Alice Austen, at age 19.

The legacies of ancient Greek writer Sappho (circa 630570 BC) of the Greek island of Lesbos, and of an obscure photographer named Alice Austen (1886 – 1952) of New York's Staten Island, are remarkably similar. Although the bulk of their respective life's works have been lost, what remains transcends artistic medium, time and space to endure as vastly important and poetic testaments o to"love between the ladies". Of the two women, of course Sappho is the much more famous. Indeed, the adjectives deriving from her name and place of birth are now associated with female homosexuality. But only a single complete work, Hymn to Aphrodite, remains of her nine-volume corpus which was read so much in antiquity. Of Alice's oeuvre, only 3,500 of the 9,000 glass plate negatives produced in her lifetime, and made exclusively for her own enjoyment, are still in existence today. Very few of these glass print negatives have been examined or printed by scholars. To follow, a sampling of Alice’s unprecedented record of gay Americana at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Alice's seventeenth century cottage,
Cold Comfort, now a house museum.

Alice, snappin' away.

Alice and her lover Violet, puffin' away, en déshabillé.

Suffragettes sure did love to ride bicycles.

Alice and the boys, er, um, girls.

A few boys from Alice's circle, dressed as girls. Note the scarf over the lampshade. Electricity had just been invented. The gays figured out that trick pretty quick!