St. Louis’ Missouri History Museum has opened a new exhibit to celebrate the city’s LGBTQ history and evolution. It looks at nearly 200 years’ worth of history and what lives and struggles looked like at the time.

Ian Darnell with the Missouri Historical Society detailed the story of Claude Hartland, who wrote one of the earliest known autobiographies of someone who is gay.

“At the age of 28 in 1899, (he) moved to the city of St. Louis, which, of course, at the time was the fourth biggest city in the country, a big booming industrial center about to celebrate the world’s fair,” Darnell said. “In his book, he talks about meeting other people who were like him, ‘affected as I am,’ as he said on the streets of the city of St. Louis.”

“Gateway to Pride” is the first full-scale exhibit on the city’s storied LGBTQ history detailing the lives, struggles, and contributions of some residents.

One piece of sports memorabilia on display from the 1936 Berlin Olympics is from Helen Stephens, nicknamed the “Fulton Flash.”

“What most people didn’t know at the time was that she was a woman who loved women,” Darnell said. “She even had a girlfriend back home in Missouri during the time that she was in the Olympics. After she returned home to the states, she eventually settled in St. Louis and spent most of the rest of her life here living with a female partner.”

Stephens gained global fame for winning gold medals for the 100-meter dash and as part of the women’s relay team.

Darnell explained that Gateway to Pride focuses on what he calls an “overlooked” people group.

“The message that we’re really trying to get across is that LGBTQIA+ people are part of St. Louis’ story, that they’ve, for generations, made lives for themselves in this area and contributed to the city, and shaped the city’s history,” Darnell said.

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