Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Prior to 1900, American scientists struggled to formulate a sexual norm. Their categorization of sexuality ironically led to the creation of a label (homosexual) by which individuals created and expressed a sexual identity at variance with the newly created norm.

By 1910, the climate of moral reform (Progressivism) led to the discovery (and documentation) of a homosexual subculture in larger American cities. With Chicago and New York City as examples, the author documents the growth of this sexual underground in the period between 1910 and 1940. Using primary sources such as diaries, letters, autobiographies and novels, the world of the homosexual, with its cafes, speakeasies, and public "cruising" areas is re-created. Attention is given to the various codes (especially language and dress) that served as a mark of this subculture. The study underscores the attitudes held by society.