On This Gay Day: Author Marguerite Yourcenar was born in 1903

Author Marguerite Yourcenar wrote the modern classic ‘Memories of Hadrian’ 

In 1903 author Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour was born into a wealthy Belgium family. She adopted the surname of Yourcenar as as her pen name, and later legally changed it to be her official name.

A student of literature, Yourcenar could read in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Her first novel Alexis was published in 1929. It tells the story of a young musician who writes to his wife, who has recently given birth to their first child, he explains that he can no longer deny that he is homosexual. The novel was considered very daring for its time.

In 1937 she translated Virgina Woolf’s The Waves into French. Yourcenar would spend her career writing her own novels, but also being a great essayist covering many varied topics.

Youcenar was bisexual and as war broke out in Europe she accepted an invitation from her partner, the literary scholar Grace Frick, to relocate to America. The couple remained together for decades until Frick passed away in 1979.

In 1951 Youcenar published her most acclaimed work Memories of Hadrian, a novel that she spent more than a decade writing. It was set in Ancient Rome and saw the Emperor Hadrian writing a letter to Marcus Aurelius.

In 1980 she became the first woman to be elected to the Académie française, the principle council for matters pertaining to the French language. The council was founded 1635.

The author died in 1987 aged 84, she is buried alongside her longtime partner Frick, and the house they lived in now serves as a museum documenting her life and work.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW in 1984

On this day in 1984 New South Wales decriminalised homosexuality, the bill had been passed on 22nd May, but it assented to on June 8th. The proposal to change the laws was put forward by Labor government of Neville Wran, and was passed with the support of some of the Liberal opposition including leader Nick Greiner.

The age of consent for gay men however was set at 18, while lesbians and heterosexual people the age of consent was 16. The age of consent would not be equalized until 2003. In 2014 the government expunged the records of all people charged with same-sex activities prior to 1984 and apologised for the original discriminatory laws.

OIP Staff, Image: Marguerite Yourcenar by Bernhard De Grendel, from Wikipedia, published under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license. This post was first published in 2022.  

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