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Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen collection

Identifier: Ms-Coll-3

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of materials collected by Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen relating to lesbian and gay issues and organizations. These materials have been grouped into subject files, periodicals, photographs, audiovisual recordings and artifacts.

Subject files in the collection reflect Gittings' and Lahusen's engagement in civil rights groups and their related research. They include newspaper clippings on lesbian and gay issues, pamphlets, brochures, and ephemera from lesbian and gay groups. Subject titles that were created by the donors or under their supervision have been preserved wherever present.

Gittings was a key figure in the American Library Association's (ALA) Task Force on Gay Liberation, the first gay caucus within a professional organization, despite the fact that she was not a librarian. A significant portion of this series documents Gittings' activities as coordinator of this group. Much of it consists of material related to the task force's publication, A Gay Bibliography. Other organizations represented in this series include regional chapters of the Mattachine Society, Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). National coalitions and conferences of the homphile movement in which Gittings actively participated include East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO). Philadelphia area organizations and groups devoted to the interests of gay and lesbian individuals are also represented here and they include Le-Hi-Ho (Lehigh Valley Homophile Organization), the Janus Society of America and the Philadelphia Christian Homophile Church.

Legal records related to discrimination cases can be found here and one particularly well represented in this collection is that of Donald Lee Crawford. These detailed case records involve security clearance appeals in which Gittings served as legal counsel to Crawford along with Franklin Kameny.

Throughout her career as an activist, Gittings maintained an extremely busy public speaking schedule, routinely addressing a wide range of public forums, such as university groups and professional organizations. These engagements are also represented in this series. Several homophile student organizations are documented in the subject files, particularly those formed in the early 1970's in the Philadelphia area. Other broad categories in the subject files include parenting, employment, religion and psychiatry. The series also contains many clippings directly related to Gittings and Lahusen. They include editorial work, interviews and items related to their legacy, such as the dedication of a Gittings collection within the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Periodicals in the collection are arranged alphabetically. Gitting and Lahusen donated numerous books and periodicals to the archives during their longtime involvement with the William Way Community Center. Researchers with an interest in publications produced by the LGBT community, particularly in the Philadelphia area, should consult the archives' periodicals collection. Many of these sets were completed and augmented by periodicals donated by Gittings and Lahusen. The items found in this series duplicate those in the main periodical collection and reflect a sample of the donors' collecting interests.

Photographs in the collection are arranged chronologically. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs in this series were taken by Kay Tobin Lahusen. The copyright to Lahusen's photographs is held by New York Public Library, but the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives has been given limited rights for reproduction and use. The copyright to the photographs taken by Nancy Tucker at the last annual Reminder Day picket in 1969 is held by the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Kay Lahusen worked as a professional photographer in the course of her career as a journalist and writer. She documented the activities of the homophile movement, from the earliest Reminder Day pickets in mid-1960s Philadelphia, to the "zaps," or protest actions of the New York and Philadelphia chapters of the radical GAA in the early 1970s. In the process of gathering material for her 1971 book, The Gay Crusaders, Lahusen produced audio interviews and photographic portraits and some of these can be found in this collection. Other notable events that she documented were Philadelphia's first Gay Pride march, in 1972, and the exhibits and events mounted by the GAA and the ALA Task Force on Gay Liberation at conferences of the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Her photographs of the latter include iconic images of a landmark event: the testimony of "Dr. Anonymous," the Philadelphia psychiatrist John E. Fryer, instrumental in the "instant cure," the APA's decision to remove homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses. The years 1980-2009 are more sparsely represented, and these photographs primarily document Gittings and Lahusen attending public events, as well as photographs of exhibits they created in collaboration with the William Way LGBT Community Center. Photographs taken right before Gittings' death, in 2007, include the dedication of the Pennsylvania state historic marker at the site of the Annual Reminder Day pickets. Researchers interested in photographs created by Lahusen might also want to consult the digitized portion of the Gittings and Lahusen collection published online by the NYPL. Many, but not all, of the photographs in this collection are duplicated there. Additional information may be gleaned from notes made by Lahusen or under Lahusen's direction, on the physical prints.

