continue to inspire readers around the world.

Through her writing, Selma Lagerlöf left a lasting legacy and became an important figure in Swedish literature. She was inducted into the Swedish Academy in 1914, making her the first woman to join the prestigious institution. In 2018, she was named “Swedish Icon of the Century” by SVT, Sweden’s national public service broadcaster.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001)

Tove Jansson was a Finnish author best known for writing the popular children’s series, The Moomins. She is Finland’s most translated and bestselling author.

She wrote openly about her lesbian relationships in her semi-autobiographical novels and has become an important figure in LGBTQ literature.

Lily Tomlin (b. 1939)

Lily Tomlin is an American actress, comedian, and writer who has been in many popular films and television shows. She came out as lesbian in 2001 and continues to use her platform to promote LGBTQ rights.

Jane Lynch (b. 1960)

Jane Lynch is an American actress, writer and singer who has made a name for herself in the entertainment industry.

She is best known for her Emmy Award-winning performance as Sue Sylvester in the musical comedy series Glee (2009–15).

She has also appeared in films such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Role Models (2008), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), and The Three Stooges (2012).

Lynch has also had an extensive career on television, having appeared in series such as Lassie (1989–1992), The X-Files (1996–2002) and Criminal Minds (2005–present).

She is also a noted voice actor, having provided the voice for characters in animated films such as Space Chimps (2008), Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) and Ugly Dolls (2019).

Lynch is an accomplished singer and comedian, having released several comedy albums and performed with The Second City improv troupe.

She has also competed on the Fox reality show The Masked Singer (2019-present).

Lynch was appointed to the position of National Spokesperson for GLAAD in 2019, and has become a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including an Emmy, a Golden Globe and several SAG Awards.

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004)

Gloria Anzaldúa was an internationally acclaimed writer, poet, and cultural theorist from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

She is perhaps best known for her book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” which explores themes of identity, sexuality, feminism, and race. Published in 1987, it was widely praised and has since become a classic of Chicano literature and queer theory.

Anzaldúa’s work ranged from poetry to essays, and she also published several collections of her own work.

Her writing explored her identity as a Chicana lesbian feminist, focusing on themes such as cultural assimilation and immigration experiences.

She was heavily involved in the Chicano Movement, which sought to bring attention to issues of discrimination against Latinos and Indigenous people in the United States.

Anzaldúa was also an advocate for spiritual healing and explored Mexico’s indigenous spiritual practices in her writing.

Jodie Foster (b. 1962)

Jodie Foster is an American actress, director, and producer who has been in a number of popular films and won two Academy Awards. She came out as lesbian in 2013 during her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.

Rosie O’Donnell (b. 1962)

Rosie O’Donnell is an American comedian, actress, writer, and television host.

She came out as a lesbian in 2002 and has since been an advocate for LGBT rights.

Tig Notaro (b. 1971)

Tig Notaro is an American stand-up comic, radio host, and writer known for her powerful comedy performances.

She rose to fame in 2012 with her “Hello, I Have Cancer” set at Largo in Los Angeles. She has since become a critically acclaimed comedian, appearing on television shows such as Inside Amy Schumer and The Tonight Show as well as the Star War franchise.

She also hosts the hugely popular podcast “Don’t Ask Tig”.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Startraks Photo/REX (3529942dr) Tig Notaro 56th Annual Grammy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, America – 26 Jan 2014

Britney Griner (b. 1990)

Britney Griner is an American professional basketball player who came out as a lesbian in 2013.

She was the first openly gay athlete to be drafted into the WNBA and continues to fight for LGBTQ rights both on and off the court.

She is widely considered one of the best WNBA players ever.

Kirsten Vangsness (b. 1972)

Kirsten Vangsness is an American actress, writer, and producer best known for her role as Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds. She has been open about her lesbian identity since coming out in 2010 and is an activist for LGBTQ rights.

Megan Rapinoe ( b.1985 )

Megan Rapinoe is an American professional soccer player who came out as lesbian in 2012.

She is a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights and has been named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2020 for her efforts to fight for social justice.

Sue Bird (b. 1980)

Sue Bird is an American professional basketball player who came out as a lesbian in 2017.

She has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and continues to use her platform to fight for equality.

Tammy Baldwin (b. 1962)

Tammy Baldwin was born in Madison, Wisconsin on February 11th, 1962.

She is an American politician who has served as a United States Senator from the state of Wisconsin since 2013.

Prior to her election to the Senate, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2013, representing Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district.

She is the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. Senator, and the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress. In addition, she was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1993 to 1999 and served as Dane County’s first female district attorney from 1989 to 1994.

Among her many accomplishments, Baldwin authored legislation that provides for the expansion of a national milk labeling program, and she has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights.

Throughout her career, Baldwin has worked to improve access to health care, protect the environment, reduce the cost of higher education, and promote equal rights in America.

She currently serves on several Senate committees including Appropriations; Commerce, Science & Transportation; Energy & Natural Resources; and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

She also serves on the Committee on Rules and Administration.

Baldwin is an advocate for progressive values and a voice of reason in Washington D.C.

Her commitment to public service has earned her numerous awards, including being named one of America’s Best Senators by Time Magazine in 2012..

Baldwin Tammy

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