On this day in 2004, and after 50 years together, LGBT pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were the 1st gay couple wed in San Francisco weddings. Del died just two short years later in August 2006 at age 87. Phyllis still lives in San Francisco, the undisputed gay female icon of the last 70 years.
In their younger years, Del and Phyllis had founded the lesbian organization, The Daughter’s of Bilitis in 1956. They published for several years the newsletter “The Ladder,” with Phyllis being the first editor for about a year, and Del becoming the editor for the next several years. They also were very involved advocating for the entire LGBTQ community for over 58 years.
For more on their remarkable and very public activism over 50+ years, see Wiki here.
Herewith a letter published in “The Ladder” from Del in 1956, explaining the rationale for the Daughters of Bilitis.
“ . . . The Daughters of Bilitis is a women’s organization resolved to add the feminine voice and viewpoint to a mutual problem. While women may not have as much difficulty with law enforcement, their problems are none the less real — family, sometimes children, employment, social acceptance.
However, the lesbian is a very elusive creature. She burrows underground in her fear of identification. She is cautious in her associations. Current modes in hair style and casual attire have enabled her to camouflage her existence. She claims she does not need help. And she will not risk her tight little fist of security to aid those who do.
But surely the ground work has been well laid in the past 5½ years [referring to earlier references to the male-dominated groups such as The Mattachine Society]. Homosexuality is not the dirty word it used to be. More and more people, professional and lay, are becoming aware of its meaning and implications. There is no longer so much “risk” in becoming associated with [text missing].
And why not “belong”? Many heterosexuals do. Membership is open to anyone who is interested in the minority problems of the sexual variant and does not necessarily indicate one’s own sex preference.
Women have taken a beating through the centuries. It has been only in this 20th, through the courageous crusade of the Suffragettes and the influx of women into the business world, that woman has become an independent entity, an individual with the right to vote and the right to a job and economic security. But it took women with foresight and determination to attain this heritage which is now ours.
And what will be the lot of the future lesbian? Fear? Scorn? This need not be — IF lethargy is supplanted by an energized constructive program, if cowardice gives way to the solidarity of a cooperative front, if the “let Georgia do it” attitude is replaced by the realization of individual responsibility in thwarting the evils of ignorance, superstition, prejudice and bigotry.
Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?
S/ Del Martin, President
Daughters of Bilitis