The adventure begins...
Edith Hamilton, Eleanor Mayo, Grace Frick, Jane Addams, Mary Rozet Smith, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mary Dreier, Ruth Moore, Anne Longfellow Thorp, Doris Fielding Reid, Louise Gilbert, LaRue Spiker, Frances Kellor, Renee Vivien, and Natalie Barney [Photo of Eleanor Mayo, Anne Longfellow Thorp, and Ruth Moore from the Southwest Harbor Public Library Digital Archive and photos of LaRue Spiker and Louise Gilbert from Mt. Desert Historical Society]
From Jane Addams to Marguerite Yourcenar, Mount Desert Island has been home to some of the most prominent artists, thinkers, writers, reformers, and activists in the world, and many of these women were in long-term, same-sex partnerships, or "Boston Marriages." Many of these women were part of national and international networks of lesbians of achievement--networks that included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who, in July 1933, came to have tea in Southwest Harbor with Mary Dreier and Frances Kellor.
Some of these women were leaders and founders of social justice organizations, like Jane Addams and Frances Kellor. Some, like Marguerite Yourcenar, the first woman ever accepted into the prestigious Académie française, were smashers of the glass ceiling. Others like novelist Ruth Moore, who was offered a lucrative Hollywood contract, chose to walk away to create their own world on their own terms. LaRue Spiker and Louise Gilbert, heroines of the Civil Rights movement, came to the island to heal from the terrifying homophobic and anti-Communist witchhunts of the McCarthy era. And there were women who, recognizing a greatness in their partners, chose to support them in their professional work. Grace Frick conscientiously translated the work of her beloved Marguerite, and Doris Fielding Reid wrote the biography of her partner Edith Hamilton.
And then, of course, there was the fact of their difference--their Boston Marriages, their financial independence, and their defiance of social customs and religious doctrine. What did the island make of Natalie Barney dancing at the society balls with her lover Renée Vivien, and Frances Kellor entertaining First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at Fernald Point, wearing her signature fedora and necktie?
The Lesbian History Trail winds past the sites of these women's homes--mansions as well as cabins, but it also walks us through the historical eras as they were manifest on Mount Desert Island: the glittering history of the turn-of-the-century Gilded Age in Bar Harbor, the social dynamism of the Roosevelt years, the establishment and development of Acadia National Park, the devastation of the Great Fire, and the paranoia of the McCarthy era.
This is a choose-your-own-adventure, self-guided tour!
Do you want to just hit the "homes of the stars?" Do you want to use the tour to build a three-day visit to the island, complete with associated hikes and landmarks in the National Park, and side trips to celebrated gardens? Do you want to explore the website to learn about the famous couples who made their homes on Mount Desert Island? Or are you here for the colorful stories about their renegade personal lives? The adventure is yours!