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Mabel Hampton
(May 2, 1902 - October 26, 1989) U.S.A.

Mabel Hampton

Entertainer, activist


Mabel HamptonMabel Hampton, African-American lesbian activist, former domestic worker, was a self-educated dancer in Harlem; Lillian Foster was her partner of 40 years.

Mabel's mother died when Mabel was two months old and she was then raised by her grandmother, who died when she was seven. In 1909, Mabel moved to New York to live with an aunt and uncle; she ran away within a year, having been the victim of physical and sexual abuse.

In the mid-1920s, after spending time in prison for prostitution (of which she was falsely accused), Mabel was a dancer for a number of Harlem Renaissance stars, including Jackie "Moms" Mabley. In the early 1930s, Mabel started working as a cleaning lady for white families, including the family of Joan Nestle, who later co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives. In 1932, Mabel met Lillian Foster, and the couple lived as wives until Foster's death in the late 1970s.

Despite living in near-poverty, Mabel gave time and money to causes about which she was passionate; by the 1970s, she was active in gay and lesbian organizations. Her legacy is perhaps most profoundly manifest in the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the founders of which looked to Mabel as a mentor, and which houses Mabel's vast collection of memorabilia and writings; her collection provides a window into the black lesbian community of the pre-Stonewall era.

Butches - or studs, as they were also called - dressed in male attire, held doors for their femmes, and lit their cigarettes. But "I never considered myself being a man," Mabel Hampton, said of her butch identity. "I never liked the men that much. And anything I don't like, I don't take up."

In 1984, Mabel addressed New York City's Heritage of Pride celebration: "I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people." When Mabel Hampton died she was eighty-seven.


Sources: http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/ - et alii

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