Archive for October, 2009


Minneapolis, Minn.

Quatrefoil Library
1619 Dayton Avenue, Suite 105

Quatrefoil Library, the country’s second oldest lending library of materials related to sexual minorities (the Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago was the first), takes its name from the 1951 novel by James Barr, Quatrefoil, which was one of the first to depict gay characters positively. In the mid-1970s, David Irwin and his partner, Dick Hewetson, each began collecting gay-themed books. When they moved in together in 1977, they combined their collections and kept them in the linen closet of their condo, which was soon overflowing with volumes. The two men incorporated their holdings as Quatrefoil Library in 1983, and the first public home of the library opened several years later at 1021 West Broadway. Though their relationship ended not long after the library was incorporated, their important collection of gay literature was able to live on.

The library grew exponentially during its early years and in 1987 found larger, much-needed space at this address (“a cozy set of rooms,” according to one reporter), a former school renovated to house the offices of various organizations. Today, still located at this address, Quatrefoil collects not only books and magazines, but memorabilia, audio and video, games, newspaper clippings, and historical erotica related to sexual minorities. At a celebration in 1991, Quatrefoil‘s author, James Barr, was the library’s guest of honor.

In 2008, the library published its own history; it is available online here.

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Moylan, Pa.

Anna Howard Shaw home
240 Ridley Creek Road (private)

This picturesque stone house with blue trim, now a private residence, was built in 1908 by suffragist Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919), who lived here with her intimate companion, Lucy Anthony, niece of Susan B. The house was “a realization of a desire…No one could ask for a more ideal site for a cottage,” Shaw wrote in her autobiography, The Story of a Pioneer, in which she noted a nearby stream and forest, and the hilltop view. Shaw was a brilliant orator who traveled extensively on behalf of the suffrage movement. “From every country I have visited I have brought back a tiny tree,” she noted, and the pine grove she started planting at her home is now full grown.

While she lived here, Shaw, a minister by profession, was president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association. Her early activism focused on temperance, but she was lured to the suffrage movement by Susan B. herself. It is estimated that Shaw gave about 10,000 speeches on suffrage during her career, mesmerizing her audiences with her powerful voice, dramatic delivery, and sharp with. She died here in Moylan, a year before the 19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote. The New York Times reported that “her secretary, Miss Lucy E. Anthony, a niece of Susan B. Anthony, who has been with Dr. Shaw for thirty years, … [was] at her bedside when she died.”

Q: Why does the Scripture say there shall be no marriages in heaven?
A: Ah, my dear friends [drawing a long sigh], someone has answered that by saying, because there will be no men there.

–Anna Howard Shaw, during a Q&A after one of her speeches

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Pittsfield, Mass.

Herman Melville home
780 Holmes Road

There’s a marked difference in the way that Emily Dickinson’s home and Herman Melville’s are interpreted for the public. Both were prominent 19th-century literary figures, but at the Dickinson homestead (not far from here in Amherst), guides focus on Emily’s “petite figure” and the number of her supposed suitors. By contrast, at Arrowhead, Melville’s writing is of foremost importance, his study the centerpiece of the house.

At Arrowhead, where he lived from 1850 to 1863, Herman Melville (1819-1891) wrote what is considered his masterpiece, Moby-Dick (1851). He was reportedly inspired by the view from the window of his study of Mount Greylock, a rolling mountain with the vague shape of a giant whale. Melville would rise early to feed the farm animals, and then after breakfast light the fire in his study and work on his writing until late afternoon.

It was also here in the Berkshires that his friendship and fascination with Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived nearby, blossomed, though there is no evidence that the relationship between the two writers was anything but platonic. Melville held a lifelong attraction for sailors, filling his sea tales with homoerotic undertones. If you look carefully at the document displayed under glass on his desk at Arrowhead, you may smile at a line in a letter to his seafaring brother, who had complained about the laziness of his fellow sailors. “For my part I love sleepy fellows,” Herman Melville wrote, “and the more ignorant the better.”

Melville wrote many other works at Arrowhead, including the humorous short story “I and My Chimney,” in which he extolled the virtues of his large stone chimney. Later, Melville’s brother Allan lived at Arrowhead and had the opening sentences of the story inscribed into the fireplace in honor of his famous brother (see photo). At this location, Melville also penned the six stories known as The Piazza Tales, named for the piazza that ran the width of the house, which he added to Arrowhead during his years there.

When he purchased Arrowhead with the help of his wife’s father, Melville had the idea that he would write part time and farm the rest. But he was unprepared for the strenuous life of a farmer, and his experiment finally ended. He moved his family to New York City, where he became a customs inspector. Arrowhead is now operated by the Berkshire County Historical Society and is open to the public for tours.

I have been building some shanties of houses (connected with the old one) and likewise some shanties of chapters and essays. I have been ploughing & sowing & raising & printing & praying, and now begin to come out upon a less bristling time, and to enjoy the calm prospect of things from a fair piazza at the north of the old farmhouse here.”

–Herman Melville

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