Women have been defying the odds from the moment we were told that we were less than. Throughout history, women have made monumental strides towards fairness and equality, and we’ve done so with all the power and grace and wisdom that is Woman. There has been one driving force that keeps us strong: love.

Lesbians still aren’t gracing the screen of the Hallmark channel, but we have made huge advances towards normalizing a love that for centuries has been considered wrong. There is so much more work to be done and bridges to be crossed. In the meantime, let’s take a moment to look back at the great distances we’ve already come and celebrate the women who have loved in the face of adversity.

1. These two images show lesbian couples openly expressing their love and personal style. If these photos don’t prove anything else, they just go to show that lesbian fashion is timeless. Or at least pretty consistent.

2. This photo taken in 1858 shows American actress Charlotte Cushman, left, and British writer Matilda Hays on the right. Charlotte was especially famous for entertaining President Lincoln, and she enjoyed a happy relationship with Matilda for 10 years.

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3. Taken in the Racine Avenue Police Station in Chicago, this photo from 1943 shows Evelyn “Jackie” Bross and Catherine Barscz. The two women were arrested after breaking the ordinance that forbid cross-dressing.

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4. This photograph was found in an attic with “Aunty Mary and her ‘friend’ Ruth, 1910” written on the back. A lot has changed since 1910, but putting quotation marks around the word ‘friend’ still means the same thing.

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5. This photo of two women in a passionate embrace was taken around 1890. While it is unclear in some of these recovered photographs of the women pictured were lesbians, or just close friends or relatives, it’s safe to assume that these two were the former.

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6. A couple, in what appears to be nightwear, share a kiss. The year this photo was taken is unknown but given the hairstyles, it’s safe to assume that their relationship would have been considered taboo at the time.

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7. Taken in the 1930s, this photo captures Dorthy Putnam and Lois Mercer just as they first began to date. During the war, Dorthy worked in an ambulance and then moved to the Air Force where she rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. They were together over 50 years.

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8. This photo was taken in Britain around 1910, a time when homosexuality was illegal. Many photos like this were destroyed by family members who were ashamed and tried to keep these “illicit” relationships hidden.

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9. Possibly taken in Michigan, this photo circa 1950s shows a couple sharing a smooch in a suburban neighborhood. Although women wouldn’t be jailed for showing public affection towards one another, much of the public attitude remained hostile.

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10. This photo of Gladys and Annabell taken in the early 1900s is throwing some serious Fried Green Tomatoes vibes. Idgie Threadgoode most definitely took a note from Gladys’ fashion sense.

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11. Another photo from the 1950s shows two women sharing a kiss in what looks to be a rural town. When you think about the risk these women were taking simply by showing their love, you realize how incredibly brave they must have been.

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12. Taken in 1942, this photo shows Felice Schragenheim and Lilly Wust. The couple had been living in Berlin before Felice was deported to a concentration camp because of her Jewish heritage. She later died during a march to a new camp.

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13. Here are two companions and students of Mount Holyoke, a private liberal arts college for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts. On the left is Kitty Ely, class of 1887, and Helen Emory, class of 1889, is on the right.

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14. This photo taken right around the turn of the century shows two young women wearing men’s attire. Though the wearing of pants was beginning to be championed, it did not truly become acceptable until the middle of the century.

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15. A Victorian couple shares a kiss in a photo taken in the early 1880s. Because homosexuality was forbidden and any romances were kept secret, photos of this nature are almost non-existent.

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16. Based off the style of their bathing suits, it’s believed the photo of these two garden fairies was taken around the 1930s. Here, they’re enjoying a nice summers day in each others company.

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17. Not much is known about this photo taken circa 1920s. It appears the woman on the right is wearing some sort of military uniform, perhaps returning home from duty and sharing a homecoming dance with her partner.

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18. Mary Edmonia Lewis, seen here around 1874, was a successful American sculptor and was rumored to have been a lesbian. She spent most of her career in Rome, Italy, where the attitudes around homosexuality were slightly more relaxed.

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19. Taken sometime around 1910, two women enjoy a passionate kiss in a garden. From the look of their clothes, they were working class. If it wasn’t hard enough to be gay, being poor, gay, and open about it proves these women were fearlessly in love.

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20. Photo from the 1920s shows a couple enjoying a little bit of summer loving in a garden. Neither of the women pictured here were named, but when you’re famous for falling in love, names sort of lose their meaning anyhow.

