Introduction and Credits
A Biography on Pink Paper
Defining LGBTQIA+ Identity in
the Early Twentieth Century
Lavender Ink: Introduction
to Writing and Publishing Queer Literature
Sexuality, Gender, and Transgression
A Biography on Pink Paper
For almost a century, Radclyffe Hall has been both a beloved and polarizing figure for queer people.
with her book The Well of Loneliness, a watershed text in lesbian literature that was one of the
portray a queer relationship in a sympathetic light, Hall remains an icon among queer authors. The text
serves as a source of inspiration to many young queer people who find kinship and familiarty in the story of
Stephen Gordon as she came to terms with her outsider status as a queer person in turn-of-the-century Great
Britian, many of whom described the book as a "survival guide." However, many queer people have taken issue
Hall due to her Fascist sympathies. The book, advocating for tolerance and acceptance for queer people (whom
Hall describes as "inverts"), found itself at the center of a media frenzy, being labled as "obscene" and
"immoral" by conservative cultural commentators who bristled at changing cultural attitudes regarding gender
sexuality. In terms of queer media representation, such a fight was not new, nor would Hall's obscenity trial
end regulation of queer texts. However, the politics of banned literature can sometimes have a neutralizing
effect on authorship, erasing the person behind the book and conflating them with the political conditions of
their time. Certainly authors are complicated and imperfect people, with Hall being no exception.
Her partner, Una Troubridge, had her own life and narrative. Buried with the words "Friend of Radclyffe
Hall" on her casket, Troubridge's life and contributions are worthy of remembrance and study. While Hall's
(over which Troubridge was deeply protective) dominates much of what people know about Troubridge, she too was
her own person with depth, interests, and intellect. Like Hall, Troubridge was an imperfect person. Both held
reactionary political beliefs typical of their class in regards to race, classism, and even gender
Both went even further by expressing support for Fascism in the 1930s, supporting the political suppression of
anti-fascist people and literature in Mussolini's Italy. Both Hall and Troubridge had difficulties in their
relationship, such as Hall's infidelity and Troubridge's overly controlling attitude towards Hall.
In many ways, the pair subvert expectations of politically radical or even feminist lifestyles audiences
have for a pioneering lesbian author and her partner. While same-gender relationships between women were not
illegal in the UK (unlike those between men), the pair still faced discrimination and unfavorable attitudes
towards queerness, particularly when queer women lived as relatively openly as Hall and Troubridge did. While
bohemian aristocratic groups (such as the popular Bloomsbury Set) held much more liberal views on gender and
sexuality, their leftist politics and disregard for gender norms were antithetical to Hall and Troubridge, who
were both politically and socially conservative and disliked those who they regarded as the embodiment of
This teaching guide seeks to tell a story about two people who remain simultaneously beloved and
queer communities. Many lesbian scholars still point to Hall's work as deeply influential. Many transgender
readers see familiarity with the fluctuating and inconcrete categories of gender in Hall's work and personal
beliefs. Troubridge's life after Hall's death, documented with scores of letters she wrote to her dead
allow insight into not only her role in shaping Hall's legacy, but also her own talents and interests as a
sculptor, translator, and patron of the arts.
Similarly, this guide does not shy away from the complicated and sometimes disturbing aspects of their
personalities. From their political views to interpersonal behaviors that bordered on abusive, their choices
people and disregard for the human casualties of their beliefs likewise divide queer readers as to whether or
not their works and biographies are worthy of fond remembrance. While this guide does not endorse one view
the other, it does seek to give educators and students the opportunity to approach those questions with the
information necessary to formulate answers for themselves. This introductory section provides a biographic
overview of both Hall and Troubridge, whose personal papers make up the foundation of this teaching guide. It
provides biographical and historical context that seeks to go beyond a hagiography and engage more deeply with
contemporary debates about Hall's and Troubridge's lives and works.
