History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - Media - Electronic Media

Wisconsin Pride
PBS Wisconsin, 2023
Year released:



Andy Soth


Wisconsin Pride is a two-part special created by PBS Wisconsin and released in June 2023. After a preview showing in Madison and another in Milwaukee's landmark Oriental Theatre, it aired on PBS on June 20, 2023.

The film is described on the official PBS Wisconsin website as follows:

    Wisconsin Pride invites us to witness our state's history through a new lens. This two-hour documentary brings hidden LGBTQ+ stories to the foreground and reconsiders the long narrative of Wisconsin in light of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people in our state.

    Premiering on PBS Wisconsin and available for streaming online in June 2023, the documentary is a groundbreaking collaboration between PBS Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

    LGBTQ+ history is Wisconsin history. Learn about trailblazing Wisconsinites who- facing intolerance, cisgender heterosexism and transphobia- responded by forming community, chosen family, living authentically, and fighting for their rights. In a word: manifesting pride.

    The film demonstrates how diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are a broadly shared part of the human experience. It tells stories of Indigenous two-spirit people prior to and after European settler colonization and Wisconsin statehood, and continues through the 19th and 20th centuries- exploring how forward-looking Wisconsinites challenged LGBTQ+ harassment and injustice in visionary ways, long before LGBTQ+ activism reached the national stage.

    Wisconsin Pride features and celebrates R. Richard Wagner's work as a historian and author. Wagner, who passed away in 2021, was a beloved activist, gay rights leader, elected official and public servant who worked for the state of Wisconsin for 33 years. His two-volume history from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press — We've Been Here All Along: Early Gay History in Wisconsin and Coming Out, Moving Forward: Wisconsin’s Recent Gay History — provides guidance and inspiration for the program.

The special is broken into two parts on the website and within the film, described as follows:

    Part One: Hidden Histories
    Wisconsin has a long, but hidden, LGBTQ+ history full of trailblazers who- when faced with intolerance- responded by creating community, living authentically, and having pride in themselves. The LGBTQ+ community’s contributions from art to athletics, brave military service abroad and fearless resistance to bigotry come to light in this two-part documentary.

    Part Two: Struggles & Victories
    Years before Stonewall, LGBTQ+ Wisconsinites fought against oppressive homophobia, eventually forming a movement that would score unprecedented civil rights protections. Informal networks centered on gay bars, an independent press and acts of public protest supported legislative efforts that would make Wisconsin known as "The Gay Rights State."

The following is an index of references within the film.

    Subject @Time Interviewee
    Overview comments throughout the film R. Richard Wagner
    PART ONE- Hidden Histories
    Indigenous land/ Native Americans "Two-Spirits" 07:00 Kai Pyle
    George Coleman Poage, 1904 Olympics 10:00 Ashley Brown
    George Poage, Bruce Mouser Audrey Mouse Elegbede
    Ralph Kerwineo 16:00 Kai Pyle
    Ralph Warner of Cooksville 22:00 Larry Reed
    Ralph Warner Will Fellows
    Edgar Hellum & Bob Neal, Pendarvis House 27:00 Will Fellows
    Charlotte Partridge & Miriam Frink, Layton School of Art 33:00 Josie Osborne
    Kenneth Palmer, Haresfoot 42:00 Scott Seyforth
    Lewis Bosworth, UWM purge Scott Seyforth
    Lewis Bosworth, UWM purge Ashley Brown
    PART TWO- Struggles & Victories
    Gay Bars and the 'Black Nite' uprising of 1961 Michail Takach
    Gay bars 5:00 Víctor Macías-González
    Madison Alliance for Homosexual Equality Scott Seyforth
    Gay Liberation Front, Madison Lesbians 13:00 Judy Greenspan
    GPU: Eldon Murray, Alan Hess, 'Gay Perspective' radio program 1971 Michail Takach
    Lou Sullivan 20:00 Brice Smith
    Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans marriage attempt Patrick Farabaugh
    Burkett & Evans 27:00 Kristen Whitson
    'Bi-Lines' publication Kristen Whitson
    Leaping La Crosse News 33:00 Mary O'Sullivan
    Gay Rights law: Assemblyman Lloyd Barbee, Leon Rouse 37:00 David Clarenbach
    AIDS in prison Judy Greenspan

Interviewees are described in the film as follows (alphabetical by last name):

    Ashley Brown - Historian, UW-Madison
    David Clarenbach - Wis Assembly 1975-1993
    Audrey Mouser Elegbede - Cultural Anthropologist
    Patrick Farabaugh - Editor, Our Lives Magazine
    Will Fellows - Historian & Author
    Judy Greenspan - Social Justice Activist
    Víctor Macías-González - Historian, UW-La Crosse
    Mary O'Sullivan - Editor, Leaping La Crosse News
    Josie Osbourne - Professor of Art, UW-Milw
    Kai Pyle - Two-Spirit Scholar
    Larry Reed - Cooksville Archivist
    Scott Seyforth - Co-Founder, Madison LGBTQ Archive
    Brice Smith - Historian & Author
    Michail Takach - Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project
    Kristen Whitson - Archivist & Author

Funding for Wisconsin Pride was provided by Park Bank, SC Johnson, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of the Capital Times, TruStage, the New Harvest Foundation, the Ruth St. John and John Dunham West Foundation, inc, Paula Bonner and Ann Schaffer, the La Crosse Community Foundation, the MGE Foundation, Rogers Behavioral Health, David E. Bedri and Jon E. Sorenson, the Cream City Foundation, Tom DeChant and Paul Gibler, the Frautschi Family Foundation, the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Michael Gerdes in memory of Henry S. Lufler, Jr., the Greater Milwaukee Foundation Eldon Murray Fund, Madison College, Mike and Sally Miley, the Roth-Wheeler Family, the Susan M. Schaffer and Joan M. Hinckley Fund, Mary Strickland and Marie Barroquillo, UnityPoint Health – Meriter, the U.S. Bank Foundation, UW Health, The Valentine Fund within the Cream City Foundation, Susan M. Zaeske, Karen Gerdes, in memory of R. Richard Wagner, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation Pegi Christiansen Fund, Gary A. Brown and Paul M. Hayes, Julie Underwood, Michael Verveer, Jill Wheeler and Margaret Close, the Focus Fund for Wisconsin Programs, and Friends of PBS Wisconsin.

Explore a digital timeline of Wisconsin LGBTQ+ history spanning the early 19th century to the present. Many selections are adapted from, Timeline of Wisconsin LGBTQ History: A Sampling (2008), compiled and published by R. Richard Wagner and GSAFE.


Credits: All images and text as indicated are copyrighted by PBS WIsconsin;
Index of topics and approximate times created by Don Schwamb.
Web site concept, design and format by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August-2023.

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