The Library Company Celebrates Gay History Month!

The Library Company’s Gay History Month event—a highlight of the fall calendar—featured University of Tulsa professor Don James Brown, who made the case that Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1885 novel  A Marsh Island was the first gay American novel. Jewett—herself in a same-sex relationship when the novel appeared— is often hailed as a local colorist for her portrayals of Maine communities. In A Marsh Island, the main character, a painter from New York City, spends extended time with a rural family while he recuperates from an injury. Dr. Brown noted the multitude of elements which would have signaled to the late 19th-century reader that the young man is gay, starting with his incompatibility with rural living (“queer metronormativity”). We are intrigued, and happy to have a copy of the book on our shelves.

We had a full house for the event. Among the many people who attended was Todd Snovel, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. Mr. Snovel brought greetings from Harrisburg and at the beginning of the program read, in part, Governor Wolf’s proclamation designating October 2018 as LGBTQ History Month.

Thanks to our partnership with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company’s new Charlotte Cushman Society, we can look forward to planning Gay History Month events in future years. To support our ongoing work encouraging the study of LGBT history, please become a member of the Charlotte Cushman Society. Contact Raechel Hammer, Chief of Development, at or 215-546-3181 x142 to learn more. Or click here to donate now.

To see pictures of the event, please click here.

Cornelia King

Chief Reference Librarian & Curator of Women’s History