overview

Many LGBT individuals are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, one of the most beautiful landscapes in America.

Here one can visit the gravesites of such famous individuals as Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb, and Emma Stebbins.

Header Photo

Credit: Amanda Davis/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

On the Map

History

Bucolic Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1832, is the final resting place of many members of the LGBT community. Well-known figures include:

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), a prominent composer for symphony orchestras, Broadway musicals, such as On the Town (1944) and West Side Story (1957), and films, including On the Waterfront (1954), and one of the most important and charismatic conductors of the 20th century, notably at the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein lived at the Osborne and Dakota Apartments.

Elizabeth Cushier (1837-1931), a leading 19th-century obstetrician and surgeon at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and a professor of medicine at its Women’s Medical College, which were both co-founded by her partner Emily Blackwell (1821-1910), an eminent English-born physician who was the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. The couple lived together in New York City from 1882 to c. 1900 and were together 28 years until Blackwell’s death in 1910. Blackwell’s ashes were buried in the graveyard of St. Munn’s Parish Church in Scotland.

Fred Ebb (1928-2004), a musical theater lyricist who, as part of the team of Kander and Ebb, wrote the lyrics for such musicals as Cabaret (1966) and Chicago (1975). He is interred in a mausoleum with Edwin Aldridge and Martin Cohen.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), a composer and pianist who was a virtuoso performer of his own music. After the Angel of the Music statue at his grave site was vandalized in 1959, Green-Wood Cemetery raised funds over a nearly 15-year period to create a new version, which was unveiled in 2012.

Augustus Graham (born Richard King; 1776-1851) and John Bell Graham (born John Bell; ?-1853), important figures in early 19th century Brooklyn, were buried here, though not together. After Augustus left his wife and children, he and John adopted the last name Graham, moved in together, and posed as brothers. There was speculation at the time, and in the years that followed, that these clues indicated a same-sex relationship. Augustus founded the Apprentices’ Library in Brooklyn Heights in 1824, which later became the Brooklyn Institute and finally the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 1851, John founded the Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged, Indigent Females, which later became the Graham Home for Old Ladies (it was converted to condos in 2001).

Dr. Emery S. Hetrick (1931-1987) and Dr. A. Damien Martin (1933-1991), founders of the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth (later renamed the Hetrick-Martin Institute) and Harvey Milk High School. Their gravestone includes the inscription, “Death ends a life, not a relationship”.

Richard Isay (1934-2012), a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, author, and LGBT rights activist. He spearheaded a campaign resulting in the changes to the homophobic policies of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) in 1991 and was also the organization’s first openly gay member. The “Loving Husbands” inscription on his gravestone is believed to be the first, and possibly only, such example at Green-Wood that explicitly commemorates a same-sex union.

Paul Jabara (1948-1992), a Lebanese-American singer/songwriter and actor who wrote songs for artists such as Donna Summers, including her hit Last Dance (1978), and Barbra Streisand. He also co-wrote and co-composed the hit song It’s Raining Men (1982) for the Weather Girls. As a performer, Jabara was part of the original Broadway cast of Hair (1968) and the original West End cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. He died of AIDS, age 44, in Los Angeles.

Frances Kellor (1873-1952) and Mary E. Dreier (1875-1963) were social activists who were part of a large network of lesbian suffragists and reformers centered in America’s large cities. Kellor was a radical reformer especially concerned about conditions of immigrants and Black Americans (she was a founder of the Urban League). Born into poverty, she was an early example of a woman who gained influence through education, studying at Cornell, Cornell Law School, and sociology at the University of Chicago. Influenced by her collegiate experiences she fought for the inclusion of women in sports. In 1903, Kellor met Dreier, a wealthy Brooklyn-born philanthropist and union organizer. Kellor and Dreier had what writer Victoria A. Brownworth calls a “passionate and consuming” relationship. Both women were involved with many reform organizations and served on multiple government committees and institutional boards. In 1920, they shared an apartment at 43 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of East 11th Street. Dreier is listed on that year’s Census enumeration as the head of household; surprisingly, Kellor is listed as her “partner,” rather than the more typical “lodger.”

Violet Oakley (1874-1961), a renowned illustrator and muralist and the first American woman to receive a public mural commission, which was for the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. She excelled in a field dominated at the time by men. Her gravestone includes the inscription, “Death cannot kill what never dies”.

Raoul Pene Du Bois (1914-1985) was among the most important costume and set designers on Broadway, specializing in musicals during the golden age of that art form in the post-World War II period. He designed his first costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies in 1934 and went on to design entire Follies numbers and the costumes and/or sets for Du Barry Was a Lady (1939), Carmen Jones (1945), Call Me Madam (1950), Wonderful Town (1953; Tony Award), Plain and Fancy (1955), Bells are Ringing (1956), The Music Man (1957), No, No, Nanette (1971; Tony and Drama Desk Awards), and many other shows. He also worked on several movies, including Louisiana Purchase (1941) and Lady in the Dark (1944), both of which earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction.

Emma Stebbins (1815-1882), a sculptor best known for her Angel of the Waters masterpiece that sits atop the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, which she created in Rome in the 1860s while living with her lover, actress Charlotte Cushman. The sculpture was the first piece of public artwork by a woman in New York City. Her gravestone includes the inscription, “Love is the fulfilling of the law”.

There are many other members of the LGBT community buried at Green-Wood. If you know of anyone, please let us know so that we can remember them here.