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The Daughters of Bilitis was the first civil rights group specifically for lesbians, lasting from 1955 to 1972.[1][2]

History[]

The Daughters of Bilitis, also known as DOB, was founded in San Fransisco, sometime within October 1955.[1][2] The name "Bilitis" itself is a reference to The Songs of Bilitis, a set of poems written by French poet Pierre Louys and published in 1894.[1][2][3][4][5]

Though Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are often credited as the main founders of the group,[1][4][5] neither of them take sole credit for the creation of the group.[3][6] It was Rosalie Bamberger, a young Filipina woman, who first came up with the idea for the group.[3][7] It started out as a small private social club for lesbians to meet in their homes, particularly in order to avoid the police raids at gay bars and other public locations that were visited often by gay people at the time.[3][5][7]

Eventually, the group grew into an organization that was specifically focused on lesbian rights, especially for advocacy of lesbians.[1][5] Martin and Lyon in particular pushed for this change,[2][3][4][6] so that the group would become "a politically oriented “homophile” organization", starting sometime in 1956.[2] They were influenced by other organizations at the time, such as the Mattachine Society, to make the change to being a more politically-involved group.[3][4][5][6]

The group published its own newsletter, called The Ladder, starting in October of 1956.[3][4][5][7] This publication is often cited as a means by which the group was able to grow further in the following years, particularly with gaining more members within the United States.[2][3] The newsletter itself often published articles such as poetry, short stories, personal essays, and even research reports related to lesbians.[4][5]

The Daughters of Bilitis had chapters of their group across the United States, besides their founding chapter in San Francisco. These chapters included New York City,[1][2][8] Boston,[9] Los Angeles,[1][2] Rhode Island, and Chicago.[1][4] The Los Angeles chapter in particular was founded by Helen Sandoz and Stella Rush in 1957.[1] Meanwhile the New York chapter was founded by Barbara Gittings and Marion Glass, with the chapter's first meeting being held on September 7, 1958.[8] The Boston chapter was founded in 1969, with several notable early leaders, though none particularly cited as founding members.[9]

In 1972, the Daughters of Bilitis was formally disbanded,[1] with some sources citing the main reasons being due to a restructuring of the organization sometime in 1968, infighting and issues with leadership between then and the official disbandment, and the loss of The Ladder in early 1972.[2][4][5] Despite the disbandment in 1972 for the overall organization, several local chapters were reported to have continued operating up until 1995.[10]

Trivia[]

  • "Bilitis" is pronounced "Bill-EE-tis".[2]
  • The book "Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement", written by Marcia M. Gallo, was focused mostly on the Daughters of Bilitis, especially their influence on early lesbian rights movements. This book won a Lambda Book Award in 2006.[2]

Resources[]

  • Library of Congress page for the Daughters of Bilitis, particularly with further links and resources to access archived copies of The Ladder.

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 "Daughters of Bilitis - Los Angeles Conservancy" on <laconservancy.org>. Published by Los Angeles Conservancy. (Archived on 2022-05-24)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 [https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/download/13244/14537/ "Book Review of "Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement""] by Zieman, Kate on <archivaria.ca>. Published by Archivaria, The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists. (Archived on 2022-01-17)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "The Women of Color Behind the Daughters of Bilitis" by Lo, Malinda on <malindalo.com>. Published 2021-06-15. (Archived on 2021-10-19)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 "Daughters of Bilitis" by Theophano, Teresa on <glbtqarchive.com>. Published 2004 by GLBTQ Archives. (Archived on 2022-08-04)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 "Daughters of Bilitis Historical Essay" by Sonnenberg, Zoë on <foundsf.org>. Published 2015 by FoundSF. (Archived on 2022-02-16)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Lesbian Liberation Begins" by Lyon, Phyllis on <glreview.org>. Published 2012 by The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. (Archived on 2021-11-08)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "The Daughters of Bilitis" on <guides.loc.gov>. Published by Library of Congress. (Archived on 2022-08-02)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Mattachine Society & Daughters of Bilitis Offices - NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project" on <nyclgbtsites.org>. Published by NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. (Archived on 2022-01-18)
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Coll. 011: Boston Daughters of Bilitis Collection and Focus/Maiden Voyage Publication Finding Aid" on <historyproject.omeka.net>. Published by The History Project, Inc.. (Archived on 2022-05-24)
  10. Soares, Manueala. "The Purloined Ladder: Its Place in Lesbian History." Journal of Homosexuality (The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 34, No. 3/4, 1998, pp. 27-49.
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