Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley was born in Philadelphia, PA on August 12, 1907 in Philadelphia and died in January 18, 1960 in Los Angeles, California. She moved to New York at the age of 16 where she became famous for her blues musical performances during the 1920’s, a period known as the Harlem Renaissance. What made Gladys Bentley special was that at the height of her career she performed in men’s clothing and adopted the stage name ‘Bobbie Minton;’ she claimed that at one point she married another woman. During this part of her career she was an ‘out’ lesbian; however, during the McCarthy Era she began wearing dresses and more traditional women’s clothes. In an article published in Ebony magazine in August 1952, “I Am Woman Again,” Bentley, who had moved to Los Angeles, claimed to have had an operation, taken female hormones, been cured of homosexuality. She was briefly married to J.T. Gipson, who died in 1952; and then married Charles Roberts, 16 years her junior, a claim which Roberts later denied. Bentley died of pneumonia in Los Angeles in 1960.

Gladys Bentley’s archive can be found at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY.