1955 September 21

Daughters of Bilitis Founded; First Lesbian Group in U. S.


Arguably the first lesbian rights group in the U.S., the Daughters of Bilitis was founded in San Francisco by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin on this day. The group held its first New York City meeting on September 7, 1957. The name Bilitis is the name given to a lesbian contemporary of Sappho by the French poet Pierre Louÿs in his collection, The Songs of Bilitis (1894). On June 20, 1964, the Daughters of Bilitis held a conference in New York City at which two doctors challenged the idea that homosexuality is a disease.

The first gay men’s group was the Mattachine Society, founded on November 11, 1950.

The first lesbian and gay rights movement in the world originated in Berlin, Germany, in the 1860s. This included the invention of the word “homosexuality.” Read Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (2014).

Watch Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Recall the Founding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEsluZvBm84

Read: Marcia M. Gallo, Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (2006)

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Learn more: Vern Bullough, Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (2002)

Visit the GLBT Historical Society and Museum in San Francisco: http://www.glbthistory.org/

Learn more at a valuable documentary history: Jonathan Katz, ed., Gay American History: Lesbian and Gay Men in American History, A Documentary (1976)

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