Lesbian Icon Madeline Davis Passes Away At 81


“Her impact on the community is immeasurable.”

GO is saddened to report the loss of LGBTQ+ rights pioneer Madeline Davis, who died at home Wednesday night. 

Throughout her life, Davis had been a Renaissance woman of the LGBTQ+ community. The lifelong Buffalo resident taught and designed “Lesbianism 101” at the University of Buffalo — the first course on lesbian taught in the United States — and co-wrote “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold,” a history of lesbian life in Buffalo in the mid 20th century. She founded the Buffalo Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives in 2001, which is considered one of the top LGBTQ+ archives in the country. 


Among her other accomplishments, Davis also composed the gay anthem “Stonewall Nation” and was the first openly lesbian delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1972.

Davis, 81, had suffered a stroke back in January of this year. She had been in hospice care at home, and accompanied by her wife, Wendy Smiley, at the time of her passing. 

“Her impact on the community is immeasurable,” said Lesbian Herstory Archives in a statement on Facebook earlier today. “We mourn the passing of a true hero who will be truly missed. Our hearts go out to Wendy Smiley and the circles of friends and family. Thank you, Madeline Davis. Rest In Peace.” 

A memorial service is planned for Davis Friday April 30th at 1 p.m. E.T. The in-person event will take place at Amherst Memorial Chapel in Getzville, NY. Attendants should bring masks and abide by social distancing practices. The service will also be broadcast on Zoom. Details can be found on the Madeline Davis GoFundMe page, which had been started by her friends, Adrienne Hill and Ana Grujic, to help Davis and Smiley cover the host of in-home care. 

Donations in Madeline’s memory can be given to the Madeline Davis GLBT Archives of Western New York, or to the SPCA of Erie County.

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