The University of Wisconsin Press

Gay & Lesbian Interest / History / Chicago

Chicago Whispers
A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall
St. Sukie de la Croix
Foreword by John D'Emilio

· Selection, Over the Rainbow Project, GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association
· Finalist, LGBT Nonfiction, Lambda Literary Awards

“Culminating years of inspired, passionate labor by de la Croix, Chicago Whispers is especially valuable for its substantial inclusion of a broad and culturally diverse swath of the GLBT spectrum.”

—Will Fellows, author of Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest

Chicago Whispers illuminates a colorful and vibrant record of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people who lived and loved in Chicago from the city’s beginnings in the 1670s as a fur-trading post to the end of the 1960s. Journalist St. Sukie de la Croix, drawing on years of archival research and personal interviews, reclaims Chicago’s LGBT past that had been forgotten, suppressed, or overlooked.

Included here are Jane Addams, the pioneer of American social work; blues legend Ma Rainey, who recorded “Sissy Blues” in Chicago in 1926; commercial artist J. C. Leyendecker, who used his lover as the model for “The Arrow Collar Man” advertisements; and celebrated playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun. Here, too, are accounts of vice dens during the Civil War and classy gentlemen’s clubs; the wild and gaudy First Ward Ball that was held annually from 1896 to 1908; gender-crossing performers in cabarets and at carnival sideshows; rights activists like Henry Gerber in the 1920s; authors of lesbian pulp novels and publishers of “physique magazines”; and evidence of thousands of nameless queer Chicagoans who worked as artists and musicians, in the factories, offices, and shops, at theaters and in hotels. Chicago Whispers offers a diverse collection of alternately hip and heart-wrenching accounts that crackle with vitality.

Portrait of author St. Sukie de la CroixSt. Sukie de la Croix is an internationally published journalist, columnist, fiction author, playwright, and photographer. In Chicago, he has written for Outlines, Windy City Times, Nightlines, Nightspots, Chicago Free Press, and Gay Chicago. As a historian, de la Croix has published dozens of articles about Chicago’s gay history, scripted and acted as tour guide on the Chicago Neighborhood Tours’ gay history bus, and written a ten-week series on Chicago’s LGBT history for the Chicago Tribune.

Visit the authorís site:


“De la Croix's witty prose and penchant for storytelling animate the narrative. . . . A strength of the book is how attentively the author employs contemporary lingo to describe the colorful array of commercial establishments, entertainers, and subcultural practices.”
The Historian

“A colorful and vivid account of LGBT life and love in the city from the late 1600s to the end of the 1960s.”
Philadelphia Gay News

Chicago Whispers is gossipy and entertaining, and gives the lie to those who think that, for queers, life was a desert pre-Stonewall. But it also reminds us how courageous one had to be in those early years to maintain an active queer life despite police prosecution and mob exploitation.”
Gay City News

“Journalist St. Sukie de la Croix . . . brings an outsider's perspective and sense of wonder to this seriously researched but eminently readable work. . . . Chicago Whispers makes for an enjoyable addition to GLBT American history.”
The Gay and Lesbian Review

Chicago Whispers is very much a pioneering work. As much as de la Croix’s source materials permit, he has them speak to us directly [so that] as readers we get to encounter the evidence in a way that gives us a great deal of freedom to draw our own conclusions, to ask our own questions, and to imagine the lives and the worlds that produced these written records.  I came away from my reading of Chicago Whispers noticing connections across time that speak beyond the Chicago experience to the larger field of GLBT history.”
—John D’Emilio, author of Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970

ďA groundbreaking book. Chicago Whispers connects LGBT life in Chicago to national historical events and firmly places the city in the social/historical spectrum of gay life in America before Stonewall.Ē
—Kathie Bergquist, editor of Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)


Chicago Whispers

July 2012
LC: 2011041961 HQ
312 pp.    6 x 9    21 b/w illus.

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Paper $29.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-28694-1
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