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)

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
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
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
129 Macdougal Street
Eve Adams, the name adopted by a Polish-Jewish lesbian émigré, operated a popular gay and lesbian tearoom near Washington Square in Greenwich Village from 1924 to 1926. It closed after... Learn More
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
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
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
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
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
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
337 Bleecker Street
From 1953 to 1960, playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry resided in the third-floor apartment of this building. While here, Hansberry lived parallel lives: one as the celebrated playwright of A... Learn More
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