Daughters of Bilitis

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

Rooted in Friday Night discussions between lesbian-identified women in San Francisco, including couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, that started in September, 1955: The Daughters of Bilitis were the first national lesbian organization in the United States. By the 1960’s there were Chapters formed in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The San Francisco DOB released a monthly magazine by and for lesbians called The Ladder, which was launched in 1956. DOB was largely a response to the constant police raids on bars that opened there doors to Queer people. The DOB held living-room discussions about the fear of being openly lesbian at the time, due to the homophobic atmosphere of the McCarthy era. Members were even encouraged to use pseudonyms at first, however it wasn’t long before the DOB began to attract national attention, and become wid

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

ely visible in the political sphere. They hosted public forums on homosexuality, extending community and support to isolated, married, and mothering lesbians. Martin was the DOB’s first president and Lyon was the editor of The Ladder. The magazine focused more on fiction, poetry, personal essays, 150px-The_Ladder,_October_1957-772562research reports, and psychologists’ writings than on any explicitly political or militant discourse. They are sometimes criticized for only appealing to a particular demographic, and failing to embrace a radical perspective. With the conflicting ideologies brought about by the rise of the mainstream feminist movement, the DOB began to fold, and in 1972 ceased publication of the The Ladder. Their memory stays alive however, as they provided a much needed safe space, away from the bars which were getting raided, for queer women to meet one another and pave the way for the years of Gay Liberation to come.

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