By Steven Louis Brawley
May 16, 2021: As a new trustee for the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO), I am proud to be involved in promoting Missouri's Bicentennial celebration in 2021. One of these events involves documenting important legacies.
Missouri Community Legacies is a documentation initiative of the SHSMO's bicentennial commemoration. The goal of the program is to create a “snapshot” of Missouri traditions, creative expressions, meaningful places, organizations, and institutions during its bicentennial of statehood and develop a resource – built by the people of Missouri – of long-term use to students and teachers, researchers, and others interested in the rich history, life, and culture of the state.
I have written descriptions for three important St. Louis area legacies - St. Louis Pride Celebrations, Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Central West End Neighborhood. Citing amazing historical research conducted by many of the Project's contributors and partners, I provide an overview of the impact the LGBTQIA+ community has played in state and local history.
April 2, 2021: On March 31, 2021, Mary Maxfield gave a virtual presentation of her research on 1970s St. Louis lesbian activism in partnership with the St. Louis LGBT History Project. The presentation covered a range of lesbian organizing including women’s houses/ collectives, bookstores and music production companies, and the city’s first Take Back the Night March.
Mary’s article “Together We Can Make a Safe Home: Space, Violence, and Lesbian Organizing in 1970s St. Louis” will be featured in Left in the Midwest: Building Progressive Movements in 1960s and ‘70s St. Louis (eds. Amanda Izzo and Benjamin Looker), which will be released by the University of Missouri Press in 2022.
Mary is a Dissertation Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at St. Louis University (SLU), with a graduate certificate in ethnic studies and Master’s Degrees in American studies from Bowling Green State University and SLU.
Mary holds a graduate teaching assistantship at SLU and was a 2019 Divided City fellow through Washington University. Her research focuses on social justice as it relates to LGBTQ+ experiences, space and place, and digital technologies.
April 2, 2021: A new online database - Mapping the Gay Guides - offers researchers a fun resource to delve into the Damron “Guides” Address Books, an early but longstanding travel guide aimed at gay men since the early 1960s.
Similar in function to the green books used by African Americans during the Jim Crow era to help identify businesses that catered to black clients in the South, Damron aided a generation of queer people to identity sites of community, pleasure, and politics.
By associating geographical coordinates with each location mentioned within Damron, the new database provides an interface for visualizing the growth of queer spaces between 1965 and 1980. Many Missouri and St. Louis LGBTQIA+ spaces are listed in the easy to use database. Select "Missouri" in the drop down search bar on the left side of the website (link below).
Source: Mapping the Gay Guides, Amanda Regan and Eric Gonzaba, (2019-)
April 2, 2021: John "Gene" E. Dawson was well-known to many St. Louisans as “Miss Gina.” He passed in 2020, having just published his autobiography – Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina.
His book details life growing up in Depression-era Iowa in a poor farming Irish-Catholic family and his adult years spent living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and St. Louis. He offers a rare glimpse into the Mid-20th Century history of both rural Iowa and of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Middle America-told by one who was there.
Gene was interviewed for the article, "L.G.B.T.Q. in the Midwest, Where the Fight Is Still Happening," which was in The New York Times in May 2019. As well, an excerpt from Gene's book was included in Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America, which was published in January 2021.
The St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community is fortunate to have Gene's memoirs that document his journey and experiences. So often life stories are lost or incomplete.
Gene’s book has received several important honors including:
-Finalist, First Non-Fiction, Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards, 2020
-Runner Up, Nonfiction-Memoir, PenCraft Awards, 2020
-Honorable Mention, LGBT, Royal Dragonfly Book Awards, 2020
-Finalist, LGBTQ: Non-Fiction, American Book Fest Best Book Awards, 2020
-Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, Best LGBT Memoir, National Association of Book Entrepreneurs, Summer 2020