LGBTQ Women Who Made History

Ellen DeGeneres


Firooz Zahedi, Ellen DeGeneres, 1997. Gift of Time magazine, National Portrait Gallery (NPG.99.TC23.1) ©Firooz Zahedi


When actor/comedian Ellen DeGeneres played the first gay lead character on American network television in the 1990s, she not only broke a barrier in entertainment, she broadened acceptance of LGBTQ people across the country. It was a pivotal moment in American cultural history that echoes today.

In celebration of Pride Month, we honor LGBTQ women who have made remarkable contributions to the nation and helped advance equality in fields as diverse as medicine and the dramatic arts. Here are a few of their stories, represented by objects in the Smithsonian collections.