Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) and Kay Tobin Lahusen (1930-) were gay civil rights pioneers and partners for nearly forty-six years. The collection contains their personal and professional papers, photographs by Lahusen created in the course of forty-five years of gay rights activism, and the extensive collection of materials they gathered and preserved to document the movement. The collection also includes Gittings’ extensive correspondence with fellow activists, most notably Frank Kameny, records of her editorial work on The Ladder, interviews conducted for Lahusen’s book, The Gay Crusaders, and organizational files from their work in such organizations as the Daughters of Bilitis and several other early homophile groups; the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association; the Gay Activists Alliance; and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Biographical/historical: Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) began her involvement with the homophile movement in 1958, when she established the East Coast chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian organization in the United States, which had been founded in San Francisco in 1955. From 1963 to 1966, Gittings edited The Ladder, the DOB’s national magazine. She also marched in the annual Independence Day pickets in the 1960s, which were the first demonstrations for gay rights. From 1971 to 1986, Gittings acted as the coordinator of the American Library Association’s Gay Task Force, creating gay bibliographies and topical reading lists. Her involvement with panels and exhibits at American Psychiatric Association (APA) conventions directly influenced the APA’s decision in December 1973 to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. In addition, Gittings was a charter member of the board of directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1973) and the Gay Rights National Lobby (1976), which later merged with the Human Rights Campaign.
Kay Tobin Lahusen (1930-) began her involvement with the homophile movement in 1961, when she joined DOB. Lahusen is known, often under her pen name Kay Tobin, for being the first openly gay photojournalist. She photographed and reported for The Ladder and Gay Newsweekly and is responsible for many famous pre-Stonewall photographs. Some of the most reproduced images from this era are Lahusen’s depiction of the Independence Day pickets, in which she also marched. In 1970, Lahusen co-founded the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), and later organized the Gay Women’s Alternative in New York City. In 1972, Lahusen co-authored The Gay Crusaders, the first collection of short biographies of gay activists.