Elizabeth Terry (born 1951), Interviewed November 26, 1993

by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2021. All rights reserved.


I interviewed Elizabeth Terry in November 1993 at her home in Center City. I do not precisely recall how I came to interview Terry, but before the taped part of the interview began, she provided me with the following biographical information:


Date of Birth: 20 December 1951

Place of Birth: Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania

Place of Mother's Birth: Pennsylvania

Mother's Occupation: Housewife

Place of Father's Birth: Scottsdale, Pennsylvania

Father's Occupation: Manual laborer for U.S. Steel

Race/Ethnicity: African

Religious Background: Baptist

Class Background: Working Class


Residential History

1951-69: Everson, Pennsylvania

1969-72: Slippery Rock College, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

1972-73: 1400 West Grange Avenue, Logan, Philadelphia

1973-75: 4400 N. Morris Street, Germantown, Philadelphia

1975-76: 4800 Florence Ave., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1976: 40th and Baltimore, West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1976: Winona St., Germantown, Philadelphia


Work History

1969: Clerical Worker, Philadelphia National Bank

1971: Switchboard Operator, Department Store

1972-74: Claims Adjustor, Colonial Pennsylvania Insurance Company

1974-76: Miscellaneous jobs as a clerk and tailor

1977: Customer Service, Lippincott Publishing Company


In 2021 I confirmed that Terry was still living in Philadelphia.


Marc Stein Interview with Elizabeth Terry, 26 November 1993


Transcribed by Lisa Williams and Marc Stein.


MS: This is Marc Stein and I'm interviewing Elizabeth Terry at her home on South Street on November 26, 1993. And I guess you explained to me that you were born in December 1951. And I just thought maybe we could start by talking a little bit about your family background, your early years, what your childhood was like, things like that.


ET: Well being raised in the country had its wonderful points and its horrors. You know? Being raised an African person in this white environment that was straight. So there were challenges there, but where I was raised was beautiful.


MS: Is that right? Why don't you describe where? This was, you said, in southwestern Pennsylvania?


ET: Yeah. My parents had this house on the last street in this real small town. And across the street was acres and acres of forest. It was just wonderful. And it was very, very quiet. And when I go back home to visit now, I sleep so well, because there's bird and cricket kind of noises, and it was just very, very peaceful. I have one brother, one sister. They're older than I am. There were other African families that lived in this small town, which is kind of odd. Most of the families of any race that were there were there because of factory, coal mining, steel mill, industry that was in southwestern Pennsylvania. Not there anymore, but it was there.


MS: That's what you said your father did, right?


ET: That's what my father did. And that's what his family had come from Virginia to do. His family's from Virginia.


MS: How far back? Did his parents come up or was he the first?


ET: My father's mother's family was from Virginia, from the area around Charlottesville. And my father's father is from the British West Indies. He came through town. I never met him; he died in 1945. But he came to town as part of this jazz band and fell in love with my grandmother and stayed, so there’s this wonderful family story. My mother's family was also from Virginia, but from the area around Roanoke. My mother's father worked in the coal mines for most of his life, coal mines in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. So that's why they were there and why they stayed, even though my paternal grandfather eventually moved to New York City and those grandparents were separated.


MS: I see.


ET: Yeah. So he moved to New York City, I think before the war, and stayed there until his death. But it was beautiful there. So I'm happy for the experiences that I had and my connection to nature. I mean I live in Center City, but I've got lots of green stuff around me, as you can see, inside and outside. And that's real important.


MS: You described, though, the difficulties also, the challenges of people being mostly white.


ET: Yeah, but I think that my brother, my sister, and I all are pretty tough people and clear about who we are. My mother is this traditional Christian kind of lady and people are all connected; people are all connected. And violence is not an option. And you can reason with people and if people say bigoted things towards you, try to reason with them. Hitting is not an option. She was that kind of woman and the lesson took with me. It didn't take with my brother. He would beat up people. But at a very early age I learned to not take crap in from people and to say how I felt and to confront people on their racism.


MS: Did incidents happen fairly often?


ET: Oh sure.


MS: Yeah?


