overview

From Lillian Wald’s founding of a public health facility for the poor, to Berenice Abbott’s photographs of a changing city, to Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun, lesbians have left an indelible mark on New York City since at least the mid-19th century.

Often rejecting traditional gender roles, they lived in same-sex relationships and forged careers in politics and the arts long before the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.

This curated collection includes the residences of pioneering lesbians as well as important early lesbian social spaces.

Header Photo caption

Poet Elsa Gidlow lived in Chelsea when she wrote On a Grey Thread (1923), believed to be the first book of openly lesbian poems to be published in North America. Source: Elsa, I Come with My Songs, p. 201. Courtesy of Shayne Watson.

On the Map

Featured Historic Sites (12)

A
2 Hylan Boulevard
Pioneering female photographer Alice Austen grew up in her family's home where she later lived with schoolteacher Gertrude Tate, her partner of 53 years. Austen's work includes early images of... Learn More
B
122 East 17th Street
Elsie de Wolfe, often credited as America’s first professional interior designer, and Elisabeth Marbury, one of the world’s leading, and pioneering female, theatrical agents and producers, lived together in this... Learn More
C
263-267 Henry Street
In 1893, public health nurse and progressive reformer Lillian Wald co-founded the Henry Street Settlement to provide no-cost medical services to poor immigrants living in cramped tenements on the Lower... Learn More
D
447 West 22nd Street
Poet Elsa Gidlow, though largely associated with the San Francisco Bay Area, likely wrote her groundbreaking book of poetry On a Grey Thread while living at this Manhattan address in... Learn More
E
171 West 12th Street
This building was one of many apartment houses in Greenwich Village that attracted same-sex couples. After its completion in 1923, this was home to a number of women in the... Learn More
F
129 Macdougal Street
“Eve Addams’” Tearoom was a popular after-theater club run by Polish-Jewish lesbian émigré Eva Kotchever (Czlotcheber) from 1925 to 1926. It closed when she was convicted of obscenity and disorderly... Learn More
G
50 Commerce Street
Noted photographer Berenice Abbott lived here with her partner, the influential art critic Elizabeth McCausland, from 1935 to 1965. Abbott is best known for her 1930s photographs featured in the... Learn More
H
130 West 3rd Street
Tony Pastor’s Downtown, in business from 1939 to 1967, was a mob-backed club with a mixed clientele but popular with lesbians. The New York State Liquor Authority revoked its liquor... Learn More
I
639 East 169th Street
Mabel Hampton was an African-American performer during the Harlem Renaissance and, in the 1970s and ‘80s, a key member of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. An icon of the New York... Learn More
J
29 Washington Square West
Between 1942 and 1949, this 16-story apartment building on MacDougal Street and Waverly Place was the New York City residence of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. During this time period, she... Learn More
K
112 Waverly Place
Using a portion of the profits from her wildly successful play A Raisin in the Sun (1959), the first African-American woman’s work seen on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry purchased this residence... Learn More
L
315 East 68th Street
The writer Mercedes de Acosta, known for her tell-all autobiography that detailed her love affairs with some of the world’s most famous women, lived in this apartment building in the... Learn More