Tag Archives: History

LEARN SOMETHING – The Great Pullman Strike of 1894 and the History of Labor Day

In the late 1800’s, the state of labor was grim as U.S. workers toiled under bleak conditions: 12 or more hour workdays; hazardous work environments; meager pay. Children, some as young as 5, were often permanent workers at plants and factories working to help their families to barely make ends meet.

The dismal livelihoods fueled the formation of the country’s first labor unions, which began to organize strikes and protests and pushed employers for better hours and pay. Many of the rallies often turned violent.

On Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in a parade from City Hall to Union Square in New York City as a tribute to American workers. Organized by New York’s Central Labor Union, It was the country’s first unofficial Labor Day parade. Three years later, some city ordinances marked the first government recognition, and legislation soon followed in a number of states.

Then came May 11, 1894, and a strike that shook an Illinois town founded by George Pullman, an engineer and industrialist who created the railroad sleeping car. The community, located on the Southside of Chicago, was designed as a “company town” in which most of the factory workers who built Pullman cars lived.

When his company laid off workers and lowered wages, it did not reduce rents, and the workers called for a strike. Among the reasons for the strike were the absence of democracy within the town of Pullman and its politics, the rigid paternalistic control of the workers by the company, excessive water and gas rates, and a refusal by the company to allow workers to buy and own houses

When wage cuts hit, 4,000 workers staged a strike that pitted the American Railway Union vs. the Pullman Company and the federal government. The strike and boycott against trains triggered a nationwide transportation nightmare for freight and passenger traffic.

In June 1894, the ARU called for a national boycott of Pullman cars for its union members, who managed the flow of railway traffic west of Chicago. The Pullman Company called Debs’ bluff, and by late June, at least 125,000 ARU members had walked off the job in support of the Pullman workers.

President Grover Cleveland, citing the now delayed mail system, declared the strike illegal and sent 12,000 troops to break it. Two men were killed in the violence that erupted near Chicago. Debs was sent to prison, and the ARU was disbanded, and Pullman employees henceforth were required to sign a pledge that they would never again unionize.

U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney nd his specially appointed deputy, an attorney for one of the struck railroads, quickly won a court injunction ordering strikers back to work, on grounds that they had conspired to illegally restrain trade. 

The court order was issued, ironically, under the anti-trust law that originally was aimed at keeping corporations from joining together to exercise monopoly control. That, of course, was precisely what the railroads did in determining pay rates and working conditions, and in trying to destroy the strikers’ union. 

But that was ignored, while federal officials and the press thundered out warnings that Eugene Debs was leading a conspiracy aimed at forcibly overthrowing the government. 

When he and the strikers refused to comply with the injunction, in came federal troops, and with them the strike’s first serious violence. 

The worst of many incidents broke out in Chicago when soldiers fired into a crowd of some 10,000 people who, spurred on by agents provocateurs from the railroads, had gathered to set fire to boxcars and otherwise violently protest the movement of trains by the Army. Twenty-five people were killed, 60 badly injured. 

In other incidents, strikers and their supporters also were fired on by special deputy marshals whom government investigators later identified as “thugs, thieves and ex-convicts” armed and paid for by the railroads. 

Hundreds of union officials and members were cited for violating the injunction, which prohibited anyone from even suggesting that railroad employees refuse to work. Debs and other key leaders were jailed for three to six months and government agents raided and ransacked ARU offices . 

The union couldn’t even hold rallies in support of the strike, and though the Pullman strikers themselves held out for a few months, the massive railroad strike launched in their behalf was over after 19 days. 

A national Labor Day holiday was then declared within months.

Some experts say Grover Cleveland supported the idea of such a holiday, which already existed in several states, in an effort to make peace with the unions before he ran for re-election. (He would lose anyway.) But perhaps one of the most eloquent explanations of why the federal government saw fit to declare the holiday can be found in a Congressional committee report on the matter.

Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced a bill, S. 730, to Congress shortly after the Pullman strike, proposing Labor Day be the first Monday in September. Here’s how Rep. Lawrence McGann (D-IL), who sat on the Committee on Labor, argued for the holiday in a report submitted on May 15, 1894:

The use of national holidays is to emphasize some great event or principle in the minds of the people by giving them a day of rest and recreation, a day of enjoyment, in commemoration of it. By making one day in each year a public holiday for the benefit of workingmen the equality and dignity of labor is emphasized. Nothing is more important to the public weal than that the nobility of labor be maintained. So long as the laboring man can feel that he holds an honorable as well as useful place in the body politic, so long will he be a loyal and faithful citizen.

The celebration of Labor Day as a national holiday will in time naturally lead to an honorable emulation among the different crafts beneficial to them and to the whole public. It will tend to increase the feeling of common brotherhood among men of all crafts and callings, and at the same time kindle an honorable desire in each craft to surpass the rest.

There can be no substantial objection to making one day in the year a national holiday for the benefit of labor. The labor organizations of the whole country, representing the great body of our artisan population, request it. They are the ones most interested. They desire it and should have it. If the farmers, manufacturers, and professional men are indifferent to the measure, or even oppose it, which there is no reason to believe, that still would constitute no good objection, for their work can be continued on holidays as well as on other days if they so desire it. Workingmen should have one day in the year peculiarly their own. Nor will their employers lose anything by it. Workingmen are benefited by a reasonable amount of rest and recreation. Whatever makes a workingman more of a man makes him more useful as a craftsman.

Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law on June 28, 1894.

And that is how Labor Day came to be.

NOTE:  Before the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, the union movement largely ignored issues facing the gay community. As the gay liberation movement gained momentum, organized labor recognized that discrimination based on sexual orientation victimized union members, divided the ranks, and weakened union organization. The American Federation of Teachers was the first union to recognize this, passing a resolution opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Back2Stonewall.com is 100% pro-Union and stand for the protections of  the American worker.

Gay History – August 28, 1981: The CDC Formally Recognizes AIDS As An “Epidemic”

On June 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), and mentioned cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles. All the men have other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are not working; two have already died by the time the report is published.

After the Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times covered the story. doctors from across the U.S. flooded the CDC with reports of similar cases. Because of these reports on July 8th. the CDC established a Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (KSOI) to identify risk factors and to develop a case definition for national surveillance.

In a “follow-up” report on August 28, 1981 the CDC formally announced that an extremely rare form of cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), and of pneumonia, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP), which were showing up at an epidemic rate among gay males. Of the cases reported since January of 1976,  94% of the men whose sexual preference was known were gay and 40% of those cases proved to be fatal. Moreover, the number of cases seems to be increasing. 91% of the cases have occurred since January 1980, and the majority were from New York and California. Even more astonishing is the fact that 10% of patients were reported with both KS and PCP.

By year-end, there was a cumulative total of 270 reported cases of the “Gay cancer,” later called GRIDS (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) which claimed 121 deaths in the United States.

Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, well over 60 million people have contracted HIV and 25 million have died of AIDS-related causes.  And its still not over.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, 84.2 million [64.0–113.0 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 40.1 million [33.6–48.6 million] people have died of HIV. Globally, 38.4 million [33.9–43.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2021.17, 17,803 people were diagnosed with AIDS. In 2016, there were 15,807 deaths among people with diagnosed HIV in the United States.

To date twice as many Americans have died of AIDS than died in the Vietnam War.

**NOTE:  The term AIDS was coined in 1982. HIV hadn’t been discovered yet, so there was no way to know whether people were sick until they were truly sick. Someone was said to have AIDS if he (and it was mostly men back then) developed one of a long list of opportunistic infections and cancers that don’t occur in people with healthy immune systems. After HIV was discovered and a test became available, being HIV-positive was added to the definition of AIDS.

