d. Nov 9th, 1968
Decades before Stonewall encouraged us to be out and proud, Valentine Ackland was openly, defiantly lesbian. Even at school, she fell in love with a fellow pupil, to her parents' displeasure, and at the age of 17 embarked on a full-fledged lesbian affair with an older woman, Bo Foster - but still there were family pressures to resist.
To escape them, she impulsively entered a dmarriage of convenience with a young homosexual man, Richard Turpin. This disastrous venture ended six months later, unconsummated. At this point she comprehensively reinvented herself, changing her name from Molly Turpin to Valentine Ackland, and wearing trousers. In addition to Bo Foster, she had affairs with Dorothy Warren, Nancy Cunard and Anna May Wong, before falling in love with her life-long partner, Sylvia Townsend Warner, in 1930.
Together, Ackland and Warner embarked on an unusual poetry venture - a book of poems, at the heart of which is a group of celebratory, erotic love poetry, published under both names simultaneously, with no indication which poem was the work of which poet.
Valentine Ackland, born 100 years ago today, was haunted by the first world war, like so many others of that generation. Too young to fight, yet old enough to witness the carnage, these guilty survivors had a sense of missed opportunity. Valentine's gender, as well as her age, denied her the chance of participation, and heroism always held a complex fascination for her, as did its companion, death.There were no Ackland sons; Valentine was christened Mary Kathleen, but called Molly by her family. She soon noted social patterns of male privilege and female submission, and began early on to subvert gender expectations by usurping male prerogatives whenever she could. When her father allowed her to drive, shoot and even box, her sister Joan - older by eight years - was insanely jealous, and believed Molly was his favourite. Her revenge on the interloper was to abuse Molly, with psychological torment and physical punishment.
Born in London into a well-to-do family who had and unsettled and unhappy early life, including a marriage at 19 that remained unconsummated and was annulled. Ackland is mainly known for her relationship with Sylvia Towsend Warner whom she met through T.F. Powys and with whom she lived from 1930 until her death.
In her autobiographical essay For Sylvia: An Honest Account, she writes details on her relationship with Sylvia aas well as about other relationships with both women and men, and her coming to terms with her lesbianism.
Gabriele Griifn, Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay Writing
Whether a dove or a seagull: Poems (1934)
The Nature of the Moment (1973)
For Sylvia: An Honest Account (1985)
Review of Valentine Ackland (1906 - 1969)
Reviews of 'Journey From Winter: Selected Poems'
Gabriele Griifn, Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay Writing, Routledge, London, 2002
Matt & Andrej Komasky Living Room - LGBT Biographies