This thesis is based off of the life of Mercedes de Acosta (1893-1968), an out lesbian who was very active in the literary, theatrical, and screenwriting spheres at different points in her life. While many could consider her a “failed” artist, given that none of her works were financial successes, she is notable in this time period for the noted quality of her work, her many interpersonal relationships (romantic or otherwise) with others in her trade, and her artistic exploits on both sides of the Atlantic. Being "out" was incredibly unusual for LGBT+ identified people in this time period, and the homophobia of the period paired with the lack of financial success of her works may have contributed to the fact that she died in poverty. This thesis looks at the life and the historiography of Mercedes de Acosta in an attempt to reconstruct what a lesbian identity meant in this period for women and how her lesbian identity affected both de Acosta's life and her relationships, as well as how she was remembered afterward.

First Advisor

Katherine Smith

Second Advisor

Poppy Fry

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in History

Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2017



Included in

History Commons