Havelock Ellis

On this date in 1859, sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis was born in Croydon, south London, England. He had four sisters, none of whom married. His father was a sea captain, his mother the daughter of a sea captain. Initially an educator, he returned to school to earn a medical degree but never set up a practice.

He wrote notably on the psychology of sex and criminal reform. His writings include Man and Woman (1894), Sexual Inversion (1897), which advanced the idea that homosexuality is not a disease or a crime, and Affirmations (1898) where his agnostic views are found. He was very conversant with the bible and believed it to be a work of great value.

Ellis studied what today are called transgender phenomena. His landmark six-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex, was published between 1897-1910. His views were considered so controversial that a bookseller was arrested for selling one of his books. 

In November 1891, at the age of 32 and reportedly still a virgin, Ellis married writer and feminist Edith Lees, an open lesbian. Their “open marriage” was the central subject in his autobiography My Life (1939). It’s believed he had an affair with Margaret Sanger.

He died at age 80 in 1939. His wife died of diabetes-related causes in 1916 at age 55. (D. 1939)

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