The Problem with Hall: a Summary of Methods and Pedagogical Choices
While queer history is long and nuanced, much of what is officially documented about queer people appears
relatively recently. Laws, cultural conventions, and personal beliefs leave queer historians with a
complicated task when it comes to sorting through intricate, delicate, and deeply personal information in the
lives of long-dead people. This is certainly not easy work. Many of the decisions archivists, educators,
biographers, and scholars make are difficult, thorny, and open to criticism. Each choice made means the
rejection of another choice. In many cases, these choices are political. For example, many words and terms we
use to describe queer relationships and a range of genders are also relatively recent. While queer and
transgender people (to use contemporary parlance) have always existed, the vocabulary modern audiences might
use to describe them have not. How does one refer to a long-dead queer person who self-described as a "woman
trapped in a man's body?" While it is possible that such a person might identify as a transgender person in
the present, it is also possible they would not. The decision to label them as transgender is innately
difficult, with different transgender historians advocating for and against the appropriateness of such a
choice. Below is a brief overview of the methods and approaches taken when constructing this teaching guide.
All of them should be read as an invitation for discussion with the understanding that all choices were
difficult and the ultimate decisions complicated and imperfect. Educators might benefit from posing these
questions to students as they approach this teaching guide. Similarly, students could and should question what
decisions they might have made if given the opportunity.
Radclyffe Hall, Letter to Evguenia Souline signed "John," July 31, 1934.
Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers 46.5
Hall used the name "John" in more familiar writing to friends and partners. The intimate term is
particularly interesting to queer theorists. Hall approached questions of sexuality and gender through
lens of "inversion," a term that encompassed any out-of-place sexual or gender identities in the time
which Hall lived and wrote. Publicly and professionally, Hall used the name "Radclyffe" and publicly
identified as female. There were documented examples of people who today we might describe as
transgender living their lives unambiguously in contrast to their assigned gender at birth. People
assigned female adopted masculine names, used masculine pronouns, and lived much of their adult lives
men. In those situations, decisions about pronouns, names, and identities are easier to make, as such
choices would adhere to how that person lived and identified.
Hall, assigned female at birth, did not seem content to live within the gendered expectations of
Victorian "womanhood" (though she did believe deeply that others should) and many - although not all -
queer biographers, historians, and literary scholars have read her writing and biography through a
Similarly, many trans people might likely identify with some of the ways Hall describes the
of gender. This teaching guide also recognizes the significant value and importance Hall has to
readers and scholars, for whom Hall's identity as a lesbian woman is also significant.
For the purposes of this teaching guide, Hall will largely be referred to by last name. Referring
Hall as "John" would indicate a level of intimacy and familiarity that Hall seemed protective of in
private writings. When a full name is used, it will be as "Radclyffe Hall," as this teaching guide is
intended for a public audience. This is done with the recognition that such a choice is difficult and
debatable. Transgender people often choose names that better fit their personalities and genders, and
Hall's use of the masculine name "John" could fit within an identifiable pattern of chosen name vs.
"dead name" (a name that one is assigned at birth, but abandons later for something more in line with
their gender identity). However, it is impossible for historians to know what choices Hall would make
the present day. As such, this guide does not wish to make those choices for Hall.
The question of pronoun usage even in the present can be complicated and changeable (with many
people using a range of pronouns until they find the most appropriate one). While historical record
give us people from the past who used pronouns at odds with their assigned sex at birth, Hall
identified as a woman when it came to political issues (such as suffrage and debating gender roles).
Nothing in Hall's writing indicates a preference for pronouns other than she/her. While there is no
to know what pronouns Hall might use in the present, using "they" or "he" pronouns in the teaching
assumes too much editorial authority when it comes to posthumous gender assignment and negates the
personal choice of living transgender people to select the pronouns that match their genders.
Furthermore, to disregard "she/her" pronouns also erases the political aspects of living a woman in a
deeply sexist society that Hall experienced, voiced, and occasionally endorsed. The process
people undertake of choosing pronouns that correctly match gender identity is a brave and often
fluctuating act, and we recognize that many who might interpret Hall as being a gender besides a
cisgender woman might find this decision painful. This is by no means an end of debate on how pronouns
should be used for dead figures who some might read as transgender. However, as Hall never publicly
identified as transgender nor used pronouns other than she/her, this teaching guide will adhere to
strictures while naming and recognizing that it is an imperfect and potentially hurtful solution.
Unidentified photographer, Two actors, one in drag, pose on garden furniture, 1918.
Wellcome Library 2043455i
For the purposes of clarity, certain terms used in this collection need contextualization.
Generally speaking, LGBTQIA+ scholars have used the terms "queer" and "queerness" in recent years
broadly describe sexualities and genders existing outside of cisgender and heterosexual identity.
