Partner Gail Tower

Queer Places:
60 Kiltie Dr, New Hope, PA 18938
Lorraine Walker Education Building, 50-74 1st St, Troy, NY 12180
4257 Sunnyside Dr, Doylestown, PA 18902
4172 Street Rd, Doylestown, PA 18902
Fairview Cemetery West Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA

Lorraine Walker Bardsley (March 26, 1917 - April 8, 2012) was a poet and author. She lived and worked in various parts of Philadelphia until her move to a reclusive farmhouse in Bucks County. In her 1999 memoir Bittersweet, Bardsley writes that her awakening as a lesbian took place in 1933. “Entering her yard,” she writes, “I reached the shelter of evergreen trees fronting the house. Stealthily, I climbed the closest tree, reaching the roof of a lower porch. From there it was easy to step through a window into the bedroom of my beloved.” In college, Bardsley dated men and went steady, though she said that the conflict of identity began to weigh heavily on her. Social pressures to marry forced her to change her life but on the eve of her honeymoon, she thought, “God help me, what have I done? My emotional life is with women, not with this man, so strange to me . . .” Eventually Bardsley came out and began to explore the closet days of the 1950s when Philadelphia police raided gay bars and conducted random body searches. “This whole new world of homosexuals with its butch and femme terminology,” she writes, “was an exciting experience. The feeling of belonging was heady for I no longer felt alone.”

Born in West Hartford, CT, she was the daughter of Frances Moore Walker and Weston Eugene Walker. A graduate of Oxford School (now Kingswood-Oxford), Russell Sage College and Temple University, Bardsley had degrees in Physical Education and Psychology. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in education in 2001 by Russell Sage where the Lorraine Walker Education Building was named after her.

Lorraine Walker Bardsley, self-described “New Hampshire Dyke,” writes in Bittersweet that, in the early 1960s, she traveled with three other women around the perimeter of the United States. “In nine weeks we covered 14,000 miles, tenting out all the way. Just think of it—four women in one car and one small tent! Once a week we took a motel room so we could launder our clothes and ourselves. Pretty close quarters and nerves grew raw at times. Nonetheless, we saw much and experienced some exciting episodes. We camped out in all the National Parks. Back then camping had not really caught on, and we were free of crowds. For one dollar we were allowed to stay four nights at a Yellowstone.”

Dr. Bardsley's professional career included teaching physical education at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, directing the Department of Health Education in Jersey City, NJ, establishing the first senior citizens group in the Philadelphia area in 1953 (named the Golden Agers) through the Phila Dept of Recreation, directing the Children's Reception Center of the Philadelphia Dept of Welfare, teaching at New Jersey State Teachers College and ending her career counseling at Central Bucks East High School until she retired in 1983 to become a therapist in private practice.

 Bardsley was an enthusiastic golfer, published several volumes of her poetry and supported the Bucks County SPCA as a volunteer and Board member for 39 years. She also loved and supported the Philadelphia Orchestra, was a charter member of the Eugene Ormandy Orchestra Council, and supported the Community Conservatory of Music of Dolylestown.

Lorraine Walker Bardsley died on April 8, 2012 at the age of 95 after a brief illness. She lived in New Hope, PA. She was survived by her best friend and partner, Gail Tower of New Hope.

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