It’s hard not to feel at home in a city where LGBTQ+ history runs deep. In every corner of Chicago, you can trace historic markers and residences that commemorate out city’s LGBTQ+ luminaries. While these residences remain private homes (with the exception of Jane Addams Hull-House), a stroll by their locations is a great way to tour Chicago’s neighborhoods, and experience the diverse spirit of the city.
Lorraine Hansberry, author and playwright
Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), was the first drama written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry was also the first African American playwright, and the youngest American playwright, to win a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.
In the 1950s, Hansberry began to first identify as a feminist and lesbian. In 1957, she became a member of the groundbreaking lesbian organization, The Daughters of Bilitis. She wrote several essays and letters for The Ladder, the organization’s newsletter, under her initials L.H.
Today, you can walk beside history at 6140 S. Rhodes, Hansberry’s childhood Woodlawn home, as well as 5936 S. King Drive, her former Washington Park residence. 6140 S. Rhodes Ave., Woodlawn & 5936 S. King Drive, Washington Park
Jane Addams, social reformer and author
Jane Addams was the second woman in history to receive the Nobel Prize. Addams is known as a social justice pioneer, who was was instrumental in establishing the American Civil Liberties Union, among other organizations. A feminist, author, and suffragette, Addams directed public attention to poverty, child labor, race relations, and many other crucial social issues. Her legacy is commemorated on the Legacy Walk in Boystown.
In 1889, Addams founded the social settlement home at Hull House, now known as Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, which stands on the University of Illinois at Chicago grounds. You can visit the home for free by either guided or self-guided tour, and view furnishings, photographs, and other objects from the period. 800 S. Halsted St., Little Italy
Henry Gerber, activist and publisher
This landmarked 1885 row house in beautiful Lincoln Park was the home of gay rights pioneer Henry Gerber, who founded the Society for Human Rights in 1924 — the first known homosexual rights organization in the United States. The group was a precursor to the Mattachine Society, and heralded the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Friendship and Freedom, the newsletter Gerber published for the society, is considered to be the first documented gay rights publication in the country.
Chicago’s LGBTQ+ library and archives, Gerber/Hart, bears his name, along with that of Pearl Hart. 1704 N. Crilly Court, Lincoln Park
Pearl Hart, activist and attorney
The attractive 1891 townhouse that stands on Pine Grove Avenue was the residence of Pearl Hart, aka “The Guardian Angel of the Gay Community.” Hart was one of the first female attorneys in Chicago to specialize in criminal law. She was admitted to the Illinois State Bar in 1914 and was renowned for defending immigrants, lesbians and gay men, children, and other frequently oppressed groups. She often did this gratis or for a reduced fee.
Chicago’s LGBTQ+ library and archives, Gerber/Hart, bears her name, along with that of Henry Gerber. 2821 N. Pine Grove Ave., Lakeview
Valerie Taylor, novelist, poet, and activist
Pearl Hart’s longtime partner was lesbian pulp novelist and activist Valerie Taylor, who lived in this majestic Lakeview courtyard building for 10 years. In addition to groundbreaking books such as The Girls in 3-B, Return to Lesbos, and Journey to Fulfillment, Taylor was key in starting the LGBTQ+ rights organization, Mattachine Midwest, and many of the organization’s newsletters were written in her apartment here. 540 W. Surf St., Lakeview
Margaret C. Anderson, author, publisher, and editor
Lesbian publisher and editor Margaret C. Anderson moved to Chicago in 1908, creating the important avant-garde literary magazine, The Little Review, in 1914. Two years later, Anderson met publisher Jane Heap, who became her lover and co-editor. The Little Review published some of the most important writers and thinkers of the day, including Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Jean Cocteau, Emma Goldman, and Max Ernst. 837 W. Ainslie St., Uptown
Burr Tillstrom, puppeteer
Chicago native, children’s television pioneer, and puppeteer Burr Tillstrom was the creator of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, a children’s television show broadcast from 1947 – 1957. The show won over 50 entertainment industry awards, including five Emmys. In 1986, Tillstrom was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Today, the Burr Tillstrom Collection and Archives are maintained at the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park. 1407 W. Sherwin Ave., Rogers Park