Friday, January 12, 2007

The "Legendary Lucille Hart"

On a cold Friday at the end of a long week, just when you think you know what you'll be doing all day, what projects you'll tackle, the Archives delivers up a small gift of new knowledge on a tantalizing topic.

Going through a small box of miscellaneous materials swept up after all the unprocessed collections were accessioned last year, the first folder I pulled out contained not one but two issues of the Portland newspaper Alternative Connection from 1993, both with cover stories on alumnus/a Lucille Hart, a.k.a. Alan L. Hart, M.D. We first mentioned Lucille here back in September of 2006, mentioning the circumstances of her switch from Lucille to Alan and talking about the UOMS doctor who performed a total hysterectomy on Lucille. At that time, I didn't really think that more information about Lucille's life would come to light from our own collections.

In September of 1993, the Alternative Connection published an article entitled "The Incredible Life and Loves of the Legendary Lucille Hart." I'm a sucker for alliteration, so I was immediately drawn in. Written by Thomas M. Lauderdale and Tom Cook, the article is prefaced by an editorial comment:

"The upcoming Oct. 16 'Lucille Hart Dinner' represents the 12th annual event honoring Oregon's most famous lesbian. Her amazing story was first uncovered by gay historian, Jonathan Ned Katz in his Gay American History: lesbians and gay men in the U.S.A. (1976), and subsequently, her life as a man--Dr. Alan L. Hart, was revealed in Katz's second book Gay and Lesbian Almanac (1983).
Building on Katz's original research, local historians, Lauderdale and Cook, have uncovered additional documents and photographs that reveal that Lucille, as Alan Hart, had actually married two women, one of whom she divorced in 1925! Now in an exclusive two-part series for the Alternative Connection, the untold story is revealed." ...


Wow! Who could resist reading on after that intro? At the end of Part I on Lucille, there is a large sidebar on J. Allen Gilbert, M.D., which notes that "Among his eccentricities was a fascination with psychic phenomena and spiritualism"--a charge certainly borne out by his small article on the use of the Ouija board, written for one of the annuals of the University of Oregon Medical School Alumni Association here in the PNW Archives Collection.

In Part II of the series, we are reminded that as Alan Hart, Lucille wrote several novels; while we don't own any of these here at OHSU, several libraries in the Oregon-Washington Cascade Alliance consortium do hold four titles by Hart. It's interesting to learn of another UOMS alum who wrote fiction: Esther Pohl Lovejoy's unpublished romance novel rests upstairs in the archives.

Interestingly, historians Cook and Lauderdale note that Lucille/Alan's sexual realignment was accepted by members of her own family: "Alan is mentioned as a 'grandson' in her grandmother's obituary in 1921 and her grandfather's obituary in 1924." We can each of us only hope for similar acceptance of our own true natures by our friends and family.

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