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Women have been hungry for equality and respect, not only in love but, in all areas of life. Over the past 100 years, women have stepped up and shattered the glass ceiling. That level of achievement wouldn’t have been possible without these leading ladies, who put the word force back into workforce.

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1. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States had no choice but to join World War II. The devastation in Hawaii brought the community closer together and women were not sitting this one out. Fires often broke out in the naval shipyard, so women were assigned firefighting duties.

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2. Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as WASPs, were part of a 350,000 person crew that joined the military during World War II. Pictured below: Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner, and Blanche Osborn, piloted their “Pistol Packin’ Mama” from factories to military bases for use in the war.

Khan Academy

3. The Women’s Royal Naval Service in the United Kingdom began during the Great War. These women were in charge of running “Colossus,” the world’s first programmable computer. Operators known as “wrens” would help crack enemy codes.

History Extra

4. After Pearl Harbor, more than 16 million women entered the workforce. Less famous than Rosie the Riveter, but still as important, were the welders! These ladies worked in the Vancouver Kaiser Shipyard turning steel into tanks in as little as a week!

Welding Supplies From Ioc

5. With German forces using blitzkrieg warfare to devastate the Allies, many parts of London were in ruins. The United Kingdom and its friends weren’t going to stay down long. Women combed the streets and were tasked with cleaning up the debris while salvaging any building materials.

NY Daily News

6. A true pioneer of her time was Melba Roy, an employee of NASA in the 1950s. Roy started as a mathematician working directly with the Echo 1 and 2 satellites and worked her way up to the Program Production Section Chief at the Goddard Space Center. This earned her the Apollo Achievement Award and an Exceptional Performance Award.


7. Dr. Christine Darden spent her whole career paving the way for women and African-Americans alike. Working as an aerospace engineer, she optimized the aeronautical design to launch our species into space for NASA.

Langley Research Center

8. Punching out after a long shift meant something different to men than it did to women. This picture shows women enthusiastically leaving while the men look worn out. No matter the job, women were just happy to work!

Oakland Museum of California

9.  These switchboard workers would work from sunup to sundown in a small room in the Empire State Building, glued to their chairs. Still, they were expected to maintain a “lady-like” appearance and wear heels and skirts.


10. Emmy Lou Packard was a printmaker, painter, and muralist, but during World War II she used her gifts differently. She illustrated what labor looked like for a newspaper.

Oakland Museum of California

11. Taken in 1942 in Ontario, this photo showed mostly women lining the benches of a munitions factory, helping to produce military weapons and equipment. Male workers were far and few between during this time.

Virtual Museum

12. As men went to fight in the wars that plagued the 20th century, it was the responsibility of women to keep the country running and to manufacture wartime equipment. As a result, Rosie the Riveter was born: blue overalls, hair tied in a bandanna, strong, and hardworking.


13.  Veronica Lake was the poster-child for the working woman. For this photo, she donned her famous peek-a-boo hairstyle, demonstrating the ridiculous expectations of women to uphold their “lady-like” appearance in the workforce.


14. Women were funneled into the classroom by the same men who didn’t think they had what it took for the “real” workforce. Oddly enough, they were fine with them teaching their children.

The New York Times

15. With women flooding the workforce, they received push back from men who were scared about job security. This fear lead to discrimination against women. During the ’50s and ’60s, women protested the pay gap and treatment by employers.

University of Maryland Libraries

16. Sally Ride was a true American hero. She was the first American woman to travel out of the Earth’s atmosphere and into space with a male crew. To this day, she remains the youngest American astronaut in space.

Library of Congress

17. A leading lady in science, Dorothy Hodgkin was passionate about Chemistry and the STEM field. She won a Nobel Prize for her work deciphering the structure of vitamin B-12 and for her advanced technique of X-ray crystallography.


18. Taken in 1943, this snapshot shows women of all colors getting ready to start their workday. Some wore heels and carried a briefcase, while others wore coveralls and held hardhats.

Oakland Museum of California

19. Transcribing speech day in, day out was the tedious job of these stenographers in the 1920s. Nothing about it was glamorous, but it was a job that needed to be done.


20. At end of World War II, men returned and reclaimed their positions and titles as “breadwinners” of the home. There was an influx of women returning to their households again, but some women weren’t turning back the clocks. These welders continued to work proudly… because they earned the right to work.

Feminist Activism