Femme Friday – Femmes in Literature, Mary Llewellyn from The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

“All my life,” says Mary to Stephen, “I’ve been waiting for something.”

To me, this is a quintessential femme statement, or rather, the statement of a femme who responds sexually and romantically to butches and fucking finally gets to meet one. Brave, tough Mary, who has worked with Stephen tirelessly driving ambulances during the First World War. Mary, the orphan, Mary the true and loyal lover. Perhaps because she has so much less to lose – no Morton, no ice queen bitch mother, no horses, no family name – she is much more radical than Stephen, unwilling to accept the lot of the invert in the tortured, noble fashion of her lover. She insists they be around other queers, queers Stephen regards as almost entirely degenerate while Mary has a more compassionate and worldly view. Stephen’s limited understanding of Mary as a pure innocent drives her into poorer and poorer behavior, culminating in an act of supremely craven betrayal.

We had to wait for novelists like Sarah Waters, Isabel Miller and Ellen Galford for happier endings for our fictional historical ancestors, but Mary (and Angela and possibly even Puddle) live and breathe as historical femmes and give us a window into the lives of those ancestors.

Deep gratitude to Radclyffe Hall for loving Mary Llewellyn onto the page!


Mary said: “All my life, I’ve been waiting for something.”

            “What was it, my dear?’ Stephen asked her gently.

            And Mary answered: “I’ve been waiting for you, and it’s seemed such a dreadful long time, Stephen.”

            The barely healed wound across Stephen’s check flushed darkly, for what could she find to answer?

            “For me?” she stammered.

            Mary nodded gravely: “Yes, for you. I’ve always been waiting for you: and after the war you’ll send me away.” Then she suddenly caught hold of Stephen’s sleeve: “Let me come with you – don’t send me away, I want to be near you….I can’t explain…but I only want to be near you, Stephen. Stephen – say you won’t send me away….”

            Stephen’s hand closed over the Croix de Guerre, but the metal of valour felt cold her her fingers; dead and cold it felt at that moment, as the courage that had set it upon her breast. She stared straight ahead of her into the sunset, trembling because of what she would answer.

            Then she said very slowly: “After the war – no, I won’t send you away from me, Mary.”


 Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!