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Today in LGBT History – September 17
1480, Spain – The Spanish Inquisition is established as a court for the detection of heretics, although its true purpose remains somewhat obscure. But 1000-1600 people were charged with the crime of sodomy. During the 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition, the total number of “heretics” burned at the stake totaled nearly 32,000
1778 – Friedrich von Steuben (September 17, 1730 – November 28, 1794) is born. He is considered the father of the United States military. He arrives in Valley Forge to offer his expertise to the Continental Army. Von Steuben had been forced out of the Prussian military due to homosexual scandals. He was a gay man who wrote the “Revolutionary War Drill Manual” and introduced drills, tactics and discipline to the rag-tag militia, which resulted in victory over the British. He has a statue at Valley Forge and another in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. Towns, buildings and a college football field have been named after him; there is even an annual Steuben Day Parade held in his honor every September in cities such as New York and Chicago (in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris lip syncs Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” during Chicago’s Steuben Day Parade). No foreigner besides Marquis de Lafayette has been so adored in America as von Steuben. The one fact that seems to be left out is that von Steuben was known to “have affections to members of his own sex” and was even identified as a “sodomite,” which is rumored to be the reason he left Prussia for France where he ultimately met Ben Franklin. Upon arriving at Valley Forge, von Steuben was immediately accepted by Washington, who recognized his military genius. Steuben single-handedly turned a militia, consisting mostly of farmers, into a well-trained, disciplined and professional army that was able to stand musket-to-musket combat with the British. Washington and the Continental Army officially adopted von Steuben’s methods and renamed them Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United State, known in military circles today simply as “The Blue Book.”
1948 – Ruth Fulton Benedict (June 5, 1887 – September 17, 1948) dies. She was an American anthropologistand folklorist. Benedict held the post of President of the American Anthropological Association and was also a prominent member of the American Folklore Society. Benedict taught her first anthropology course at Barnard college in 1922. Among the students there was Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978). Benedict was a significant influence on Mead ad well as her sometimes lover and lifelong friend. Mead and Ruth Benedict are considered to be the two most influential and famous anthropologists of their time. One of the reasons Mead and Benedict got along well was because they both shared a passion for their work and they each felt a sense of pride at being a successful working woman during a time when this was uncommon. They were known to critique each other’s work frequently and created a companionship that began through their work. Both Benedict and Mead wanted to dislodge stereotypes about women during their time period and show that working women can be successful even though working society was seen as a man’s world. In her memoir about her parents, With a Daughter’s Eye, Margaret Mead’s daughter implies that the relationship between Benedict and Mead was partly sexual. In 1946, Benedict received the Achievement Award from the American Association of University Women. After Benedict died of a heart attack in 1948, Mead kept the legacy of Benedict’s work going by supervising projects that Benedict would have looked after, and editing and publishing notes from studies that Benedict had collected throughout her life.
1972 – M*A*S*H premieres on CBS introducing the world to Cpl. Max Klinger, televisions first on-going heterosexual cross-dressing character.
1976, Canada – Toronto gay activist Brian Mossop is expelled from the Communist Party of Canada for being openly gay and advocating homosexuality.
1979 – California Governor Jerry Brown appoints Stephen M. Lachs (born September 1939) to the Los Angeles Superior Court making him the nation’s first openly gay judge. Lachs retired from the L.A. County Superior Court in 1999.
2001 – Paul Holm, the partner of Flight 93 hero Mark Bingham (May 22, 1970 – September 11, 2001), is presented with the folded American flag.
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(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at facebook.com/quistapp, Back2Stonewall.com, Lavender Effect, DataLounge.com, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, out.com, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at email@example.com. Thanks!)