Despite its history as a slur in American English, "queer" offers space for a spectrum of sexualities
and genders that might not easily fit within less flexible definitions. While this term is also
ahistorical for describing the lives of people like Hall and Troubridge who would not have used it, it
offers space for multiple interpretations on the parts of readers and does not seek to strictly
categorize genders and sexualities that cannot be easily compartmentalized. For example, the artifact
here, a postcard featuring two actors (with one in drag) might be described as queer. While we do not
necessarily know the context in which the postcard was made, it breaks from cisgender and heterosexual
practices, opening it up to a "queer reading."
Hall and Troubridge used the term "inverts," a term popular with sexual psychiatrists and
during their lifetime to describe anyone whose gender and sexuality did not match what modern readers
might describe as cisgender and heterosexual identity. When it is historically appropriate, the
guide will use the term "inverts" for purposes of context. However, its highly medicalized nature
be contentious in contemporary queer spaces, where many queer people have worked actively to shake off
institutional terms and overly-medical definitions for different genders and sexualities.
Lastly, this guide does not wish to shy away from the term "lesbian." Many lesbian scholars and
use the term to not only describe a relationship between two women, but also as a political statement
that rejects patriarchal norms and seeks to position women's sexuality outside of male influence and
control. Hall and Troubridge both had a complex relationship with patriarchal norms. While they lived
two women in an emotional and sexual relationship, their personal and public writings are often more
favorable to traditional gender roles and a rhetorical reliance on "exceptional" women than one might
imagine. However, the use of the term "lesbian" seeks to honor the contributions of lesbian authors,
readers, and scholars who have long defended The Well of Loneliness and its author and insisted
historical and cultural significance.
P. R. Stephensen, The Well of Sleevelessness (London: Scholartis Press, 1929).
University of London Senate House Library PR6037.T255|bW4 1929
The question of queer privacy when it comes to the archive is, again, not easily answered. For
queer people, public discretion and an ability to have a separate "private" life was often the only
protection they had from jail, social stigma, or even physical violence. Often, we are only able to
unambiguous evidence of queer identity in papers and documents the authors guarded with fierce
Hall and Troubridge, not living in a state of financial or social precarity, took less of a risk than
others might by living relatively openly in their queerness. However, the choice to expose personal
letters, documents, and artifacts is a political one that often directly challenges the concept of
That being said, this teaching guide often relies on the narratives of queer people who were only
revealed to be queer to the general public after their deaths. The fact that Hall and Troubridge lived
relatively openly as lesbians in their lifetimes makes this challenge less contentious. As their
sexualities were well-known and appear unambiguously in Hall's published work, the contents of their
private letters does not risk "outing" them. However, other authors present more challenges. In terms
methods, this guide seeks to follow a system of creating dialogue that recognizes the broadness of
scholarship and research methods. It uses queer feminist research methods that break from duplicating
harm and patriarchal, queerphobic institutions. This method attempts to put historical figures in the
context of their lives while not giving them a free pass for harmful beliefs and actions. However,
methods also center that the standard of behavior for historical figures from marginalized communities
is much higher than for those who lived with more access to power. As such, this teaching guide makes
the decision to engage with material and scholarship that are already publicly available and engage
queer figures and authors who are already understood as "queer." It does not "out" any new authors,
regardless of whether they are alive or dead. However, it does not uphold a
cisgender-and-heteronormative worldview that all people are cis and heterosexual until proven
It leaves room for readers to develop their own questions about artifacts and should be seen as an
invitation for conversation rather than any authoritative guide. It simply seeks to provide archival
material that might be useful when it comes to thinking about the legacies of Hall and Troubridge and
context around not only their creative work, but of other queer authors and artists.
Beresford Egan, The Sink of Solitude (London: Hermes Press, 1928).
University of London Senate House Library 741.5942|219
This teaching guide has an expressed goal of not shying away from disturbing and difficult
Queer history and archival practices are not aided by writing overly charitable depictions of
people, and, as such, this teaching guide seeks to critically examine less favorable aspects of both
Hall's and Troubridge's lives and creative works.
