Chicago Whispers illuminates a colorful and vibrant record of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people who lived and loved in Chicago from the city’s beginnings in the 1670s as a fur-trading post to the end of the 1960s. Journalist St. Sukie de la Croix, drawing on years of archival research and personal interviews, reclaims Chicago’s LGBT past that had been forgotten, suppressed, or overlooked.
Included here are Jane Addams, the pioneer of American social work; blues legend Ma Rainey, who recorded “Sissy Blues” in Chicago in 1926; commercial artist J. C. Leyendecker, who used his lover as the model for “The Arrow Collar Man” advertisements; and celebrated playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun. Here, too, are accounts of vice dens during the Civil War and classy gentlemen’s clubs; the wild and gaudy First Ward Ball that was held annually from 1896 to 1908; gender-crossing performers in cabarets and at carnival sideshows; rights activists like Henry Gerber in the 1920s; authors of lesbian pulp novels and publishers of “physique magazines”; and evidence of thousands of nameless queer Chicagoans who worked as artists and musicians, in the factories, offices, and shops, at theaters and in hotels. Chicago Whispers offers a diverse collection of alternately hip and heart-wrenching accounts that crackle with vitality.