ET: Oh sure. And one of the earliest ones that I remember is probably from kindergarten or first grade, I'm not sure which, and I would confront parents. Or maybe it was like I was more afraid of my mother than these people, so it was not an option. She didn't want to hear that we weren't able to take care of our own problems. We were out there in the world. They tried to love us, nurture us, and instruct us so that we could be able to be out there in the world as proud people. And it's this wonderful lesson that I carry through my whole life. I am equal to anyone here. And it would have been wonderful to not have those challenges, I think. I'm not even sure, 'cause I like who I am and I think that part of why I am who I am is those challenges from early years of being able to confront people and not being afraid of people and not being really afraid of authority.


MS: Do you remember ever hearing about homosexuality when you were a kid?


ET: Yeah, I had this cousin who was funny.


MS: That was the word used?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Yeah?


ET: “That Davey, he's funny.” He was a raging queen. He didn't cross dress, but almost.


MS: Was he your age or older?


ET: Maybe about four or five years older. Yeah.


MS: And do you remember how young you were when you realized that he was funny? Were you pretty young?


ET: No. I mean I was so dim about this stuff. I mean I was in my late teenage years before I got it. Even though like this was the '60s, it was still the boondocks. It was still the boondocks. And I remember one day when I went in town. We were like out in the country but I walked in town--it was like a mile and a half away--to the paper store. And I was just looking at the magazines and I saw this paper that I'd never heard of. It was the Village Voice. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, ‘cause there was just all this stuff. And I maybe was into tenth grade or something like that.


MS: Did you buy it?


ET: Of course! And I would buy it as often as I could, because there was stuff about African culture in the Village Voice, and there was stuff about gay culture in the Village Voice, and about women, and it was just this fascinating thing.


MS: So you were reading about gay culture in the Voice?


ET: Yeah. But it was like Davey? I didn't know what that meant, that he was funny. I just thought he liked to be dramatic, 'cause that was also how my mother talked about it. “Oh Davey, he's so dramatic.” And he was. He was a queen. Queens are dramatic.


MS: Did he live in the same town?


ET: No, he lived in Pittsburgh.


MS: But you would see him pretty regularly?


ET: At family stuff, yeah. Yeah.


MS: And was he put down by the family?


ET: Yeah. Laughter. Laughter would always accompany his name. But it never occurred to me that there was some kind of female counterpart to this funny stuff. When I was a kid, I just didn't get it, even though I wasn't interested in boys. And I was pretty much a kind of stereotypical athletic tomboy type.


MS: You were?


ET: I played sports with all the boys and was better than some of them. And got a lot of joy out of that, being better than some of them, faster than them, and stronger than them, and all that. Yeah. But there was this thing called lesbian? No.


MS: So no one ever said anything to you?


ET: No.


MS: Thought or said that you were funny because you were athletic or anything like that?


ET: No, 'cause it was country. Girls did that stuff. You know? Girls played sports.


MS: Right.


ET: So it wasn't as suspect, if you will, as boys who were dramatic.


MS: And so when you became a teenager, I imagine the girls started dating and the boys started dating.


ET: And I didn't.


MS: And did you not start dating?


ET: I did not. No. I just wasn't interested and the pressure was intense, pressure from my family. I wasn't interested, but I couldn't really get clear about what that meant. I was clear about what I wasn't, but I wasn't clear about what I was. It was a very, very painful, confusing time. And there was nothing out there until I found the Village Voice that said anything different.


MS: And do you remember getting hassled by your mother or by anyone else about that?


ET: About the Voice?


MS: No, about not dating.


ET: Oh yeah.


MS: Yeah? What would they say?


ET: My mother would say things like she didn't understand me. She wanted me to go out more. And I would do group things. I'd do group things, going to dances and going roller skating and things like that. But I was not dating a boy. And she was worried, but at the same time relieved. I think she was. Her mom had died when she was really young and she was raised by these older aunts and grandmother and stuff like that. So she had real Victorian almost views around sexuality, so there was some relief that I wasn't in the backseat with some boy. So I think she felt real conflicted about it. I know she felt real conflicted about it, 'cause in later years we talked. And she was relieved that I wasn't this wild thing. But at the same she was confused and worried and her conception of happiness was being married to a man. She couldn't conceive anything else.


MS: Do you remember anything specifically you read in the Voice, because that's really interesting to me?


ET: Well I remember really liking Jill Johnston's column. And then at some point I discovered the ads in the back and I was totally captivated by that and scandalized. And even though I was not a religious person and hadn't been baptized in the order of my mother's religion, I was sure I was gonna' burn in hell for reading this stuff. I was 'gonna burn in hell for reading the stuff in the back of the Village Voice. But I was drawn to it, totally drawn to it, like wow! So there was this budding sexual person that was reading the Village Voice as information.


