Today in Gay History

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August 18

Marcel Carne
1906 -

MARCEL CARNÉ, French film director was born on this date (d. 1996); a French film director, born in Paris, France, he began his career in silent film as a trainee with director Jacques Feyder. By age 25, Carné had already directed his first film, one that marked the beginning of a successful collaboration with surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prevért. This collaborative relationship lasted for more than a dozen years, during which they created films that defined French cinema of the day. Together, they were responsible for developing poetic realism.

Under the German occupation of France during WWII, Carné worked in the Vichy zone where he subverted the regime's attempts to control art and filmed his masterpiece Les Enfants du paradis (Children of Pardise). In the late 1990s, the film was voted "Best French Film of the Century" in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals.

Post war, he and Prévert followed this triumph with what at the time was the most expensive production ever undertaken in the history of French film. But the result, titled Les Porte de la nuit, was panned by the critics and a box office failure that ended the duo's working relationship. Carné was Gay and made little secret about. Several of his later films contain references to Gay male sexuality or bisexuality. His long-time partner was Roland Lesaffre who appeared in many of his films.

Sir Francis Rose by Cecil Beaton
1908 -

SIR FRANCIS ROSE, British artist, born (d: 1979); The English artist was the last, and probably the most infamous, though least known, of Gertrude Stein’s many protégés. Several of Francis Rose’s drunken escapades are wonderfully recollected in Samuel M. Steward’s Dear Sammy. One story, peculiarly or not-so-peculiarly omitted from the artist’s autobiography, Saving Life. (1961), is about Luis, his valet de chambre.

In 1952 Alice B. Toklas wrote Sam Steward to tell him that Francis Rose “was in a good deal of trouble with Luis his valet de chambre boyfriend.” A casual encounter between the artist and a Spanish gypsy boy in front of a bistro in Paris had resulted in not only an evening pickup, but in the young man being hired for the entire summer, as both valet and bed mate. As Sam Steward tells I, “It was only after Luis got into some trouble with the gendarmérie over a stolen bicycle that Francis — called to help him out of his difficulty — examined his papers and discovered that the boy was his illegitimate son.

This episode titillated both France and England for some time. It certainly titillated Alice B. “Francis,” she wrote, “is saying that he is going to recognize Luis so he will inherit his title! As yet this tale has not been confided to any English friends — who would put him straight about bastards inheriting titles…”

Francis Rose had a unconventional childhood and one of extreme wealth and privilege. He was born at the grand English estate Moor Park, near Hertfordshire, and inherited his British baronetcy while still a child. He was also of noble Spanish descent, and Rose claims that on his behalf, his grandmother petitioned the Spanish Sovereign "for permission to revive the ancient family custom of owning dwarves.” 

While in his teens, Francis met Jean Cocteau during a stay in Villefranche. Cocteau took an interest in him, encouraging not only his art but also his sexual awakening. Cocteau allegedly brought twenty-one rowdy sailors to the Hotel Wellcome to revel with Francis on his twenty-first birthday, but it was possibly only sixteen on his sixteenth. Accounts vary. Either way, it involved a lot of seamen. In adulthood, Sir Francis remained in France, and one of his early lovers was the English expatriate-artist Christopher Wood. 

One of the most bizarre chapters of the Saying Life is Rose’s recollection of his relationship with Ernst Röhm, the homosexual Nazi executed on Adolf Hitler’s orders in 1934 on the “Night of Long Knives.” In his memoir, Rose dubiously alleges that his relationship with Röhm was platonic and swears that Röhm was heterosexual (despite all evidence to the contrary.) Writes Rose (without irony), "There was nothing effeminate about Röhm; he abided by the old Potsdam tradition that soldiers scented themselves, sent each other flowers for certain occasions, clicked heels, fought duels, and managed to look like carved wooden puppets with the help of steel corsets and tight uniforms." 

Following the interlude with the Nazis, Sir Francis fled to the Far East, traveling on a massive yacht with his own private zoo. He spent three years happily touring Southeast Asia until world events again intervened, becoming stranded in Peking as result of the Japanese invasion. In preparation for his escape, he weaned himself off opium and donated his menagerie to American and Japanese zoos. The relief from chaos proved to be short-lived. In 1938, he lost most of his fortune when the American stockbroker to whom he had given his power of attorney was convicted of engaging in a massive embezzlement scheme.

By the end of World War II, Francis Rose was nearly penniless. His final three decades were characterized by more folly, but he no longer had the necessary funds to bankroll it.

Friends like Cecil Beaton helped out until finally fatigued by his constant drama. His memoir, published in 1961, was not the financial success he desperately needed. However, it is one of the strangest memoirs published in the 20th Century.  It stands out not for its accuracy but for its originality. 

1920 -

The WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

The campaign for women’s suffrage began in earnest in the decades before the Civil War. During the 1820s and 30s, most states had extended the franchise to all white men, regardless of how much money or property they had.

At the same time, all sorts of reform groups were proliferating across the United States— temperance leagues, religious movements, moral-reform societies, anti-slavery organizations—and in many of these, women played a prominent role.

Meanwhile, many American women were beginning to chafe against what historians have called the “Cult of True Womanhood”: that is, the idea that the only “true” woman was a pious, submissive wife and mother concerned exclusively with home and family.

Put together, all of these contributed to a new way of thinking about what it meant to be a woman and a citizen of the United States.

In 1848, a group of abolitionist activists—mostly women, but some men—gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the problem of women’s rights. They were invited there by the reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

Most of the delegates to the Seneca Falls Convention agreed: American women were autonomous individuals who deserved their own political identities.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” proclaimed the Declaration of Sentiments that the delegates produced, “that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What this meant, among other things, was that they believed women should have the right to vote.

During the 1850s, the women’s rights movement gathered steam, but lost momentum when the Cicil War began. Almost immediately after the war ended, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment to the Constitution raised familiar questions of suffrage and citizenship.

The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, extends the Constitution’s protection to all citizens—and defines “citizens” as “male”; the 15th, ratified in 1870, guarantees Black men the right to vote.

Some women’s suffrage advocates believed that this was their chance to push lawmakers for truly universal suffrage. As a result, they refused to support the 15th Amendment and even allied with racist Southerners who argued that white women’s votes could be used to neutralize those cast by African Americans.

Starting in 1910, some states in the West began to extend the vote to women for the first time in almost 20 years. Idaho and Utah had given women the right to vote at the end of the 19th century. Still, southern and eastern states resisted. In 1916, NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveiled what she called a “Winning Plan” to get the vote at last: a blitz campaign that mobilized state and local suffrage organizations all over the country, with special focus on those recalcitrant regions.

Meanwhile, a splinter group called the National Woman’s Party founded by Alice Paul focused on more radical, militant tactics—hunger strikes and White House pickets, for instance—aimed at winning dramatic publicity for their cause.

World War I slowed the suffragists’ campaign but helped them advance their argument nonetheless: Women’s work on behalf of the war effort, activists pointed out, proved that they were just as patriotic and deserving of citizenship as men.

 It fell to Tennessee to tip the scale for woman suffrage.

The outlook for ratification by the requisite number of states appeared bleak, given the outcomes in other Southern states and given the position of Tennessee’s state legislators in their 48-48 tie. The state’s decision came down to 23-year-old Representative Harry T. Burn, a Republican from McMinn County, to cast the deciding vote. Although Burn opposed the amendment, his mother convinced him to approve it. Mrs. Burn reportedly wrote to her son: “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.” With Burn’s vote, the 19th Amendment was fully ratified.

Finally, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. And on November 2 of that year, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the first time..

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