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LGBTQ+ History is Wisconsin History

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

October is LGBTQ+ History month. Although we usually associate June with LGBTQ+ topics because of National Pride month, it's important to take the time to acknowledge that without LGBTQ+ history, without struggle in many, many different places, the Stonewall riots that inspired Pride would never have taken place. LGBTQ+ history month helps us remember that, like all periods of history, what we study in school is not the complete story, by far. And the complete story is often more compelling and more complex. 

While it might not be widely known, Wisconsin has a rich, important LGBTQ+ history. In fact, the state often has been a forerunner for LGBTQ+ protection, representation, and civil rights. We were the first state in the country to enact LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination laws. Seven months before Harvey Milk was elected to public office, in Madison James Yeadon was elected as an openly gay man to Madison Common Council. And Milwaukee even had its own version of Stonewall-- eight years before perhaps the most famous LGBTQ+ rights protest in the world. 

The Wisconsin Historical Society press recently published "We Will Always Be Here: A Guide to Exploring and Understanding the History of LGBTQ+ Activism in Wisconsin," and the text and accompanying learning toolkit aligns with multiple curriculum standards for students grades 6-12 in the areas of inquiry, economics, history, political science and behavioral sciences. The "We Will Always Be Here" education materials can help meet or exceed a wide range of English Language Arts standards, while engaging students in creating a fuller picture of Wisconsin history.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Historical Society in June of 2022 launched three traveling exhibitions that can be booked by schools and libraries celebrating LGBTQ+ history. Venues can rent "We Will Always Be Here: Wisconsin's LGBTQ+ Historymakers" for a fee of $100 with proceeds supporting the Society's ongoing outreach programs and activities. To reserve a copy, contact Kristen Leffelman by emailing or calling (414) 988-8655.