The audio materials in this collection, which include audio reels, compact discs, and audiocassettes, span the years 1955 to 1970 with the bulk recorded 1965 to 1970. These audio materials are copies of original reel-to-reel tapes recorded by Gittings and Lahusen, which were loaned by their creators to the William Way LGBT Community Center in 1992 for the purposes of copying. The recordings in this collection, document attitudes and strategies prevalent in the Homophile Movement. The movement's public face is preserved in tapes of conferences and meetings, as well as activists' talk show appearances and lectures. The movement's private face is reflected in interviews for The Ladder: A Lesbian Review, and in brainstorming sessions among activists such as Gittings, Franklin Kameny and Jack Nichols (as "Warren Adkins"). Mainstream attitudes toward homosexuality are preserved in speeches by theologians, lawyers and mental health professionals during conferences of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the Mattachine Society of New York, the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and other homophile groups. A significant group of recordings is made up of interviews conducted by Lahusen in the process of working on The Gay Crusaders, and they include public figures such as Jack Nichols, Jim Owles and Ruth Simpson. A smaller portion of the collection consists of radio shows with a focus on the gay community and a still smaller portion preserves symposia on homosexuality sponsored by such organizations as the Greater Hartford Council of Churches. Short fragments of private interviews conducted while Gittings worked as editor of The Ladder are also present and they include conversations with Ernestine Eckman and Rose Wheaton. The video portion of the collection documents appearances of Gittings on "Dyke TV" in the early 1990s. Additional notes on the length and quality of the recordings, as well as their contents and the way they were originally grouped are occasionally present on the items' containers.

The final series lists the artifacts that are part of this collection. They include buttons, textiles, a lock of hair and an antique music stand used by Gittings, a lifelong enthusiast of Baroque and Renaissance music. Of special note is a handmade felt arm badge. The badge, identifying Gittings as a speaker at Philadelphia's 1972 Gay Pride march, can be seen in Lahusen's photographs of that event. Finally, this series contains a set of panels created by Gittings with help from others for a series of exhibits designed for conferences. These include the display "Gay, Proud and Healthy: The Homosexual Community Speaks," shown at the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) May 1972 conference in Dallas. Other panels include elements from two exhibits created on behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLF). These are "Homophobia: Time for a Cure" for the 1976 APA conference in Miami and "Gay Love: Good Medicine" for the 1978 APA conference in Atlanta. Other panels include elements used for the ALA Task Force on Gay Liberation Gay Book Award ceremony at the 1972 ALA conference in Dallas and some were exhibited at the Atlantic City conference of the National Association of Social Workers. They consist of photographs and informative text adhered to a backing support and they can be seen in Lahusen's photographs of those events.


  • 1950 - 2009
  • Majority of material found within 1964 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may exist. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives of the William Way LGBT Community Center.

Biographical / Historical

Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) and Kay Lahusen (b. 1930) were longtime activists and Philadelphia residents. Their relationship began in the early 1960s, after they met at a Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) picnic in Rhode Island in 1961.

Barbara Gittings attended her first DOB meeting in 1956 during a vacation in Los Angeles. Two years later, she helped to found DOB-New York, the first lesbian organization on the East Coast. In the mid-1960s, she edited DOB's magazine, The Ladder: A Lesbian Review. Gittings co-organized and marched in the annual July 4 homophile pickets called Reminder Day and held at Independence Hall between 1965 and 1969. In the early 1970s, she was instrumental in lobbying the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Troughout the 1970s and 1980s, she was a driving force behind the American Library Association's lesbian and gay caucus.

Kay Lahusen (alias Kay Tobin) joined DOB-New York in 1961. She contributed photographs, articles and her editing skills to The Ladder from 1961 to 1963. Lahusen's photographs of 1960s homophile protests have been widely published and have appeared in numerous exhibits. In 1969, she was one of the twelve founding members of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in New York. She is the author of The Gay Crusaders (New York: Paperback Library, 1972). Lahusen used the pseudonym "Kay Tobin" in her gay community activities during the 1960s and 1970s.


3.3 Linear Feet (9 document boxes, plus 23 cubic feet (1 object and 2 crates))

Language of Materials



Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) was an active member of the LGBT rights movement from the 1960s until her death. She worked as editor of The Ladder: A Lesbian Review. In the early 1970s, she was instrumental in lobbying the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Kay Tobin Lahusen (b. 1930) is a photojournalist, editor, author of The Gay Crusaders, and an active member of the gay and lesbian rights movement. The Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen collection, 1955-2009, includes primarily printed materials relating to gay and lesbian issues and organizations, and audiovisual material that documents attitudes and strategies prevalent in the Homophile Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen. 1991, 1995, 1997, 2007, 2008, 2014. Music stand, gift of Raquel Garcia, 2015.

Related Materials

Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections:Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen collection, 1965-2007. Coll. 7645.

New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division: Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs, 1855-2009. Mss. Coll. 6397.

ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives: Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen Collection, 1962-2007. Coll. 2008-069.

ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives: Kay Tobin Lahusen photographs, circa 1965-1972. Coll. 2012.074.

University of Minnesota Libraries. Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies: Barbara Gittings papers, 1967-2006. Tretter. 225.

Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen collection, 1950-2009 [Bulk: 1964-1975]
Alina Josan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center Repository

1315 Spruce Street
Philadelphia PA 19107