Tuesday, May 26, 2020
 
search SGN
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
click to go to click to visit advertiser's website


 
 

 

Speakeasy Speed Test

Cost of the
War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
 

 

 

click to go to advertisers website
 
Remembering Del Martin: A life well lived
Remembering Del Martin: A life well lived
by Paul Varnell - Special to the SGN

The news August 27 that pioneer Lesbian activist Del Martin had died came as a shock. Not because she wasn't old; at 87, she was. But because she and her partner Phyllis Lyon have been creative forces in the Gay liberation and women's movements during all of my own long activist life - and back far earlier as well. They seemed eternal presences. It never occurred to me that either might die.

Dorothy "Del" Martin was a native San Franciscan, born there on May 5, 1921. She was graduated from what is now San Francisco State University where she became managing editor of the student newspaper. While there, she married the paper's business manager, James Martin, and two years later they had a daughter. They eventually divorced.

She moved to Seattle to take a job with a newspaper for the construction industry, where she met Lyon and the two became fast friends. One evening in 1952, Lyon wrote, "Sitting on the couch in my apartment, she made what I considered a half pass at me - I completed the other half. We had sex together for the first time." In short order they became partners.

Early in their relationship they tried to imitate male/female heterosexual roles, as did most Lesbian couples at the time. Lyon recalled, "we were in the butch/femme bag ourselves. ... We had no other pattern." (Martin once referred to herself as a "sissy butch.") But they eventually abandoned the attempt "because neither one of us really fit into those roles."

Moving back to San Francisco, the two did not know any other Lesbians until a Gay male friend introduced them to a Lesbian friend of his. One evening in 1955, the Lesbian friend called and said, "Would you like to join me, my partner, and two other couples in starting a secret club for Lesbians?" Of course they would! They named the secret club the "Daughters of Bilitis," after a small book of Lesbian-themed poems, Songs of Bilitis, by turn-of-the-century French writer Pierre Louys, who created Bilitis as an openly Lesbian contemporary of Sappho.

When the group decided to formalize its organization, Martin was selected as president. In 1960, she followed Lyon as the editor of the DOB magazine The Ladder. The name was chosen to imply that Lesbians, as individuals and as a group, hoped to achieve higher social status.

The first issue was mimeographed and stapled by hand. They mailed it to 175 people, everyone the DOB members knew. "There was a fantastic outpouring of gratitude for The Ladder," Lyon wrote, "beyond anything we expected." After the first issues, letters began coming in from women asking how to meet other Lesbians. Invariably Martin and Lyon replied, "Move to a large city," which is still good advice today.

When the minister of the progressive Glide Memorial Church formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in 1964, he invited Martin to join. The next year Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike invited her to join his new Diocesan Commission on Homosexuality. That began Martin's growing involvement in non-DOB activities, eventually to extend to women's issues generally.

Our of their experience dealing with Lesbian issues in a growing number of speaking engagements and requests for information, in 1972 the two women published the important Lesbian/Woman, a candid, pioneering book, informative for both Lesbians and curious heterosexuals. Now in its revised third edition, the book still reads well today. I have bought copies, loaned them to friends, and never gotten them back.

Also in 1972 they helped found the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club named after Gertrude Stein's longtime lover. In 1976 San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed Martin to his Commission on the Status of Women. In that same year Martin published Battered Wives, which added impetus to the movement to establish women's shelters across the country.

As Lyon wrote later of Martin, "The number of speeches she gave and the workshops she was involved in at universities and colleges, mental health associations, women's groups of various kinds, and law enforcement agencies increased at a rapid pace." She also continued to write magazine articles promoting her concerns.

In the late 1980s, as Martin and Lyon - both then in their 60s - felt themselves aging, the final phase of Martin's activist career centered on the problems of the aging in our society. Most notably, perhaps, both women were appointed to the 1995 White House conference on aging.

Gratifyingly, barely two months before Martin's death, she and Lyon were enabled at long last to legalize their lifelong relationship. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom invited them to be the first couple married after a California Supreme Court ruling declared same-sex marriages were a constitutional right.

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
Seattle Gay Blog post your own information on
the Seattle Gay Blog



: http://sgn.org/rss.xml | what is RSS? | Add to Google use Google to set up your RSS feed
copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2008

USA Gay News American News American Gay News USA American Gay News United States American Lesbian News USA American Lesbian News United States USA News