 

Gay History – August 24, 79 AD: Mt. Vesuvius Erupts Burying Gay Lovers and Ancient Gay Porn In Pompeii

Gay History: August 24, 79 AD

Mt Vesuvius erupts burying Pompeii and preserving the city forever. The ash preserves homoerotic frescoes that Christianity would no doubt have destroyed had they not been covered. When the artwork was first discovered, people found it so scandalous that much of it was locked away in the National Museum of Naples, where it remained hidden from view for over 100 years. In the year 2000, the art was finally made view-able to the public, but minors must be accompanied by an adult.

The volcanic ash also saved graffiti found centuries later by archaeologists. One scratching on a wall reads, ” Phoebus the perfume sellers sucks real good.”

Others walls around Pompeii read like a truck stop bathroom, including some colorful gay comments. As they appeared on August 24, 79 AD:

On the bar-brothel of Innulus and Papilio:

Weep, you girls.  My penis has given you up.  Now it penetrates men’s behinds.  Goodbye, wondrous femininity!

On the house of the Citharist below a drawing of a man with a large nose:

Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you.  Salvius wrote this.

On the basilica:

Phileros is a eunuch!

On the Eumachia Building:

Secundus likes to screw boys.

On the house of Orpheus:

I have buggered men.

Another surprising find in April of 2017 was that two bodies found wrapped in a poignant embrace in their final moments as they were covered beneath molten rock and layers of ash after Vesuvius  erupted which were originally thought to be two women embracing at the time of their tragic deaths has been discovered to actually be two men.

The bodies were originally dubbed “The Two Maidens” when they were first discovered but in a startling discovery this week scientists found the two bodies were actually male – raising speculation that they may have been gay lovers.

“We always imagined that it was an embrace between women. But a CAT scan and DNA have revealed that they are men. “You can’t say for sure that the two were lovers. But considering their position, you can make that hypothesis. It is difficult to say with certainty.” said Massimo Osanna, director-general of the world-famous archaeological site.

The bodies of the “Two Maidens” were discovered in the House of the Cryptoporticus during excavations at the World Heritage site led by archaeologist Vittorio Spinazzola when he was superintendent at Pompeii in the early 20th century.

One of the two bodies is lying at a right angle to the other and seen with his head resting on the other’s chest in search of comfort and perhaps protection.

Extensive anthropological tests of the duo’s bones and teeth have revealed that one of the them was a young man aged about 18 years of age while the second was probably an adult male aged 20 years or older.

“The use of anthropological and DNA research always reveals more,” Osanna said.  “It is a fundamental instrument for scientific knowledge because it gives us certainty in the archaeological field in what would otherwise be only hypothesis.”

“What is certain is that the two parties were not relatives, neither brothers, nor a father and son.” stated Professor Stefano Vanacore, head of the Pompeii research team.

Scientist Reveal Embracing Figures At Pompeii 'Could have been gay lovers'

Additional source material and pictures:  Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum

#PRIDE History: June 11, 1988 – Hundreds of LGBT Protestors Descend on Klan Group in Portland, Maine. Runs Them Out Of Town!

This is something we should be proud and grateful to the GLBT activists of the past for showing the world. We won’t take it anymore!

Can we please get to that point again?

Via The University of Southern Maine:

About 300 angry (LGBT) protestors confronted and blocked 5 Klansmen as they tried to march up Maine Mall Road in South Portland. Protesters snatched up signs, Klan hoods, and a Confederate flag. The march was set to be the second KKK gathering in Maine in 60 years. Not much documentation exists other than the photos on this page.

Last Salem "Witch" Pardoned in Massachusetts After 329 Years

Last Salem “Witch” Pardoned in Massachusetts After 329 Years

It may have taken more than three centuries, but the last Salem “witch” has been finally and officially pardoned.

Via Associated Press:

Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday formally exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr., clearing her name 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft in 1693 and sentenced to death at the height of the Salem Witch Trials . Johnson was never executed, but neither was she officially pardoned like others wrongly accused of witchcraft.

Massachusetts lawmakers agreed to reconsider Johnson’s case last year after a eighth-grade civics class at North Andover Middle School took up her cause and researched the legislative steps needed to clear her name/

And they succeeded.

