Wales & LGBT+ History Month

Collections - Posted 28-02-2018

This is a guest post by one of our users, Mair Jones.

You are welcome to submit posts for our consideration in Welsh or English. All posts must be in relation to either the Library’s work or collections, the Welsh Language or Wales. We will keep full editorial control over any posts published. Please send your posts through the Enquiries Service.

Wales & LGBT+ History Month

For fifteen years, February has been regarded as the month to celebrate the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, and anybody else who may fit into the LGBT+ umbrella. LGBT+ History Month 2018 has seen the most events in Wales yet – such as Pride Cymru’s event at the Senedd.

From studying the LGBT History of Wales, I’ve found that the National Library is a hive of secondary and primary resources into Welsh LGBT Histories. Anyone who has used their archives will know it is a great resource to uncover personal histories – such as Welsh women’s histories. Similarly, Welsh LGBT+ people’s histories are still being uncovered. This month, or any other month, read the history of a Welsh LGBT+ person, celebrate them, and maybe help uncover the history of Welsh LGBT+ people.

Here are fourteen key figures in Welsh LGBT+ history who can be researched at the National Library of Wales – to be celebrated this month, and hopefully to always be celebrated in Welsh history.

1. The Ladies of Llangollen are the most well-known Welsh LGBT+ figures. They were Sarah Ponsonby [1755-1831] and Eleanor Butler [1739-1829], two Irish women who escaped their family to live their lives together at Plas Newydd in Llangollen. Much has been written about them, which can be read at the National Library. Archives related to the Ladies at the Library include portraits, letters, facsimiles of their account books, electronic resources and other papers.
NLW MS 21682C – Letters from Ladies of Llangollen
NLW MS 23699E, ff. 135-137. – Letters of the Ladies of Llangollen
NLW MS 23980F, ff. 24-25. – Ladies of Llangollen letters
NLW MS 22768D. – Ladies of Llangollen letters
Cardiff MS 2.908. – Ladies of Llangollen
Bodrhyddan Estate Papers, Deeds and Documents 57 – Letter: Sarah Ponsonby to Miss Williams Wynn. Endorsed ‘Last Letter from Miss Ponsonby’
NLW Facs 18. – ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ account book
NLW Facs 19. – ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ account book
NLW MS 19697B. – A personal and household account book of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ in the hand of Sarah Ponsonby
Other writings on the Ladies includes accounts on them from the period, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan’s Papers of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ and Susan Valladares’ article on Anne Lister’s meeting with the Ladies.

2. Katherine Philips [1631-1664] was an Anglo-Welsh poet who Norena Shopland has uncovered as ‘The Welsh Sappho.’ Philips is one of the earliest examples of poetry around her ‘romantic friendships.’
NLW MS 775B. – Katherine Philips poetry
NLW MS 776B. – Katherine Philips poetry
NLW Facs 739. – Katherine Philips poem
NLW Films 943-6 – Katherine Philips Microfilms
NLW MS 21702E. – Barddoniaeth amrywiol

3. Frances Power Cobbe [1822-1904] and Mary Charlotte Lloyd [1819-1896], like the Ladies of Llangollen lived in Wales together. Cobbe was a well-known suffragette, campaigner and writer – Mary Lloyd was a Welsh sculptor who lived as her partner. Sources on Lloyd are mainly from Cobbe’s writings.
Minor Deposit 1309-15. – Manuscripts of Frances Power Cobbe of Hengwrt, Dolgellau, religious philosopher, &c
NLW ex 1865-7 – Frances Power Cobbe Bequest

4. Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) [1839-1916] was a writer, editor, sailor, lecturer, and editor of Y Frythones, and was in a lifelong lesbian relationship, as written by Jane Aaron in Queer Wales.
Sarah Jane Rees (‘Cranogwen’)
Cerddi i Maggie Eurona gan Cranogwen.
NLW MS 23895A. – Anerchiad gan Cranogwen
Sarah Jane Rees (‘Cranogwen’) poetry

5. Amy Dillwyn [1845-1935] was an industrialist and feminist who also published novels with lesbian and cross-dressing themes. The novels published by Honno, her biography David Painting and other writings about her by Kirsti Bohata can be read at the Library.
Amy Dillwyn papers

6. Gwen John [1876-1939] is probably the most well-known female Welsh artist – less well-known is her relationships with women, such as Véra Oumançoff.
Gwen John manuscripts

7. Margaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess of Rhondda, [1883-1958] also had relationships with men and women and is well-known as a suffragette. Books by and about her (i.e. Angela John) can be found in the Library.

8. George E. J. Powell of Nanteos [1842-82], has been written about by Harry Heuser in Queer Wales and New Welsh Reader.
NLW Facs 417. – Letters to George E. J. Powell, Nanteos
Minor Deposits 1394-97. – Letters to George E. J. Powell from A.C. Swinburne

9. Nina Hamnett [1890-1956] was the ‘Queen of Bohemia,’ a bisexual artist from Wales who was linked to the Bloomsbury Group.
Search Nina Hamnett in the catalogue.

10. Ivor Novello [1893-1951] was a popular 20th century entertainer from Cardiff.
NLW MS 23204D. – Ivor Novello papers
NLW MS 23696E. – Ivor Novello letters

11. Rhys Davies [1901-1978]
Rhys Davies Papers

12. Kate Roberts [1891-1985], known as the Queen of our Literature, was married to Morris T. Williams [1900-1946], while he had an affair with Edward Prosser Rhys [1901-1945]. E. Prosser Rhys is best known for his winning poem ‘Atgof’ in the 1924 Eisteddfod, exploring his bisexual relationships. Alan Llwyd, in his autobiography of Roberts, theorised that she may have also been bisexual.
Papurau Kate Roberts

13. Margiad Evans [1909-1958] was a novelist who again was married, but it is more well known that she had a relationship with Ruth Farr, while her novelists explore themes of sexuality. Her novels, manuscripts and autobiography are at the Library, as well as writings on her, such as by Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, and her archived papers and letters:
NLW Facs 870 – Margiad Evans Diary
NLW ex 2790 (i & ii) – Margiad Evans family papers
Margiad Evans Papers
Margiad Evans Manuscripts
NLW MS 23893E. – Margiad Evans Letters
NLW MS 23994F. – Poems by Margiad Evans

14. Jan Morris. [1926-] is a Welsh writer and historian, and trans woman. She wrote Conundrum on her experiences with gender transition, as well as books on Wales, and is an important and influential Welsh LGBT figure.
Jan Morris Papers

There are many more LGBT+ people from Wales increasingly being written about in queer history and Welsh history. John Davies was a leading Welsh historian who was LGBT and Jeffrey Weeks is a leading sexuality historian from the Rhondda. Other sources used by Welsh LGBT historians, such as Shopland, are newspaper articles, such as those available through the Welsh Newspapers Online.

Mair Jones,
MA History of Wales, Aberystwyth University.

Further Reading
Osborne, Huw. Queer Wales.
Shopland, Norena. Forbidden Lives.
Tate, Tim. Pride.
Weeks, Jeffrey.
Icons & Allies.

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