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    ‘For Whom These Were Written’

    “To You Few For Whom These Were Written and You Many Who May Read.”

    This dedication appears at the beginning of On a Grey Thread, the first collection of openly lesbian love poetry published in North America. A wink and a nod to the audiences who would find the book, the introduction is an intimate invitation, encouraging readers to ask whether they belonged to the “few” or to the “many.”

    Published in 1923—a century ago this year—the poems convey the daring desires and heartfelt yearning of 25-year-old poet Elsa Gidlow. Her 1986 autobiography, Elsa: I Come with My Songs, was the first complete lesbian autobiography whose author published under her own name.

    In 1954, she purchased a ranch that she named Druid Heights, using it as both a personal home and a retreat for fellow artists, feminists, and bohemians. An appearance in the 1977 documentary Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives brought a larger audience to Gidlow, who lived her long life out of the closet and within the queer community.

    The photos here show Elsa throughout her life—as a dashing young poet, enjoying the company of her friends, lounging with her cat, and finally enjoying her garden in Druid Heights. They are held by the GLBT Historical Society, one of more than 1,000 individual archival collections that reveal a vast array of LGBTQ life, history, and culture. From drag outfits and massive flags, to deeply personal diaries and correspondence, to organizational records, historic bar signs, ephemera, and more, our archival holdings make up one of the largest collections of LGBTQ historical materials ever assembled.

    We share our collection highlights at our museum, located at 4127 18th Street in the Castro district. Our archives, located downtown at 989 Market Street, are open by appointment to anyone interested in diving deeper into queer history. To book your visit to the GLBT Historical Society’s archives or museum, or to make a contribution to support the organization’s work, visit

    The GLBT Historical Society maintains a strong commitment to documenting the diverse lives of LGBTQ communities and is especially interested in receiving and preserving archival collections that focus on the intersectional experiences of women, people of color, transgender, and nonbinary people. If you have materials that fit our mission and are interested in donating them, please consider contacting our archives staff at

    Community Treasures from the GLBT Historical Society Archives
    Published on March 9, 2023