"Calling Shreve my husband"
Two young male nudes embracing, c. 1900
Public DomainTwo young male nudes embracing, c. 1900 - Credit: Wilhelm von Gloeden

Despite Harvard’s current reputation for liberal and progressive attitudes, homophobia reigned on campus during the early years of the 20th century. Letters sent between students in the early part of the 20th century attest to clandestine relationships and sexual encounters, but these remained invisible to the authorities until the suicide of gay student Cyril Wilcox in 1920. Following his death, the university implemented a Secret Court to investigate homosexuality. After interrogating dozens of students, the court found a pervasive culture of ‘homosexualism’ and, in a bid to purge that element which threatened to muddy the moral waters of the entire establishment, excluded ten students not only from Harvard but from the whole of Cambridge. Two of these men committed suicide following the verdicts. Re-enactments of the students’ testimonies can be viewed here