Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
Ed note: I was off-mic for this one, so my part is a little ... quieter. I hope that doesn't take away from Midgett's incredible life story. -- Jeff
Mary Midgett was raised by her aunt.
In this podcast, the 85-year-old ex-school teacher shares the story of her life with us. It starts in the British West Indies, where Midgett's mom was born. That family moved to Boston, where her mom met her dad. Midgett was the only girl in a family otherwise full of boys. Her mom was a strong woman, but, Midgett feels, overly protective. And so she spent a lot of time with "auntie."
She shares stories of her first sexual encounters, her lesbianism another source of strain in her relationship with her mom. After high school, her aunt convinced her to join the U.S. Army. It was there that her preferred name emerged—Midgett. She shares stories from her time as a young, Black lesbian in the service, including her first encounter with prejudice.
After a little bit of partying in New York City, the Army sent Midgett to Germany. It was her first time overseas, and through some experiences there, she came to see how good people have things here in the U.S.
In the early '60s, Midgett got back to the States and out of the Army. She wanted kids and made that happen. She and the father of her son moved around a bit, then she went out on her own. She married another man and had a daughter, but that didn't work out either. One of her brothers lived in San Francisco, and Midgett saw a way out.
Check back Thursday for Part 2 and the story of Midgett's move to The City. In the meantime, check out her site, Midgett's Reading Room, and subscribe.
We recorded this podcast in Midgett's home in Bernal Heights on her birthday in August 2021. Shout out to JoJo Depakakibo (Part 1 / Part 2) for connect us with Midgett.