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Gladys Bentley (1907-1960)

Through the month of October, Pride Soc will be using this account to highlight some queer, Black women who may have been sidelined or overlooked by history.

bhmprofilesBlack History Month
Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley (1907-1960) was a blues pianist, singer, performer, and drag king pioneer who began her career in New York at the age of 16. Originally, she performed at Harry Hansberry's Clam House on 133rd Street, one of the city's most notorious gay speakeasies, and in the early 1930s, she headlined at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. 

Bentley was openly lesbian in the early days of her career, dressing in men’s clothes including her signature tuxedo and top hat, and singing her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting with women in the audience. However, during the McCarthy era of the 1950s she started wearing dresses and married a man. In later life, she claimed to have been ‘cured’ of homosexuality by taking female hormones and undergoing an operation.

Check the linktree for more information on her life!

Thank you to the Pride Society and Kit Lashmar for supplying the profiles. Head over to their Instagram to see more profiles being published through out October. 


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