27 Mar 1910


Dancer Freda Stark is born in Kaeo, Northland. From an early age she learnt dance - beginning with high kicks, tumbles and the hula. By the time of WW2 she was performing exotic dance for the US troops based in Auckland. She earned the title "Fever of the Fleet" and was famed for dancing at the Civic Theatre in just a G-string and feather headdress - her body glistening under a coating of gold paint. In the early 1930s she began a relationship with fellow dancer Thelma Trott. This was cut short in 1935 when Trott was murdered by her husband Eric Mareo. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Stark's death on 19 March 1999. She's buried at the foot of Trott's grave with the loving words "Waiting till we meet again - Freda."

11 Apr 1910


Artist Toss Woollaston is born in Stratford. He would become one of New Zealand's most widely known contemporary painters. In 1980 Woollaston published Sage Tea, a lyrical account of his early life. Writer Hugh Young says that he was notably honest about his sexuality "He saw himself as 'a sexually fluid being' who had been more homosexual than heterosexual in his youth." In the book, Woollaston described in vivid detail an anal sex "daisy chain" involving six youths. But he was also cautious. Reflecting on a friend's relationship he wrote "In those days homosexuality wasn't mentioned, and I am sure there was none in a physical sense between these two men. Brought up as we were on the story of David and Jonathan, whose love 'exceeded the love of women', the relationship between them was perfectly natural and even admirable."

3 Dec 1910


Mountaineer Freda Du Faur becomes the first woman to ascended Aoraki Mt Cook. Born in Sydney, Du Faur taught herself rock-climbing and spent her summer holidays in New Zealand. In December 1910 she reached Cook's summit "feeling very little, very lonely, and much inclined to cry." Du Faur's partner was Muriel Cadogan who taught at the Institute of Physical Education. Du Faur named peaks in the Southern Alps for both Cadogan and herself. Writer Julie McCrossin suggests that this was perhaps a way of "declaring their bond when more conventional options were unavailable."

1 May 1912


Artist Leo Bensemann is born in Takaka, Golden Bay. At the age of nineteen he moved to Christchurch with his schoolfriend and lover Lawrence Baigent. Bensemann became a member of The Group - a collection of influential artists including Colin McCahon, Rita Angus and Toss Woollaston. Bensemann married in 1943 and had four children. It was only in the early 2000s, after both Baigent and Bensemman had died, that their homosexual relationship became widely known when Baigent's partner outed them on National Radio. Writer Peter Simpson recalls "it caused a great kerfuffle among [Bensemann's] family because the notion that their father or husband was gay had never occurred to them, ever." The fallout from the broadcast saw Baigent's dairies, which are rumoured to be "full and frank", embargoed for thirty years.

17 Dec 1913


English poet Rupert Brooke arrived in Auckland aboard the ship RMS Niagara. He was only in New Zealand for a couple of weeks before departing for Tahiti. Surviving letters from the time point to Brooke struggling with his bisexuality. Writer Patrick Kelleher noted Brooke “operated in social circles that were gay or straight - but he knew nobody else who inhabited an in-between space as he did. His struggle was exacerbated by living in a society in which harsh, puritanical views around sexuality were common.” Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War Brooke enlisted. He died in April 1915 aboard a French hospital ship in the Mediterranean. Lines from Brooke’s poem The Dead are inscribed on Wellington Cenotaph “These laid the world away; poured out the red sweet wine of youth.”

7 Jan 1914


English poet Rupert Brooke departs by boat from Wellington on his way to Tahiti. Fellow poet W. B. Yeats once described him as "the handsomest young man in England." Brooke would die just a year later during WW1. The shipping route from New Zealand to Tahiti also brought the famous writer Somerset Maugham and his secretary and companion Gerald Haxton briefly to New Zealand in January 1917. At the time Maugham was also in a relationship with Syrie Wellcome whom he later married. Years later he told his nephew "I tried to persuade myself that I was three-quarters normal and that only a quarter of me was queer - whereas really it was the other way around."

31 Jul 1915


Artist Theo Schoon is born in Java, Indonesia, and moved to New Zealand in 1939. Schoon was a notable figure in New Zealand art in the mid 20th century. He refused to separate art and craft and created in a range of media. He was interested in the integration of Maori and European art to produce a local modernism.

1 Nov 1915


"One last favour I would like to ask and if you love me please grant me this, a picture of yourself." - Katherine Early writing to Dr Hjelmar Dannevill

2 Nov 1915


Composer Douglas Lilburn is born in Whanganui. Described as "the elder statesman of New Zealand music", Lilburn championed the composition and performance of New Zealand music. In 1966 he founded the Electronic Music Studio at Victoria University of Wellington, and in the 1980s helped establish the Archive of New Zealand Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Today, the Lilburn Trust continues to support a wide range of projects related to New Zealand music.

13 Dec 1915


Bea Arthur, founder of the Armstrong and Arthur Charitable Trust for Lesbians, is born. The Trust was named to recognise and remember Arthur and Bette Armstrong's 57-year relationship. In an interview with Alison Laurie, Arthur said that right from when the pair met in 1943 they slept in the same bed - but at that time, they didn't label their relationship as lesbian "It didn't have a name [...] we didn't seem to feel the need to be called anything, we just were."

26 May 1917


Dr Hjelmar von Dannevill is imprisoned for suspicious activity on Matiu Somes Island in Wellington habour. Dannevill had arrived in New Zealand in 1911 with little documentation. With the onset of World War I, Dannevill came to the attention of the authorities. The Solicitor-General of New Zealand reported that "there is grave ground for suspicion that this person is a mischievous and dangerous imposter... There is much reason to suspect that she may be a man masquerading as a woman." Dannevill was subjected to a physical examination that revealed that this was not the case. However she was kept on the island for over seven weeks before suffering a severe nervous breakdown.