Similarly, this guide acknowledges that homophobia often manifests through holding queer people
higher standards than cisgender and heterosexual people who shared similar beliefs and behaviors. This
guide seeks to work against that trend as well, adding context to certain beliefs and tropes that
in Hall's and Troubridge's papers while also bringing to light their racist and classist beliefs,
horizontal oppression towards other women, or their reactionary politics.
When Una Met John: Partnerships and Fidelity
By the standards of the upper-middle class, Radclyffe Hall did not enjoy an especially pleasant
wealthy father abandoned her in infancy and left her in the care of a deeply self-centered and resentful
Not particularly well-educated even by the gendered divides of the time, Hall quickly realized her
wealth gave her a degree of independence. She would never have to think about marriage or working a job, and,
such, she dressed as she liked. Believing herself more "man-like" in accordance with gender expectations of
time, she fancied herself a solid businesswoman, valued her assertiveness, and began acting on her attraction
women by the age of 17 (Vargo).
Una Troubridge grew up in genteel poverty, the child of a family who lost their fortune, but maintained a
respectable name. Unlike Hall, she was relatively well-educated, having attended the Royal College of Art in
1907 and shown an aptitude for sculpting. Marrying a much older man to stabilize her family's income after her
father died, Troubridge found herself quickly in an unhappy marriage where she felt little chemistry with her
partner, Ernest Troubridge.
While Hall's and Troubridge's relationship with each other became the defining partnership for both
was certainly not an easy one. The two began an affair while both partnered to other people, deeply hurting
betraying their partners in the process. Furthermore, their partnership experienced additional long-term
when Hall began an affair with Evguenia Souline, a Russian nurse.
While Troubridge remained partnered to Hall and seemingly blamed Souline for the affair, she too felt
hurt and betrayed by Hall's relatively open pursuit of Souline. Hall, for her part, was not against using her
considerable wealth to control those around her. She frequently gave allowances to her partners, and, more
problematically, would threaten to withhold money if they did not do as she pleased. She left multiple written
records of veiled insinuations that she would disinherit Souline if she did something that very much
her (though she would ultimately leave her entire estate to Troubridge).
Troubridge, for her part, was deeply controlling of Hall, restricting her access to others, making
decisions about her health, and indulging her with food and drink she requested against the advice of her
doctors when her health began deteriorating in the final years of her life. Even after Hall's death,
exerted disproportionate control over Hall's estate and memory. She turned her ire towards Souline, minimizing
her role in Hall's life as she began constructing a biography of her dead partner and writing letters to the
now-dead Hall in which she attempted to reconstruct a deeply flattering depiction of their partnership.
To some degree, this section seeks to tackle the impossibly high standards that queer relationships are
Educators and students might question what metrics are useful when it comes to analyzing complicated
and determining what bearing someone's personal life has on how their creative work is understood. Like all
relationships, Hall's and Troubridge's had its difficulties, aided by the less appealing aspects of the
personalities of both women. Their relationship was indeed loving and significant to both Hall and Troubridge,
who depended on each other and shared a life together. However, this section also seeks to examine the less
flattering aspects of a relationship that was at times strained and how that relationship influences their
legacies and biographies.
Unidentified photographer, Mabel Batten posing with pet dog and bird, before 1916.
Hall met the celebrated vocalist Mabel Batten in August, 1907. 24 years Hall's senior, Batten
the first long-term queer relationship of Hall's adult life. Nicknamed Layde, Batten had a profound
influence on Hall, encouraging her conversion to Catholicism, giving Hall the nickname "John" she
use as an intimate moniker for the rest of her life, and introducing her to a wider social circle of
queer women (Cline 58-67).
Hall and Batten began living together after the death of Batten's husband, and the two lived a
relatively eventful social life, attending plays, opera, reading prolifically, and, for Hall,
poetry and short creative work (Hamer 94).
Of further influence was Batten's role in introducing Hall to Una Troubridge (Batten's cousin) in
Unfortunately for Batten, the young, energetic Troubridge and Hall found themselves deeply attracted
each other. With Batten's health failing, Hall remained with her, but began an affair with Troubridge
1915, a situation which deeply disturbed and hurt Batten, who died the following year.
Unidentified photographer, Mabel Batten and Radclyffe Hall posing with their pets, before
Here are Batten and Hall with several of their pets.
Both Hall and Troubridge felt some degree of guilt over their affair, with Hall privately
grief of it had hastened Batten's death prematurely. Hall and Troubridge, now living together, began
attend seances in hopes of reaching the now-deceased Batten from beyond the grave.
