Elsa Gidlow, who published America’s first book of lesbian love poetry and the first openly lesbian autobiography, helped invent the stereotype of the mellow, mindful, bed-hopping, pagan-worshiping, self-indulgent, perpetually seeking Northern Californian.
If intersectionality describes how different oppressions mimic one another, Elsa Gidlow’s life as a “poet-warrior” demonstrates what we could call sproutability: how different liberations blossom together. Born in England in 1898, Gidlow was a free spirit. She approached everything openly, expansively, from relationships to gardening, from writing to politics.
Raised in the Montreal suburbs in poverty and family misery, Gidlow turned her escapist reveries into poetry. She declared her independence early: from her family, traditional gender roles, heterosexuality, conventional politics, and French Catholic Quebec’s square spirituality.