A British lesbian
writer whose 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness
caused a sensation. It was banned
for its explicit* lesbianism
, which was decried as obscene
. At a trial of the publisher, prominent Bloomsbury
figures argued in its defence. (It was finally published legally in Britain in 1952.)
Despite the ground-breaking nature of the publication, Radclyffe Hall was not in other ways any kind of role model. In fact by all accounts she was an exceptionally vile and horrible person. She was an aristocratic humourless fascist sympathizer who dressed mannishly, and despised suffragettes and Jews. (News of the Holocaust in 1942 did make her feel sorry for the "poor devils", to be fair.)
Born Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall on 12 August 1880 in Bournemouth, the daughter of one Radclyffe Radclyffe-Hall (which tells you all you need to know about her family), she took to calling herself John. The name Radclyffe Hall was the pen-name she adopted for novels. She also wrote a number of volumes of poetry. Virginia Woolf, though strongly supporting her in the name of artistic freedom, thought The Well of Loneliness utterly unreadable. She wrote seven other novels.
She lived with a much older woman, Mabel Batten, until her death in 1915, and then with Batten's cousin, the sculptor Una, Lady Troubridge. She died on 7 October 1943, and lies in a vault in Highgate Cemetery.
The book was also the subject of a film by Emma Thompson.
* Explicit for 1928: the raunchiest sentence is "And that night they were not divided".