1905 - 1983

“You can make an audience see nearly anything, if you yourself believe in it.”

 – Mary Renault

Her father felt education was wasted on women — and her mother considered female students unfeminine — nonetheless, she earned two degrees at Oxford. In 1933 she met her life-partner of 48 years, a fellow nurse named Julie Mullard, while training at an infirmary. Renault's first novel, Purposes of Love, published to critical acclaim in 1939, explored the possibilities of same-sex love through an openly lesbian character named Colanna. Her novel The Charioteer (1953) —which dealt with the theme of love between men by evoking a soldier's attraction to a former classmate — was considered so provocative that six years passed before a publisher dared risk obscenity charges to release it in the U.S. The Persian Boy (1972) was a historical novel about the King Of Macedonia —Alexander the Great —told through the eyes of a beloved court eunuch, Bagoas. Renault's novels were critically acclaimed for their meticulously researched historical detail. But for gay readers they were also some of the only books of their time to present love between persons of the same gender not as a problem, but as a part of life. Before Renault died in 1983, she told her biographer she wanted to be remembered "as someone who got it right."


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom South Africa

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present) Interwar Period (1918-1939) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution




Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell