Australian lesbian pioneer Francesca Curtis dies aged 90

Francesca Curtis

Francesca Curtis passed away on Christmas Eve, she was 90 years old.

In October 1970, Curtis and her partner Phyllis Papps made history when they became the first lesbians to come out on national television in Australia.

Appearing on the ABC program This Day Tonight, Curtis and Papps gave television viewers a glimpse into their life as a lesbian couple. At the time male homosexuality was illegal across all Australian states, but there was no laws mentioning women.

Earlier this year the couple shared their story in the documentary Why Did She Have To Tell The World? The filmmakers posted news of the passing of Francesca Curtis.

“Francesca Curtis, the first lesbian woman to appear on Australian television and our sincere friend, has passed away on the 24th December 2021 at age 90. We are sending all our thoughts to her lifetime partner Phyllis Papps, friends, family and all that knew her. We feel so privileged to be able to share her story and her friendship.

“Francesca’s humour, courage and kindness will never be forgotten.

“Her never ending fight for equality and acceptance will carry on and always inform the younger generations. Rest In Peace Francesca, you will always be with us.” the filmmakers said.

In the documentary Curtis and Papps share that they first met through activist circles and both became members of Australia’s first homosexual political rights group, The Daughters of Bilitis, which later became known as the Australasian Lesbian Movement.

In 1970 the pair exchanged wedding rings and just a few weeks later were known around Australia after they made their television appearance. Curtis is survived by Phyllis Papps, her partner of more than 50 years.

Read more about their story at the ABC

OIP Staff


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