Barbara Gittings was born in 1932 in Vienna, where her father was a member of the United States diplomatic service; she, a brother, and a sister attended Catholic schools in Montreal, Canada. Her family returned permanently to the United States at the start of World War II. During her first year at Northwestern University, Gittings's close but nonsexual friendship with another female student caused rumors of Lesbianism. Although untrue of this particular relationship, the charge provoked Gittings's first serious exploration of her sexual orientation. Turning mainly to books, Gittings began her own intensive investigation, trying to find out about homosexuality-about herself.

In 1956, on vacation, Gittings went to San Francisco and sat in on a meeting of the year-old Lesbian organization the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). In 1958, Gittings was active in founding the first East Coast chapter of DO8 in New York City, and was elected its first president, serving three years until 1961. Gittings edited the Lesbian periodical The Ladder from 1963 until the summer of 1966, then joined Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., in fighting the United States government's policy of firing homosexuals in its employ. In the fall of 1971, Gittings appeared on television with six other Lesbians to present a forceful Goy liberation viewpoint on the nationally syndicated David Susskind show. More recently, Gittings has headed the Task Force on Gay Liberation of the American Library Association.[1]

In an interview taped on July 19, 1974, Barbara Gittings spoke with Jonathan Ned Katz about her development as a Lesbian, and about the founding and early history of the New York Daughters of Bilitis.[2]



  1. Biographical information about Barbara Gittings is in Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker, The Gay Crusaders (N.Y.: Paperback Library, 1972; photo reprint, N.Y.:Arno, 1975), p. 205-224.
  2. Barbara Gittings, taped interview by Jonathan Ned Katz, Philadelphia, July 19, 1974. First published in Katz's Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976). Reprinted with permission of Katz.