Event: Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors: Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens

Forbes Library, Northampton MA

The Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA) of Holyoke, MA brings to the community a series of history talks about pre-Stonewall era LGBTQ individuals who lived in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. The series is titled Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors. The SMA’s team of researchers, led by Curator of the SMA, Ben Power, who is the Executive Director of the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, has recently completed extensive original research and compiled it into a new history talk.

This talk is about Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens of Middlefield, MA, an out lesbian couple who ran a wellness resort called the Big House in Middlefield from the 1920s to 1960s.

The history talk will take place on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Coolidge Museum in Forbes Library, Northampton, Massachusetts.

RSVP on Facebook here. 

Gay women and men at the Big House

The story of Starbuck and Stevens is a compelling narrative of pre-Stonewall queer lives and queer community, of lesbians openly living in rural Massachusetts, and working women who were trailblazers as prominent community leaders in Springfield as well as Middlefield, MA. This history is for anyone interested in LGBTQI+ history, women’s and feminist history, early lesbian history in the Pioneer Valley, history of women’s participation in community organizations (both women were involved in the Springfield YWCA), women’s labor history in western Massachusetts, rural physicians and healthcare, gender non-conformity and more.

The talk draws on a range of primary sources discovered and organized by the SMA — including local news clippings, print ads and posters, Big House artifacts, Census and Ancestry.com records, and, most notably, photographs from a personal album compiled by Starbuck and Stevens, and images from the Big House photographed recently by the SMA. These sources provide the visuals for the talk.

Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors: Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens teaches valuable information to the community about movers and shakers who were instrumental in forming businesses and organizations well before the start of the modern LGBTQ Movement but whose histories have been hidden – until now.

Dr. Amber Starbuck on horseback, date unknown.

This history talk is a 90-minute Powerpoint presentation full of found images and historical facts about the two women, their work and love relationship, followed by a Question and Answer session.

Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors: Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens is presented as a benefit for the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, the 501c3 non-profit organization that supports the SMA. Suggested donation from attendees is $10 per person; $5 for students and elders. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

For those who want to learn more about Starbuck and Stevens, the SMA offers a PDF of an accompanying 80-page, annotated SMA original research paper which includes photos not shown in the history talk presentation, for an additional donation of $10.

For those who cannot attend the April 24th talk, watch for the second showing of this SMA history talk on Friday, May 3 at 7:00 p.m. in partnership with Historic Northampton at the Arts Trust Building, 33 Hawley St., Northampton, MA.

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