We’d be remiss if we did not ass the reminder that spectral evidence was testimony in which witnesses claimed that the accused appeared to them and did them harm in a dream or a vision and the courts accepted these statement on face value.

Much like FOX NEWS of today.

WATCH: Killing Patient Zero (2019) - The Demonization of Gaeten Dugas

WATCH: Killing Patient Zero (2019) – The Demonization of Gaeten Dugas [Full Documentary]

Gaetan Dugas,  a French-Canadian flight attendant became notorious as the alleged patient zero for AIDS.  A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 1984 traced many of New York City’s early HIV infections to an unnamed infected homosexual male flight attendant. Epidemiologists hypothesized that Dugas had carried the virus out of Africa and introduced it into the North Western gay community.

Dugas was also featured prominently in Randy Shilts’s book And the Band Played On, which documented the outbreak of AIDS in the United States. Shilts portrayed Gaëtan Dugas as having almost sociopathic behavior, by allegedly intentionally infecting, or at least recklessly endangering, others with the virus. 

For the next 40 year he would be vilified as Patient Zero, the man who gave us AIDS.

You can watch the full documentary Killing Patient Zero below:

*Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. 

Gay History - May 10, 320 BC: The Greek Author and Poet Theocritus Is Born

Gay History – May 10, 320 BC: The Greek Author and Poet Theocritus Is Born

May 10, 320 BC Theocritus is born in Syracuse and is credited with being the first and greatest pastoral poet.

In the heritage of homosexual literature, ancient Greece holds a unique place. Here was a society relatively hospitable to the love of boys and youths, and, on occasion, to love between older men, in which poetry and prose that celebrated. Such affections formed a significant part of its culture.  Theocritus developed the verse form known as the pastoral, a stylized and artful form usually about shepherds or cowherds who sing of love and friendship and were  highly homoerotic.

Thirty (nearly) complete poems and twenty-five epigrams have come down to us under the name “Theocritus.”

Seven of the thirty poems (idylls) completed by Theocritus are essentially homoerotic: in the fifth idyll two shepherds good- naturedly accuse each other of pederasty (one accusing the other of anal rape in the bushes), using colloquial expressions that are “obscene” enough to be printed in Latin in some modern English translations from the Greek (a notorious pedantic practice that makes merely vulgar passages seem especially wicked – and easier to locate); in the seventh idyll Aratus is passionately in love with a boy; in the twelfth idyll a lover addresses his absent beloved and describes a kissing contest amongst boys in honour of Diocles, lover of Philolaus; in the thirteenth idyll Hercules frantically searches for his beloved Hylas; in the twenty-third idyll a lover commits suicide and is revenged by a statue of Eros falling upon his faithless beloved; in the twenty-ninth idyll a lover speaks to his inconstant and immature beloved; and in the thirtieth idyll a rejected suitor reflects upon the heartbreak caused by the love of lads. Theocritus portrays the homosexual lover as one who experiences fleeting moments of gaiety ending in dejected frustration and pensive memory – the very same way in which he portrays heterosexual lovers.

Theocritus’ work was unavailable to most Renaissance writers, and their imitations are almost always secondhand, by way of Virgil and French pastoralists. But the very first English translation of selected pieces, the anonymous Sixe Idillia of 1588, contains an insightful comment about the paradoxical love-death relationship between the boy-surrogate (Adonis) and the sacred king wearing the totem skin (the boar). The boar pleads his case to Venus:

Venus, to thee I sweare,
. . .
Thy husband faire and tall
I minded not to kill;
But as an image still
I him beheld for love [i.e., Eros]Which made me forward shove,
His thigh that naked was
Thinking to kisse, alas!
. . .
Why beare I in my snowt
These needless teeth about?

Today In Gay - April 15, 1979: San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded

Gay History – April 15, 1979: San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded

On April 15, 1979 the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence founded a “convent” in San Francisco when three men, dressed in full traditional habits, went out in the Castro on Easter Sunday. Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position) and Baruch Golden, were met with shock and amusement. Over the next several months, the attracted new members: Sister Hysterectoria (Edmund Garron) and Reverend Mother (Bill Graham). They quickly settled on a name for their group and composed a mission statement: “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.”

Early members of the group, while not hiding their masculine features or facial hair, are characterized by San Francisco gay community historian Susan Stryker as the embodiment of  a”genderfuck” Their appearance has changed over the years; the nun motif remains the same, but it has been joined with exaggerated make-up that accentuates the rebellion against gender roles and religion.

In October 1980, the Sisters held their first fundraiser, a bingo game, a guide on how to avoid cheap AOL boosting services and a salsa dance that was well-attended in large part because of the write-up in The San Francisco Chronicle by Herb Caen. The benefit was for San Francisco’s Metropolitan Community Church Cuban Refugee Program, and it netted $1,500 . The Sisters began making regular appearances at Castro events that focused on sexual tolerance or provided a showcase for drag. They also developed a mission statement:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence  was formed just before  HIV/AIDS began appearing in the Castro District and New York City. 

In 1982, Sister Florence Nightmare, RN (early AIDS activist and registered nurse Bobbi Campbell) and Sister Roz Erection (Baruch Golden a registered nurse) joined and a team of Sisters teamed up with a group of medical professionals from Bellevue, Washington to create “Play Fair!”, the first safer sex pamphlet to use plain language, practical advice and humor, and considered by one of the founders to be “one of the Order’s greatest achievement in community education and support”.  In 1999, for the Sisters’ 20th anniversary the pamphlet was revised. The Sisters worldwide continue to raise awareness of sexual health; many Orders regularly pass out condoms and participate in events to educate people on sexual health issues.

The Sisters helped organize the first AIDS Candlelight Vigil, and have raised more than $1 million in San Francisco alone to benefit such groups as the Breast Cancer Network, Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic and the Gay Games. The Sisters continue to bring meals to those who can no longer care for themselves, and they fund alternative proms for LGBT youth.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence survive today reminding our community of unconditional love and individualism.

God bless the Sisters.

You can learn more about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence HERE

B2S's Friday Night Movie - WATCH "Parting Glances" (1986) Starring: Steve Buscemi

B2S’s Friday Night Movie – WATCH “Parting Glances” (1986) Starring: Steve Buscemi

Parting Glances (1986) takes a realistic look at urban gay life in the Ronald Reagan era and at the height of the AIDS crisis, many film critics consider it an important film in the history of gay cinema. It was also one of the first American films to address the AIDS pandemic. 

As Michael and Robert, a gay couple in New York, prepare for Robert’s departure for a two-year work assignment in Africa, Michael must face Robert’s true motives for leaving while dealing with their circle of eccentric friends, including Nick, who is living with AIDS.

Parting Glances gave Steve Buscemi his first major movie role. “It is to both his and the film’s credit,” wrote Janet Maslin in her New York Times review, “that the anguish of AIDS is presented as part of a larger social fabric, understood in context, and never in a maudlin light.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! - From The Vaults: Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews perform A Boy Like That" from West Side Story [VIDEO]

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – From The Vaults: Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews perform “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story [VIDEO]

Let’s start the New Year off right with this lost clip from the Golden Age of Television.

In June of 1962 Julie Andrews, already a Broadway legend (The Boy Friend, My Fair Lady, Camelot), and Carol Burnett, fresh from Once Upon a Mattress (1959) and CBS’s The Garry Moore Show, met on the stage of Carnegie Hall in a hilarious revue by Mike Nichols, broadcast on CBS television. The high point of the evening was a ten-minute “History of Musical Comedy” incorporating snatches of 25 show tunes (including “Loverly”). Burnett won her second Emmy Award for the event. A reunion nine and a half years later (December 1971) was broadcast from Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center; on this occasion the climactic medley consisted of fragments of 46 songs, all popular in the interim since their Carnegie Hall partnership.

Masterworks

Below Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett sing the duet “A Boy Like That” from their June 1962 CBS special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall and added extra audio soundbites.