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Sexual Politics, Peace and Place: LGBT+ History Month / Outing the Past Hub

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Join us to hear from LGBT History experts on intersections between sexuality and politics: peace, AIDS awareness and local activism.

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Join us to hear from LGBT History experts on intersections between sexuality and politics. Jo Somerset talks on two pioneering women in the peace movement, Cathal Kerrigan talks on the progressive response to AIDS and Mary Burgess talks on LGBT+ groups in Cambridgeshire.

Jo Somerset on Sybil and Myrtle: Stalwarts of the British Peace Movement

In a movement dominated by men but serviced by strong women, Sybil Morrison and Myrtle Solomon were instrumental in enabling the 'turn' from narrow pacifism to incorporating wider LGBT issues, women's liberation and anti-racism into the vision of peace and freedom.

Myrtle Solomon and Sybil Morrison were close friends, united by a belief in pacifism. Despite an age gap of nearly 30 years (Sybil was born in 1893, Myrtle in 1921), they were both stalwarts of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) which was established in 1936 in an attempt to stem the tide which would lead to the second world war. 100,000 British people signed the pledge initiated by Reverend Dick Sheppard: “I renounce war and will never support or sanction another.” As members of the Jewish community, Myrtle’s family actively helped refugees escaping Nazism. Post-war, the PPU was fronted by famous men, but it was women behind the scenes – particularly Sybil and Myrtle – who made the organisation succeed. Both women considered women’s rights as integral to a peaceful society. Sybil was a vociferous suffragist and Chair of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Myrtle campaigned for equal pay and for women to become Members of Parliament. Although it escaped many people’s notice, the two women were also lesbians. Indeed, Sybil is reputed to have been ‘the most famous dyke in London’ during the 1930s. Little has been written about their role in integrating ‘sexual politics’ into the peace movement, and this study will reveal how they came out during Myrtle’s tenure as Chair of the War Resisters’ International from 1975, responding to gay liberation activists of that time. Sybil died in 1984, and Myrtle three years later. In this last period, they lived together, Myrtle caring for her fellow activist and sister lesbian in testament to a 40-year friendship that had changed the face of the peace movement.

Cathal Kerrigan on The Politics of AIDS

it shows how within the fear and confusion of AIDS in the late 1980s, activists struggled to understand, analyse and develop clear objectives around the issue.

The talk looks at the attempts of politically progressive activists - gay and straight - attempt to analyse the effect of AIDS and how best to react to it. It does this by describing an event organised by a left-wing group in Dublin in the late 1980s with one speaker having worked with WHO in Africa and an organiser with the local gay AIDS group. The handout distributed by the local activist will be used to illustrate the talk. The handout is based on a reading of Cindy Patton's book on the politics of AIDS. The talk will highlight how even in the confusion of the times people tried to analyse rationally so as to be able to act most effectively and progressively.

Mary Burgess on LGBTQ+ records in Cambridgeshire

A history of LGBTQ groups in Cambridge from 1970s through to 2000s, using archival records of the societies themselves. This history isn’t widely known and I aim to bring this to the attention of a new audience.

A history of LGBTQ+ groups in Cambridge and the county from the 1970s through to the 2000s and their impact in Cambridge using the resources of the Cambridgeshire Collection, Cambridgeshire’s local studies library, including the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the Cambridge Gay Group. In addition, the Hall Carpenter Archive at LSE Library holds records of the Cambridge CHE Group.

For more information on the Hall Carpenter collection, see our highlights page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/library/collection-highlights/lgbt-collections

@OTPFest22 #OTPFest22 #LGBTHM22

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The British Library of Political and Economic Science (@LSELibrary) was founded in 1896, a year after the London School of Economics and Political Science. It has been based in the Lionel Robbins Building since 1978 and houses many world class collections, including The Women's Library.

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