1924 November 10

Society for Human Rights, First Gay Rights Group, Founded


The Society for Human Rights, arguably the first gay rights group in America, was founded on this day in Chicago by Henry Gerber, a postal worker. It published Friendship and Freedom, believed to be the first homosexual-interest magazine in America. Gerber was arrested in Chicago on sex perversion charges, and while those charges were dropped, he was convicted of disorderly conduct and fined $10. As a result, he lost his job with the Post Office because of “conduct unbecoming a postal worker.” It is not clear how he supported himself from that time until his death in 1972, although he was active in various gay rights activities.

The next known gay men’s organization was the Mattachine Society, founded on November 11, 1950; the first national lesbian organization was the Daughters of Bilitis, founded on September 21, 1955.

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).

A short biography of Gerber and his activities: Vern Bullough, ed., Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (2002)

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

Learn more: Walter Williams and Yolanda Retter, eds., Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States: A Documentary History (2003)

Learn more about the history of lesbians and gays in Chicagohttp://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/509.html

Visit the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco: http://www.glbthistory.org/museum/

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