Though Hall would live with Troubridge until her own death in 1943, she would eventually be
to Batten in Highgate Cemetery in London. Troubridge, whose written wish to be buried with Hall was
seen until much later, was buried in Rome after her death in 1963, one month prior to the 20-year
anniversary of Hall's passing.
Bassano Ltd., photographers, Ernest Troubridge, 1911.
National Portrait Gallery, London NPG x84932
Una Vincenzo married Ernest Troubridge in 1908. He was a naval officer 25 years her senior, and
married him to stabilize her family's precarious financial situation after the death of her father.
known for her excellent skills as a host and conversationalist, was well regarded in her husband's
social circles. While their marriage was initially warm, the two never enjoyed a gratifying sexual
relationship, and she sought professional help to aid in their marital problems.
The pair welcomed their first and only child in 1910: a daughter named Andrea. By the time
began her relationship with Hall in 1915, their marriage was beyond repair. They separated four years
later, and Ernest Troubridge died in 1926 (Hamer 94). His status as a naval officer, however, made him
influential in many social circles. Several of his friends would attempt to professionally impede both
Hall and Troubridge for years after the marriage fell apart.
Unidentified photographer, Evguenia Souline, undated.
Book Collection PR 6015 A33 Z62 1997b
Hall and Troubridge hired Souline, a Russian nurse, to care for Troubridge after she fell ill
digestive illness in the early 1930s. Hall and Souline soon began an affair which, as with Batten,
caused Troubridge significant mental anguish and pain. Unwilling to separate from Hall, Troubridge
with the on-going affair, though doing so required a tremendous amount of emotional repression and a
posthumous reappraisal of her relationship with Hall that at times bordered on delusional.
Hall's relationship with Souline, while deep and intimate, was not without trouble. Hall
threatened to provide financial support for Souline only if she did as Hall demanded, often
to disinherit her over what Hall perceived to be infractions or disobedience.
Una Troubridge, "To The Executors of My Will," September 23, 1944.
Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers 36.1
Una Troubridge pairs her personal acrimony for Souline with perhaps overly effusive praise for
deceased Hall in this letter related to Hall's wishes as she died of cancer in 1943. While Hall
initially made provisions for Souline in her will, she revoked it on her deathbed in favor of
Troubridge, who gave only a small amount of money to Souline (one year, she sent her a 5 pound note as
Christmas gift) (Souhami). When Souline was later dying from cancer, Troubridge refused to pay her
medical bills, inquiring why she could not simply rely on the British National Health Service for
In this letter, she details the destruction of diaries and other "evidence" related to Souline's
Hall's relationship that she felt might be improperly used. Considering Troubridge's significant role
posthumous publications about Hall and shaping public memory of her former partner, the deeply painful
affair between Hall and Souline seems to be something she wished to quite literally erase from
In this endeavor, Troubridge was unsuccessful. Souline preserved her letters from Hall, and their
records detail a relationship more significant and meaningful to Hall than Troubridge would have liked
those outside the relationship to believe.
Una Troubridge, Notebook entry on Nicola Rossi-Lemini, undated.
Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers 34.1
Memories of Hall and her personal antipathy towards Souline did not exclusively occupy the two
of her life that Troubridge spent as a widow. She developed and sustained a deep friendship with the
opera singer Nicola Rossi-Lemini and his wife, the Romanian soprano Virginia Zeani. Acting as what she
believed to be a maternal, stable figure for "Nika" (as she called him), Troubridge followed his
around the world, watching his performances, frequently spending time with his family, and purchasing
costumes for him. She gifted him Hall's sapphire cufflinks, and aided him by acting as a confidante,
answering his fan mail, and using her skills as a translator to transcribe lyrics from English to
Italian when necessary (Souhami).
Flouting Convention, Conventional Flouting
While the publication of and subsequent controversy over The Well of Loneliness dominates discourse of
life, her personal life and beliefs offer a portrait of someone who deeply admired and aspired to upper class
conventions of the day with her partner Una, Lady Troubridge. Modern-minded people in some regards (such as
their interest in scientific innovations and politics), the couple openly professed a complicated and
system of beliefs that in many ways mirrored the same conventions that critics would accuse Hall of attacking.
These documents are designed to challenge an overly simplistic and inaccurate view of Hall and Troubridge as
those seeking to disrupt a conservative culture still deeply invested in Victorian convention. Their
as queer people did not necessarily divorce them from the expectations of the social classes in which they
up. If anything, their biographies reveal some degree of admiration towards the conservative and conventional
when it came to positioning their respective lives in a favorable light by the standards of pre-World War II
British society. Educators and students can consider the ways in which the pair held many of the conventional
beliefs that came with the privileges of whiteness and wealth in a culture that rewarded both. However, as
people, the pair also experienced some degree of precarity in relation to their surroundings. How do
contemporary readers examine the ways in which the imperfections and prejudices of a culture manifest
in the writings of those we view as being outside of such belief systems? What impact does that have on the
legacy of authors? Would we hold heterosexual authors to the same standards or as easily expect them to be
Unidentified photographer, Emmeline Pankhurst at the war meeting in Trafalgar Square,
TopFoto 3062181 / Europeana
Hall was an occasionally strained supporter of the suffrage movement. However, like many upper
middle-class suffragettes, Hall's vision for women's right to the ballot was more a responsibility for
wealthy women rather than a rallying cry to bridge the political divides between women of all
Emmeline Pankhurst, pictured here, eventually advocated property destruction (such as breaking
and blowing up mailboxes) as political tools for securing the vote for women. Hall, outraged by
Pankhurst's tactics, wrote an anonymous letter, stating, ''According to Mrs. Pankhurst, they are
resorting to the methods of the miners! Since when have English ladies regulated their conduct by that
of the working classes?'' (Mallon, 1985).
Hall was certainly not unique amongst her class when it came to such an opinion. Furthermore,
suffragettes used the fact that indigenous women were voting in New Zealand to stress their perceived
outrage of non-white women voting while white British women went without. However, rather than offer a
picture of women's suffrage in the United Kingdom as a unified effort looking to secure the vote for
women, Hall's limited endorsement of the right to vote illuminates how class and loyalty to convention
complicated the history of the British suffrage movement.
Fox Photos, Radclyffe Hall with Una Troubridge, August 1, 1927.
Hall and Troubridge at least publicly endorsed the notion of gender roles in a marriage,
sexuality or gender identity. During a pair of interviews with the lesbian journalist Evelyn Irons,
described her relationship with Troubridge as relatively in line with the conventional standards of
British domesticity at the time. However, in her second interview (entitled "Woman's Place is the
Home"), she divides women into two categories: the conventional and the exceptionally talented
"potential Amazon" (Jagose).
It is, of course, possible that the public presentation of a relatively conventional marriage
between Hall and Troubridge did not match reality. Furthermore, due to the proximity of these
to the debut and controversy surrounding The Well of Loneliness, publicity generation might
motivated their appearance. However, it does portray at least some awareness of gendered expectations
within a marriage between the pair that did not greatly challenge social conventions of the day.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "In the Valley of the Elwy," May 23, 1877.
Gerard Manley Hopkins Collection 1.1
Like Hall, Gerard Manley Hopkins was an English Catholic with deeply-held religious beliefs. Hall
Troubridge followed Catholic church politics throughout their lives, with both expressing support for
Pope Pius XII, commending him for his good relationship with Mussolinni, and attending his coronation
mass in 1939.
Hall converted to Catholicism in 1912 under the influence of Mabel Batten (who kept photographs
Pope in her bedroom when she became too ill to attend mass), her partner and herself a Catholic
Troubridge, too, converted to Catholicism. For Hall, Catholic themes and deep belief in spiritual
responsibility appear regularly throughout her work as she sought to reconcile her seemingly
contradictory status as a Catholic queer person. Stephen, for example, compares "inversion" (a broad
term for anyone who did not adequately perform gender and sexual behavior) to the mark of Cain from
Genesis in The Well of Loneliness.
While perhaps unusual-sounding to modern readers, Hall and Troubridge both belong to a relatively
populous history of famous queer Catholics, including Oscar Wilde and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Furthermore, other queer authors, such as Henry James and Willa Cather, relied deeply on religious
themes as framing devices in their works.
A Jesuit priest by training, Hopkins's religious poetry contained deeply homoerotic undertones
private letters indicate a desire to suppress his own sexual thoughts through his writing (Edge,
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness, manuscript, undated.
Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers 13.1
Sharing her name with the first Christian martyr, the Catholic Saint Stephen, Stephen Gordon (the
protagonist of The Well of Loneliness) is both deeply religious and drawn to sexual psychiatry
orienting forces when it comes to understanding her lesbian desire.
While Hall's biographers debate the degree to which readers should understand Stephen Gordon as
autobiographical reflection of Hall, Stephen undoubtedly shares Hall's deep spiritual interest in
Catholicism, seeking to pair it with early twentieth-century discourses in medicine around sexuality
Unidentified author, "Lady Troubridge's Feat," clipping in scrapbook. May 7, 1922.
PEN (Organization) Records 112.7
Hall and Troubridge were both members of PEN International. Founded in 1921, the organization
protect free expression and the open exchange of ideas.
For Hall and Troubridge, this network would prove useful during The Well of Loneliness's
several other members of PEN rushed to their defense.
However, their membership in PEN and commitment to free expression seemed contrary to their
the censorship of anti-fascist literature during their time in Italy.
Radclyffe Hall, "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself," manuscript, undated.
Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers 19.1
Hall's insistence that she spoke for "misfits," is largely a self-awarded distinction. Certainly
sympathizing for her protagonists, such as Stephen Gordon and the titular Miss Ogilvy, Hall's
understanding of misfits did not extend much further than those outcasts with whom she personally
Eugenics, a pseudo-science that held only certain people were "fit" to reproduce due to their
genetics, permeates the queer sexualities Hall describes. To be sure, Hall was one of many who gave
credence to the idea at the time. In Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself, seen in the image, Hall
"inverts" as valuable members of society who could, Hall argues, contribute to reproduction and the
protection of superior races (Funke). If inverts could reproduce, Hall argues, they would be valuable
assets on the frontlines of protecting genetic purity rather than be the threat to the future that
eugenicists argued they were.
In this regard, Hall's work at times teeters towards a queer anti-radicalism. Rather than reject
cultural demands of women like motherhood and reproduction, Hall holds out hope that inverts - if they
were only to be accepted - could contribute to the same culture that oppressed them.
"A Born Fanatic"
Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge were both people of strong opinions. Troubridge referred to Hall as a
fanatic." Undoubtedly Hall did not shy away from controversy, nor was she hesitant to let her views be known
those around her. That outspokenness leaves behind a relatively well-documented legacy of political beliefs
both Hall and Troubridge. The accusations of Hall and Troubridge being "soft supporters of fascism" are
understated. While references to Hitler appear in their writings in relatively neutral terms (with Hall saying
he only wanted "justice" and commending him for keeping order in Czechoslovakia and other small countries she
regarded as an "awful menace") (Suhami), they were indeed committed fascists. Of higher esteem in their
was Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini, who Troubridge described as a "genius and a good man," (Suhami). Of
course, Hall and Troubridge were not alone in their problematic admiration for Mussolini and their bigotry and
fear towards those they deemed inferior. The American poet Ezra Pound, for example, likewise publicly admired
Mussolini and professed antisemitic views (as did T. S. Eliot, a contemporary of Hall's and frequent
collaborator with Pound). Gertrude Stein (herself a Jew and a lesbian) infamously offered to serve as a
propagandist for the Vichy French government (a Nazi puppet state). However, to disregard or trivialize Hall's
and Troubridge's involvement with fascism (to the point of suppressing the freedom of the press), vocal
antisemitism, and political support for eugenics would paint an incomplete portrait of two women who held
far-right political views and more than once used the weight of their celebrity to serve on the side of
Educators might ask students what role personal politics play in one's writing or if it is even possible to
divorce political beliefs from themes in writing. Students might, in turn, think about how the realities of
Hall's and Troubridge's political beliefs complicates or does not complicate their legacies. What roles do
supremacy, racism, and a sincere belief that certain people were inherently and genetically superior to others
play in the biographies of the two women and their positions as significant queer historical figures?
Unidentified photographer, Fascist salute to the Italian flag, undated.
Promoter Gallery 285/ Europeana
Hall and Troubridge flew the Fascist flag and Union Jack outside their Florence home while living
Italy before the outbreak of World War Two forced them back to the United Kingdom, where Hall would
Unidentified artist, "La Via Del Mar Rosso Un Mare Rosso Di Sangue," 1944.
