Unlocking Lincoln’s Sexuality

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The following is the Preface from the recently published book by C. A. Tripp, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln (Free Press, 2005).

FOR MORE THAN a quarter century, especially in the late 1990’s, print media have carried numerous reports that Abraham Lincoln may have been homosexual, or even “gay.” Lincoln was certainly not the latter. For while his personal history does indeed reflect a plentiful homosexual response and action, as will be shown, exactly none of it had the lightness and frivolity, let alone the note of social protest, implied in “gay.” The first mention of Lincoln’s homosexuality was apparently in an article written and privately printed in 1971 by an energetic collector of sexual facts, one of the first and most effective “gay liberation” activists, James Kepner.1 During the next quarter century, and especially in the 1990’s, numerous knockoff articles followed; these seldom mentioned Kepner by name, but several carried his imprint by accident. His original article contained a small error (a slightly incorrect reference to Carl Sandburg) that, when repeated in subsequent reports, flagged the source.2

Kepner’s article on the Lincoln and Joshua Speed relationship was not his first effort of this kind. Previously he had “outed” Eleanor Roosevelt in sufficient detail about her relationship with Lorena Hickok to put him in serious trouble with the Roosevelt family (legal action was threatened). These difficulties came to a sudden halt with the publication in 1980 of Doris Faber’s The Life of Lorena Hickok: E.R.’s Friend, which more than confirmed Kepner’s comments with excerpts from a trove of no less than 3,360 letters, 2,336 of them from Eleanor Roosevelt herself.3

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