feminist LGBTQIA+ music women in the arts

Lesley Gore

This weeks Illustrated Woman in History was illustrated by Zowie Murphy and written by Hollie Peck. 

Lesley Gore (Lesley Sue Goldstein)
May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015

When it comes to girl power, Lesley Gore was way ahead of her time. She was a singer-songwriter, actress, feminist and LGBT activist. She is perhaps best remembered for her hit single “You Don’t Own Me” which she recorded in 1963, aged 17. The song goes down in the history books as being a feminist anthem. Gore says [of the song] that “it had an important humanist quality.” The lyrics (“And don’t tell me what to do / And don’t tell me what to say”) were picked up by the second wave feminist movement and still have resonance five decades later. In 2012, Gore introduced the song being lip-synched to by a number of celebrities, including Lena Dunham from Girls, for a public service announcement addressing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s opposition to abortion and planned parenthood.

She briefly tried her hand at acting, taking on the role of Catwoman’s sidekick in the TV version of the comic book series Batman. Sticking to the small screen, Gore also hosted prime-time TV show “In the Life”, which focused on LGBT issues. She “came out” as a lesbian in 2004. When asked during an interview why she had never made it public knowledge prior to this she stated that she had never hidden her sexual orientation, but was careful not to “put it in anybody’s face. Times were very different then, so, you know, I just tried to live as normally as humanly possible. But as truthfully as humanly possible,” she said. “There was very little acceptance of gay people. I think the record industry, by and large what’s left of it, is still totally homophobic.”

In an interview aged 59, she spoke of financial hardships. “I don’t have the money to retire yet. I haven’t really taken care of myself financially and that’s one of the things I regret most.” After her passing, Page Six revealed that Lesley’s estate was worth $50,000. By celebrity icon standards, she died appallingly broke. Her partner Lois Sasson made a public statement announcing that Lesley had passed away aged 68 after a short battle with lung cancer. She says [of her] “She was a wonderful human being – caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being and a great humanitarian.” She is said to have been working on a musical about her life at the time of her death.

Sources here, here, here, here, here, here and here

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