For June the library is celebrating our lives across the years by adding two gorgeous history books. Expand your knowledge of Wisconsin LGBTQIA+ history beyond the basics with these thoroughly-researched texts by R. Richard Wagner, a Wisconsin scholar with a long history of activism. Did you know Wisconsin was the first state to pass a law against discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation? It was in 1982. This and many other fascinating facts await in these books.
We’ve Been Here All Along: Wisconsin’s Early Gay History chronicles the goings-on from the 1800s to pre-Stonewall times. Wagner offers a wide range of information, at times getting into general Wisconsin opinions, at others discussing laws. He suggests our relationship with queerness is in some ways a uniquely Wisconsin one. Additionally, he profiles many important and varied figures in the gay community from all walks of life. Many of them wrote and published their own work, too.
From the jacket:
“The first of two groundbreaking volumes on gay history in Wisconsin, We’ve Been Here All Along provides an illuminating and nuanced picture of Wisconsin’s gay history from the reporting on the Oscar Wilde trials of 1895 to the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969. Throughout these decades, gay Wisconsinites developed identities, created support networks, and found ways to thrive in their communities despite various forms of suppression—from the anti-vice crusades of the early twentieth century to the post-war labeling of homosexuality as an illness to the Lavender Scare of the 1950s. In We’ve Been Here All Along, R. Richard Wagner draws on historical research and materials from his own extensive archive to uncover previously hidden stories of gay Wisconsinites. This book honors their legacy and confirms that they have been foundational to the development and evolution of the state since its earliest days.”
Coming Out, Moving Forward: Wisconsin’s Recent Gay History documents events from Stonewall era on. Wagner continues to profile notable figures and chronicle important events. Topics covered include Wisconsin’s reaction to Stonewall and the state’s AIDS response. Wagner also covers recent history by region, with La Crosse and Eau Claire also receiving detailed mentions.
“Coming Out, Moving Forward, the second volume in R. Richard Wagner’s groundbreaking work on gay history in Wisconsin, outlines the challenges that LGBT Wisconsinites faced in their efforts to right past oppressions and secure equality in the post-Stonewall period between 1969 and 2000. During this era, Wisconsin made history as the first state to enact a gay rights law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. It also became the first state to elect three openly gay/lesbian persons to Congress. In this volume, R. Richard Wagner draws on historical research and materials from his extensive personal archive to not only chronicle an important movement, but also to tell the stories of the state’s LGBT pioneers—from legislators and elected officials to activists, businesspeople, and everyday citizens. Coming Out, Moving Forward documents the rich history of Wisconsin’s LGBT individuals and communities as they pushed back against injustice and found ways to live openly and proudly as themselves.”
Wagner’s books are well researched and come with not just citations, but suggestions for further reading. If you’re curious in a more in-depth detail of gay history in Wisconsin, these are definitely a great place to start. We really have always been here leaving our mark!
Additionally, we’re putting a couple historical romances on the shelf this month, more specifically, Civil War-related historical romance. Purgatory by Jeff Mann is set during the Civil War and is a gay romance between two soldiers. Grey Dawn by Nyri A. Bakkalian deals not just with the Civil War, but also time travel. It is a story of love across time between two women, one trans and from the present day, one a temporal refugee from the past.