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Portraits of forbidden love: Extraordinary images capture intimate displays of affection from 19th and 20th-century women who flouted the rules at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence (19 Pics)

Captured at a time when homosexuality was considered taboo, these remarkable images defiant women who flouted convention in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Kissing, embracing and reclining in intimate positions, the incredible black-and-white photographs provide a rare glimpse into women who dared to display physical love in the 1800s and early 1900s.
The images capture Victorian and early-twentieth century females in intimate poses and showing a daring level of openness with one another for the era they were living in.
Although some of the fascinating women pictured are understood to be lesbian couples, in some cases there is little information about their sexual orientation - nonetheless it is quite extraordinary that these images survive as many old photos of same-sex couples are believed to have been destroyed by family members.
While it was not illegal for two women to be in a relationship in England and Wales, homosexuality between men was only decriminalised in 1967 while same-sex couples were largely frowned upon.
Two scantily clad women caught in an embrace in the 1940s, one of a remarkable set of images that capture female love at a time when it was considered taboo

In the US, sexual relations between same-sex couples were decriminalised in Illinois in 1962 with other states following suit over the following decades.

Other images in the extraordinary collection offer clues into the nature of the relationship between the women pictured. 

A 1910 photograph of two hugging women was unearthed with a note which read 'Aunty Mary and her "friend" Ruth'.  To the person who discovered it, the quotation marks around the word 'friend' appeared to suggest their relationship is more than platonic. 

Although it is unknown whether several of the people in the stunning images were related, lesbians or just friends – the tender and close relationship between the women pictured is poignantly evident. 

And for many, these images represent a small fragment of LGBT history that was repressed and concealed for so long.



Two women in swimsuits lovingly embracing one another, circa 1910s - long before same-sex couples were allowed in Britain. It is quite extraordinary that these images of illicit female affection still survive as many old photos of homosexual couples are believed to have been purposely destroyed by family members

Forbidden love: Two women are pictured here caught in a passionate embrace, circa 1890. Although it is unknown whether several of the people in the stunning images were related, lesbians or just friends – the tender and close relationship between the women pictured is poignantly evident


American actress Charlotte Cushman, left and British writer Matilda Hays, right, pictured here in 1858. The pair enjoyed a 10-year relationship, and Cushman was particularly famous in her home country, even entertaining President Lincoln


Female companions: Kitty Ely class of 1887 and Helen Emory class of 1889, Mount Holyoke students, USA 

Two women dressed in men's attire, circa 1900

Dorothy Putnam and Lois Mercer in the 1930s when they started dating. The two ladies were partners for over 50 years. During World War II, Dorothy served in the Women's Ambulance and Transport Corps of California (W.A.T.C.C.), and later the Air Force, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant


Two Victorian women share a passionate kiss, circa 1880. At a time when homosexuality was kept secret, these images of same-sex couples from the 19th century are extremely rare

Two women caught in an embrace, circa 1920s 

 Mary Edmonia Lewis, an American sculptor who worked for most of her career in Rome, Italy, seen here circa 1874 and is rumoured to have been a lesbian 


One woman kisses her female companion in front of a class car, circa 1950s. It is not known where this image was taken


Summer loving: Two women, who are not named, are pictured in a garden enjoying one another's company, circa 1920s


Some images in the extraordinary collection offer clues into the nature of the relationship between the women pictured (in this image,are two women labelled as Annabell and Gladys, circa 1900).

Two women share a kiss in 1950
This photograph from 1910 of two women in a close embrace was found in an attic and written on the back was 'Aunty Mary and her "friend" Ruth, 1910.' The quotation marks around friend appear to suggest there is more to their relationship


Felice Rahel Schragenheim and Lilly Wust, circa 1942. Felice and Lilly were lesbian lovers living in Berlin but Felice was deported to a concentration camp because of her Jewish heritage. She later died during a march between concentration camps. The story of the relationship between Schragenheim and Wust is portrayed in the 1999 film Aimée & Jaguar, and in a book of the same name by Erica Fischer

Forbidden love: Evelyn 'Jackie' Bross and Catherine Barscz at the Racine Avenue Police Station in Chicago, 1943. They had been arrested for violating the cross-dressing ordinance


Two women scantily clad in a garden enjoying one another's company, circa 1930s 

Two female companions caught in an embrace, believed to be during the 1910s 

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