The Widow Norton and the Imperial Court played a huge part in drag history.
By the 1950s, police had begun cracking down on gay-friendly establishments and enforcing anti-cross-dressing laws; in New York, for instance, men were legally obligated to wear no fewer than three pieces of male clothing in order to not be arrested for drag. Amid intensifying anti-gay hostility, in 1965, the Imperial Court System was founded as the first drag queen organization, and that kind of community building among drag queens would ultimately prove to be a valuable resource within the broader gay community that had begun making itself more publicly known. Even in the face of legal repression and social ostracism, drag queen communities began to organize more formally in the mid-1960s. In response to the police shutting down a string of gay bars, José Julio Sarria, and better known as Absolute Empress I, the Widow Norton, San Francisco's first openly gay political candidate and local performer, founded the Imperial Court System that united the drag queen and gay community at large for annual drag balls and other events. Chapters now exist in cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico and largely serve as philanthropic organizations that help support HIV and AIDS prevention and research.
Our very own Regent Lady Finger and husband royale.