Anna (Theo) Rüling [aka Theo (or also Theodora) Anna Sprungli]

An article by Christiane Leidinger (2004) draws on  forensic historical research to make the claim that “Anna Rüling” was the first lesbian activist.

Her article opens as follows:

‘THE NAME “ANNA RULING” BRINGS TO MIND one of the first lesbian activist political speeches to address the relationship between the women‘s movement and homosexuality.(1) Ruling delivered her speech, “Homosexualitat und Frauenbewegung” (Homosexuality and the women’s movement), at the annual assembly of the Wissenschaftlich-humanitaren Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), or Whk, on 9 October 1904 at the Hotel Prinz Albrecht in Berlin. Around three hundred people usually attended the annual general assembly.(2) The address, which was published under the title “Welche Interesse hat die Frauenbewegung an der Losung des homosexuellen Problems” (What interest does the women’s movement have in the homosexual question), has been translated into English and Italian; Michael Lombardi-Nash has organized a celebration to mark its one hundredth anniversary.(3) It is not an exaggeration to say that more has been written about Anna Ruling than about any other woman who openly described herself as a homosexual woman at the beginning of the twentieth century. (4)’ (Leidinger 2004, 1).

Sadly, Leidinger goes on to describe how Rüling later pivoted to conservative views, possibly influenced by the rise of Nazism where she lived.

See the Lesbian Herstory page via this link.

Learn more by reading her article in full by following the link below.

Leidinger, Christiane (2004), ‘”Anna Ruling: a problematic foremother of lesbian herstory,’ Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 13, Issue 4, University of Texas Press.