MS: Did anyone ever hassle you about reading the Voice?


ET: No.


MS: No?


ET: Because I was already strange for my political views, and at the same time as all of this, my brother was in the Marine Corps and I still am a pacifist. I am. And so there was a lot of family arguments about that.


MS: So is that what you mean when you say that your political views were different?


ET: Yeah.


MS: You mean because of pacifism?


ET: Yeah, primarily, primarily. But there like a real argument, screaming arguments.


MS: This was around the Vietnam War?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: So he was in the war?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Your brother?


ET: Yeah.


MS: So would you fight mostly about whether the United States should be in Vietnam? That sort of thing?


ET: But I was feeling that we shouldn't be anywhere, that that was not a solution. The confusion was that my mother had taught me that violence was not an answer to solving problems. And so here I was, I had really believed that and had taken it to heart. And it didn't make sense.


MS: Right.


ET: What's wrong with this picture? It didn't make sense. And it didn't take too long for it to become clear that it was poor boys and poor Black boys that were fighting that war. And so that also made me crazy. I thought my brother was being sacrificed on some cross for capitalism. I mean it just made me nuts. So my family still doesn't like get me, but that's O.K. now. We respect each other mostly. Mostly. But then I was like sounding like a communist to them. Even though I'm not, but I was sounding like a communist to them. They didn't know where else to put my views.


MS: So then, if I'm remembering correctly, you said that you went to college in '69.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: You went to Slippery Rock. And did you leave home? Were you living at the college?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And how far away from home was that?


ET: It takes about a couple hours to get there.


MS: A couple hours?


ET: Yeah.


MS: So by the time you went to college, had you had any kind of experiences, intimate experiences, with a woman?


ET: No.


MS: No.


ET: Mad crushes.


MS: Right. You had had crushes?


ET: Yeah.


MS: In high school? Yeah?


ET: Yeah, particularly with this one girl, Frannie. I was a cheerleader in high school. And she was a fellow cheerleader. Oh god, agony. Agony.


MS: And were you close, were you friends?


ET: Yeah. Yeah. And it was very, very painful.


MS: Would you do things together?


ET: Yeah, sort of the group thing.


MS: But you never crossed the line with her? No?


ET: Thank god. No, but I dreamt about it. But it was agony. It was amazing.


MS: And was she white or Black?


ET: White.


MS: And was that at all a source or confusion?


ET: No.


MS: No? That was nothing?


ET: No. That color line wasn't that rigid where I was raised. It was crossed in various ways.


MS: You mean in terms of dating and marriage?


ET: Dating and marriage.


MS: And relationships.


ET: Yeah. So that wouldn't have been that odd.


MS: I see.


ET: Yeah.


MS: And any other crushes that you remember?


ET: No. I was kind of obsessed with this girl. It was like a one-track thing in high school.


MS: But you really kept it to yourself. You never told anybody about it?


ET: Never told a soul. Never told a soul.


MS: And what do you think would have happened if you had?


ET: Hmmm.


MS: Can you even imagine?


ET: Wow! What would have happened? Hmmm. I'm getting violent images in my head.


MS: O.K. Alright.


ET: Yeah, 'cause a lot of yahoos. And her, though? I don't know. I don't think she would have flipped, but of course she would have told somebody.


MS: Right. What about teachers? Did you have any teachers in high school or earlier who you thought were funny?


ET: Well looking back, I think that the gym teacher was.


MS: Is that right?


ET: Yeah. She was this married woman with kids, but I really think that she was.


MS: Why do you think that?


ET: This doesn't make any sense, but because she was so mean. And now, really looking back, I think that she was mean to the dykes, 'cause she was this firmly in the closet person.


MS: Right.


ET: Yeah. But it seems like she was mean to dykes.


MS: Hmmm. Hmmm. So maybe we should move on to your college years. You were in college for three years? Is that right?


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And did things change much for you? Leaving home and going away?


ET: Yeah, it was hard. Coming from this small town and even though that was a small state college, it still was bigger. It was overwhelming.


MS: Is that right? Yeah?


ET: It was, yeah. And I had my first real involvement there.


MS: Do you want to tell me about that? How did that happen?


