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Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics

Tue, 09/20/2016 - 15:43

In his Author! Author! blog series, Museum president Gary T. Johnson highlights works that draw on our collection.

Timothy Stewart-Winter. Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press (2016).

“The path of gays and lesbians to political power led through city hall and developed primarily in response to the constant threat of arrest under which they lived.” With this thesis, Timothy Stewart-Winter offers a carefully-researched and richly-textured account of rising gay political power in postwar Chicago. Students of urban history will find familiar themes, such as the politics of a group that migrated to the city. Students of the civil rights movement will recognize their own patterns of movement politics playing out in a different setting. Well-known political figures have roles, such as Alderman Cliff Kelley, an African American who allied with LGBT communities. Mayor Richard M. Daley’s relations with those communities were bumpy at first, but by 1991 he was hosting the induction ceremony for the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, the first event of its kind in an American city. While the author weaves his account into the political life of the city, he brilliantly pieces together the stories of the communities themselves, with milestones such as the portrayal of the gay and lesbian political “Gang of Four” on the cover of the Chicago Tribune Magazine’s February 7, 1993 edition. Archival and oral history resources in the hands of an expert researcher made this book possible, but when scholars in other cities follow Stewart-Winter’s lead, as I know they will, I wonder what resources will be available to them. Again, the LGBT community might look to the African American community for a model. There, they will find The History Makers, which has built the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection.

> Learn more about Chicago’s gay and lesbian rights movements