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marymaclane1911.jpg

Butte, Mont.

Mary MacLane home (private)
419 North Excelsior Avenue

In 1902, the little town of Butte became a household word with the publication of The Story of Mary MacLane. The diary of MacLane (1881-1929), a 20-year-old originally from Canada, revealed her shockingly passionate thoughts and desires. The diary was an instant hit even by today’s standards, selling 80,000 copies in its first month alone.

What made MacLane’s diary such a hot ticket? In it, she wrote of her passion for the “anemone lady,” the only person in the world of any importance to her. The “lady” was in fact MacLane’s English teacher at Butte High school (southwest corner of Idaho and Park Streets), Fannie Corbin, and MacLane proclaimed that she loved Corbin “with a peculiar and vivid intensity, and with all the sincerity and passion that is in me.” MacLane wondered why she could not have been born a man, so that she could love Corbin in the way she wished. “Do you think a man,” wrote MacLane, “is the only creature with whom one may fall in love?”

When the book was published, MacLane was living at this address, a bay-fronted duplex building. (Fannie Corbin lived at 117 North Montana Street.) MacLane left Butte after her meteoric rise to celebrity and spent the rest of her days living a bohemian life in Chicago. Despite her early literary success, she died poor and obscure in a small hotel room. “I don’t know whether I am good and sweet…or evil and untoward,” MacLane wrote in her diary. “And I don’t care.” Talk about lesbian pride!

“…I am someway the Lesbian woman….all women have a touch of the Lesbian: an assertion all good non-analytic creatures refute with horror, but quite true: there is always the poignant intensive personal taste, the flair of inner-sex, in the tenderest friendships of women.”

–Mary MacLane, The Story of Mary MacLane (1902)

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