All-girls boarding Madeira School hosts queer author talk during “queer history” class


On Oct. 26, 2022 The Madeira School, an all-girls elite boarding and day high school in McLean, VA., hosted author and alumna Leslie Absher for an author talk to speak about her book Spy Daughter, Queer Girl.

The Madeira School holds #1 rankings for best boarding school and best all-girls high school in the state of Virginia. Tuition is $66,200 for boarding students and $51,600 for day students. The school was founded in 1906 and boasts famous alumna such as heiress philanthropist Brooke Astor and MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.

The author talk

Absher’s book Spy Daughter, Queer Girl is a memoir about her growing up with “secrets” due to her father’s work in the CIA and her own self-described “queer identity” and includes sexually-charged scenes set in her dorm room at Madeira when she was a student there in the 1980s.

At the Oct. 26 event in the Madeira library, leaders from Madeira’s student “gender sexuality club” introduced the author. After the event, Absher posted the following message on social media:

Got the chance to visit a Queer History class, answer questions from self possessed students, & read from my Spy Daughter, Queer Girl. All before noon! What’s not to love @MadeiraSchool.

Madeira’s classes

Madeira offers its “Queer History” class as a “capstone seminar”: a 10-week teaching period plus research project.

The school offers a number of courses focused on socio-political movements and ideologies such as “Queer History,” “Feminist Perspectives,” “American Modernism,” and “Capitalism and Its Critics.” The school offers no courses criticizing Socialism or Communism. 

Madeira’s library

The school library celebrated “banned books week” in September with a display of books it encouraged students to read and a trivia contest. Books listed included All Boys Aren’t Blue (named a 2020 Best Book of the Year by Amazon) and Gender Queer: A Memoir, both of which contain graphic depictions of sex. Both books are available at all major book retailers.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

According to Madeira’s “diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice” webpage, diversity and inclusion lead to academic excellence and wellness: 

We believe that a diverse, inclusive environment is directly linked to scholastic excellence and student wellness, and we are committed to fostering a healthy community centered on active listening, courageous conversations, and compassionate leadership. Collective empathy drives our learning community and is vital to our school’s mission. Celebrating diversity and multiculturalism are not the same as building a community around anti-bias and anti-oppressive principles and practices. As a community, Madeira is committed to doing more.

2021-22 All-School Meetings

  • “Black Girlhood & Activism: An Exploration Within our Historical Context”, presented by Ms. Brianna Baker
  • “Deconstructing the Model Minority and Forever Foreigner Tropes”, presented by Dr. Grace Player
  • “From the Bronx to the Boardroom: How Afro-Latina Identity Became a Superpower”, presented by Ms. Lizette Williams

The diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice webpage also includes a version of the ubiquitous “equality vs. equity” cartoon.