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Rita Mae Brown
(November 28, 1944 - living) U.S.A.

Rita Mae Brown



Rita Mae was born in Hanover, Pennsylvania. By age 11 her parents moved to Florida, and with exception of stints in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, she has been a Southern woman ever since, as well as the best-known writer who is a lesbian in the US. Brown attended the University of Florida, In 1964, Rita Mae's participation in civil rights protests led to her expulsion from the segregated University of Florida at Gainesville.

From there, Brown moved to New York City, attended New York University, and participated in the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, and, ultimately, the Gay Liberation movement. She moved to Greenwich Village, New York, for a time, living in poverty and continuing her political activities. An early member of the National Organization for Women, she was expelled for demamnding greater recognition for its lesbian members.

In her autobiography she discusses her love affairs with the first openly gay person elected to an American state legislature, Elaine Noble, comedienne and author Fannie Flagg, tennis diva Martina Navratilova, and socialite Judy Nelson.

Rita Mae met Noble, also born in Pennsylvania, in Boston. Noble's rising star fell as she was caught up in a FBI sting. Their romance was short-lived. Rita Mae met Flagg in Los Angeles at a found-rising party. Navratilova was 22 when she first met Rita Mae. They eventually moved in together between 1979-81, but the pressures of Navratilova's very public career, and her constant need for love, made the relationship tense.

Rita Mae BrownIn 1969, she took a position as an editor for the newsletter of the fledgling National Organization for Women (NOW), though her tenure was short-lived. That same year, Ivy Bottini, an open lesbian who both designed NOW's logo (which is still in use) and served as president of the group's New York chapter, held a forum called "Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?" In response, NOW president Betty Friedan, who often spoke against lesbian participation in the feminist movement, fired Rita Mae and orchestrated the expulsion of Bottini and other openly lesbian women.

On May 1, 1970, Rita Mae led a group of radical lesbian feminists - calling themselves "The Lavender Menace" in reference to how Friedan described lesbianism's threat to feminism - to protest and interrupt the 1970 Congress to Unite Women. In large part due to the success of the protest, NOW soon passed a resolution protecting a woman's right to define and express her own sexuality.

In the early 1970s, Rita Mae helped found the D.C.-based Furries Collective, a lesbian feminist newspaper. Since 1977, she has lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she remains active in a number of political causes and she continues to write successful novels.



  • Rubyfruit Jungle (1973)
  • Six of One (1978)
  • Southern Comfort (1982)
  • Sudden Death (1983)
  • Rita Will (autobiography, 1997)
  • Loose Lips

Sources excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001 & http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

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