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Nearly fifteen years before the birth of gay liberation, the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was the world’s first organization committed to lesbian visibility and empowerment. Like its predominantly gay male counterpart, the Mattachine Society, DOB was launched in response to the oppressive anti-homosexual climate of the McCarthy era, when lesbian and gay people were arrested, fired from jobs, and had their children taken away simply because of their sexual orientation. It was against this political backdrop that a circle of San Francisco lesbians formed a private club where lesbians could meet others in a safe, affirming setting. The small social group evolved over the next two decades into a national organization that counted more than a dozen chapters, and laid the foundation for today’s lesbian rights movement.
Different Daughters chronicles this movement and the women who fought the church and state in order to change not only our nation’s perception of homosexuality but how lesbians see themselves. Marcia Gallo has interviewed dozens of former DOB members, many of whom have never spoken on record. Through its leaders, magazine, and network of local chapters, DOB played a crucial role in creating lesbian identity, visibility, and political strategies in Cold War America.
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Marcia M. Gallo spent nearly twenty years working in San Francisco with the ACLU of Northern California. She received her PhD in U.S. history from the City University of New York. Gallo currently teaches at Lehman College in Bronx, New York. She serves on the Governing Board of the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History of the American Historical Association and is active with Queers for Economic Justice and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.From Publishers Weekly:
The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) may be little known today, but Gallo makes clear how crucial this organization was to the nascent lesbian rights movement. Beginning as a tiny San Francisco social club in 1955, the group soon organized local chapters in New York, Los Angeles and beyond, incubating many figures on the lesbian political and literary scene until the organization waned in the 1970s. In this easy, well-ordered read, Gallo draws on many interviews with pivotal DOB figures, focusing less on juicy gossip than the tensions that drove the group's evolution: lesbian commonality versus race, class and ethnic differences; political activism versus social activities; collaboration with other homophile organizations versus independence; women's rights versus gay rights. Gallo gives considerable space to the history of The Ladder, which began as a mimeographed newsletter and soon became a lively, highly literate forum for lesbians nationally and even internationally. She evokes the tense atmosphere of DOB's beginnings, when being out was nearly synonymous with being outcast, while highlighting the several black leaders of the group and how DOB found allies in San Francisco's religious community. This is a respectful, respectable look at an organization overdue for recognition. (Nov.)
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