ET: No! Of course. How did it happen? It was this woman who lived across the hall. And her name was Becky. I don't remember when we met. I can't remember when I first professed my love. I know I first professed my love to her. There was this other woman that was after her and I was flipping out. Of course I wasn’t really saying anything. I was still stuck in my mute self and this other woman was after her and Becky was not comfortable with it. And so she came to talk to me about this woman who was interested in her. And she didn't want any part of that stuff. And so I was like, hmmm. And I didn't believe that. I’d had some experiences with guys to know what vibes are from them. And I was getting vibes from her. And so when she's telling me about this woman, whose name was Ruby, something about the way she was telling me didn't feel complete or honest or something like that. And so I said something like, “Well I can understand how Ruby feels, 'cause I feel the same way about you.”


MS: Courageous.


ET: Yeah. It was like piss or get off the pot, Terry. That's like what it was. And I don't know, it started this relationship that lasted about a year and a half.


MS: Did she immediately respond when you said that?


ET: No. She said I'm too scared, but the end of that semester we moved in together and after that next semester we moved off campus. I think it was about a year and a half.


MS: And was it a pretty satisfying relationship for you?


ET: Well for who I was then and what my expectations were of a relationship.


MS: Yeah? Did other people know about you?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Know that you were together? Yeah?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Other lesbians, other gay men, or just other friends in general?


ET: Friends in general and some other lesbians. One of the interesting things about this college was that it was really a phys-ed college for women. Most of the students that were there were studying to be physical education teachers, so there were like tons of dykes.


MS: And was it a women's school?


ET: No.


MS: No.


ET: No, but most of the students were women. Probably about seventy percent of the students were women.


MS: I see, and most of them were phys-ed students.


ET: Yeah. So there was like just tons of dykes there. So there was this community that was there, but it wasn't really what I wanted, because it was primarily about just being sexual, and that wasn't what it was about for me.


MS: But your sense was that there was a lot of sex going on between the women there.


ET: Ha!


MS: Yeah?


ET: Yes. Yeah.


MS: But when you say it was just sex, what do you mean? What do you mean by that?


ET: It was closeted. It was like love, but it would never see the light of day. It would never be public. That wasn't accepted back then. It wasn't ongoing. And I was getting more in touch with feminism and wanting a different way for women period.


MS: And how were you learning about feminism? Was it through the Voice and other newspapers and magazines primarily?


ET: Primarily I think I was. No, I didn't take a women's studies course. Talking with some women. There was this group of women that weren’t necessarily, wouldn’t call themselves feminist, but they were in reaction to the whole sorority system.


MS: Did you two encounter any kind of trouble at school? Landlords, school administrators, teachers?


ET: No. It seems like probably revisionist history, but I think that it seemed like the whole world was bisexual. So it wasn't...


MS: So it wasn't a big deal.


ET: No. The whole world was bisexual and high, so it didn't seem like a big deal.


MS: And would you have identified as bisexual at that point?


ET: Probably.


MS: And would she have also?


ET: Yeah. She was identifying that way.


MS: O.K.


ET: And she eventually married a guy.


MS: And were you both seeing guys at the same time that you were seeing each other?


ET: In the beginning I was. She continued to have that orientation.


MS: I see.


ET: In the beginning I was still on some level of fighting and not comfortable.


MS: Did your parents know about her at that point?


ET: No.


MS: No?


ET: They didn't know the nature of the relationship. They knew her.


MS: They met her, but they thought she was your friend?


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent]. My roommate.


MS: And you said other friends knew. Did any teachers know or anything like that?


ET: Mmmm. I don't know.


MS: Not as far you knew?


ET: No as far as I knew.


MS: So you ended up leaving college and the relationship ended?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Which happened first or were they part of the same?


ET: It was part of the same kind of thing.


MS: Yeah?


ET: The relationship ended first.


MS: And how did it end?


ET: I'm trying to recall what happened. I was becoming clearer and clearer about my orientation. And then I didn't think it would work with somebody who was bisexual and wanted to see guys as well. And this was also the early '70s, so I don't know that there was a concept of a monogamous relationship. So that was always there as a possibility. Either of us could be seeing somebody. I mean it was O.K. I really don't think we knew that concept of monogamy.


MS: But you didn't like that, I take it?


ET: No. Mmmm. Mmmm [dissent]. It was like that simple country girl kept rearing her ugly head. It was like, “No, I want a wife and kids.” That theme keeps coming back at me. “No, I want a wife and kids.” It kept coming back and it was clear that that was not going to ever be a possibility with this woman. And that was very hard, very hard.