U.S. Holocaust Museum 2016.184.561
"Yes, I am beginning to be really afraid of them, not of the one or two really dear Jewish
I have in England, no, but of Jews as a whole. I believe they hate us and want to bring about a
war and then world revolution in order to destroy us utterly," Hall wrote to Souline while she and
Troubridge lived in fascist Italy (Suhami). Hall certainly knew Jewish people, including the ones she
references. Leonard Woolf, a Jewish man, had been one of her public defenders during The Well of
Loneliness's public trial.
Antisemitic beliefs were not uncommon in the upper-middle class social circles in which Hall and
Troubridge would have lived, but the casual stereotyping of Jews as power-hungry and sneaky seems to
give way here to an even more sinister depiction of Jews as seeking to destroy the world and, Hall
feared, eliminate Christianity. Such were frequent tropes anti-semites used in propaganda. While the
Italian fascists were less hostile to Jews than the Germans and did not begin seriously restricting
rights of Italian Jews until 1938, the Nazi puppet state established after Mussolini's deposition in
1943 murdered over 7,000 Jewish Italians.
The Italian Nazi puppet state crafted this poster in 1944. A piece of antisemitic propaganda, it
on similar fears to the one Hall describes in which Jews are money-hungry war mongers out to
off of European conflict.
James Agee, Statement on Ezra Pound, manuscript, undated.
James Agee Collection 8.12
Author James Agee comments on the complicated legacy of Ezra Pound as both poet and public
sympathizer and anti-semite. Pound spent over a decade of his life in psychiatric care, after making
radio broadcasts for the Nazi puppet state in Italy where he supported eugenics and fascist
anti-semitism in hundreds of addresses he composed before being arrested for treason. Agee's statement
seeks to address similar questions that this teaching guide touches upon. While Hall's and
relationship with the Italian fascists was not as deep or sustained as Pound's, the question of how
politics influence how one's writing is appraised proves difficult to answer for Agee, who composed
while Pound was still living.
Valentine Ackland, "Reflections at the telephone," manuscript, undated.
Genesis: Grasp Collection 1.11
The Spanish Civil War divided British sympathies between fascism and communism. The lesbian poet
Valentine Ackland and her partner, the short story author Sylvia Townsend Warner, were members of the
Communist Party. Like Hall, Ackland typically dressed in masculine clothes, wore short hair, and
rejected her feminine birth name for something more masculine. Like Hall, she engaged in an extended
affair (with American author Elizabeth Wade White) that caused her partner considerable pain. Like
she spent her final years critically ill from cancer. Like Hall, she had been a Catholic (though later
left the church to become a Quaker). Her personal politics brought her under close scrutiny from the
British government, and her work went unread until it experienced a revival during the 1970s in
lesbian-feminist literary circles.
Her confessional style of poetry fit in more neatly with the leftist British literary circles
clashed with Hall's more conservative views.
George Platt Lynes, photographer, John Gunther, undated.
George Platt Lynes Collection 2002:0045:0016
John Gunther's Inside Europe was banned by the Italian fascists for its portrayal of
government. While living in Fascist Italy, Hall and Troubridge subscribed to an English library run by
Lillian Baird Douglas, who, Troubridge learned, stocked books banned by the government, including
Despite Hall's and Troubridge's intimate relationship with the censorship and hostility
surrounding The Well of Loneliness just a decade before and despite the pair's membership in
PEN, an organization
dedicated to free expression, Troubridge promptly reported Douglas to the authorities for publishing a
banned book and ruined Douglas's reputation by accusing her of being an alcohol and morphine addict
Unidentified photographer, Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, 1972.
Film Stills Collection CA-27
Based on gay author Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, the musical and subsequent film
examines the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany through the prospective of a queer writer living in
Berlin as the increasingly sinister objectives of Hitler and the Nazi Party become clear.
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welcome updates or corrections. Upon request, we'll remove material from public view while we address a rights issue. The unpublished works,
correspondence, diaries, and daybooks of Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge are under copyright in the United
States. The Ransom Center is grateful to Alessandro Rossi Lemeni Makedon, the representative of Troubridge's
estate, who has granted permission for the Center to share the papers of Troubridge.