Exhibition at the Museum of London

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Pride & Prejudice: lesbian and gay London

Friday, 2nd July – Sunday, 22nd August

“The legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 has enabled lesbians and gays to become an increasingly visible part of London’s life. ‘Pride & Prejudice: lesbian and gay London’ is an exhibition exploring the contribution they have made to London’s social and economic life, and giving a historic overview of homosexual culture in London.”

Museum of London flyer

Sodomites and mollies

“Homosexual life in London is very poorly recorded before this century. Most of the evidence comes from court records of prosecutions for sodomy (anal penetration). Men sought partners in secluded areas of public places such as Covent Garden, Moorfields, and Lincoln’s Inn. In the 18th century a path in Upper Moorfields acquired the name ‘The Sodomites Walk’.

“In the 17th century molly houses began to emerge in London. These were rooms in a public or private house which were used as meeting places for ‘mollies’ — a term for homosexual men. Margaret Clap ran a well-known molly house in Field Lane, Holborn. Men met at her house to drink, dance, flirt, dress as women, and have sex. When it was raided in 1726, more than 40 people were arrested. Margaret Clap was fined, imprisoned, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield Market.”

Sappho banner, made for the 1980 Gay Pride March by Emmelene Davies.
The banner is in the colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union and has many lesbian and feminist symbols within it: the lesbian love sign, a Labrys (double-headed axe), Isle of Lesbos, and an image of Sappho.

Wearing the trousers

“The history of lesbian London is more difficult to uncover. Lesbian relationships have never been illegal, so court records do not exist. It has always been acceptable for women to live together and enjoy close relationships.

“It is known that female transvestites existed in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially among the poorer classes. It would be wrong to assume that all women who dressed as men were lesbians. Transvestism allowed women to play a fuller part in public life, to have jobs and be financially independent. It is also true that some transvestite women did marry women.”

Museum of London,
London Wall.
Tel. 020- — Disabled access and facilities
Tel. 020- — Press and PR Office
Tel. 020- — Interpretation Unit

Adults £ 5
Students, over-60’s, registered unemployed £ 3
16 years and under, visitors with disabilities and assisters free
After 4:30 p.m. free to all

Public Transport
Tube St. Paul’s; Barbican
Buses 8, 11, 15, 23, 25
Mainline trains Moorgate; Liverpool Street; City Thameslink