MS: So then you decided to leave Slippery Rock and move to Philadelphia?


ET: Find the big time, find women. I mean that's really what it was about, even though I wasn't really admitting it at that point in time. I wanted to find some community of women who loved women, period.


MS: And that why you moved to Philadelphia?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And why Philadelphia?


ET: Well I had some familiarity with it. It was far, but not too far.


MS: Pittsburgh would have been too close?


ET: I didn't have any faith that there was anything happening in Pittsburgh.


MS: O.K.


ET: And I don't think that there was. But there was. Now I know there was.


MS: Right.


ET: The feeling from when I had been here. My sister lived here and I had other relatives that lived here. There was this visible lesbian/gay community.


MS: Is that right?


ET: Yeah.


MS: You have seen that on visits? Can you remember anything that you would have seen or how you knew that?


ET: I think that there was this paper. There was this paper that was Philadelphia’s version of the Village Voice called the Different Drummer. And I think that I had picked that up on some visit. And it had advertisements about coffeehouses and concerts and lectures.


MS: Yeah, I know there was some gay coverage in it.


ET: Yeah, yeah. So I think that that's how I knew. Or maybe I was also making an assumption because there were so many colleges here. There had to be. No, that's not why. Oh, it's coming back to me. That's not why. I played field hockey and I had met some women who played. It wasn't the Temple team. It might have been the Immaculata team. It was some team. No, it was West Chester. It was West Chester.


MS: And you met the women who played field hockey there?


ET: Yeah, I met West Chester field hockey dykes.


MS: And you're saying that's why you moved to Philly?


ET: Not exclusively, but that's how I got the idea that there was a community here.


MS: I see.


ET: From talking. I think they were track or something, but some sports thing.


MS: It was one of those connections.


ET: Some kind of sports connections. And that was the first thing, and then I did see a Different Drummer.


MS: I see. O.K. So you moved to Philly. Let's see, you told me it was when?


ET: '71 or '72, something like that.


MS: O.K. And you moved to the Olney and Broad area, you said?


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: You lived by yourself?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: So you got an apartment right away, straight away?


ET: Actually my sister found it for me, yeah. And what was your life like in the first months in Philadelphia? Do you remember?


ET: Well the deal with my parents was that I was moving to Philly to finish school. I knew I hated college. I really hated it. And I said, “Well I'll move to Philly, and I'll go to Temple, and I'll finish.”


MS: So did you?


ET: I attempted that.


MS: So you started as a Temple student when you got here?


ET: Yeah.


MS: But that wasn't to your liking, no?


ET: No.


MS: Did it last a whole semester or not quite?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Yeah?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Just about a semester?


ET: Yeah. Or longer. I don't even remember.


MS: Did you connect with gay people at Temple?


ET: I connected with closeted gay people at Temple.


MS: Yeah?


ET: Yeah.


MS: But not with any of the groups that had formed or anything like that?


ET: No. And I think that the group may have formed that year or the year after or something like that. I only know that from talking to Tommi [Avicolli Mecca] and James Roberts. We were at Temple about the same time. I didn't know them then. And I think that the group was forming while I was there.


MS: I see.


ET: But I found the lesbian community in town.


MS: Can you tell me how that happened? Do you remember?


ET: Well I remember going to the bars. There was a Black bar in West Philly at 52nd Street. I remember that one. I don't remember the name of that one.


MS: 52nd and Market, was it?


ET: Yeah. I remember that one.


MS: You said it was a Black bar. Was it a Black lesbian bar? Black lesbian and gay bar?


ET: No, lesbian and gay bar.


MS: Lesbian and gay.


ET: Yeah.


MS: Was it mostly men? Pretty mixed?


ET: Pretty mixed.


MS: Yeah?


ET: Pretty mixed.


MS: Do you remember who took you there the first time?


ET: I took me there.


MS: You found out where it was?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And you went by yourself?


ET: Yeah.


MS: You said there had been a time before?


ET: Yeah. I don't remember which one it was. What was that bar? All I remember is it was primarily a men's bar and primarily a white men's bar downtown. And that was the first one that I went to. And it was obvious to find.


MS: Was it the Allegro?


ET: I don't remember.


MS: O.K.


ET: At Spruce Street.


MS: Who would have taken you there? Did you go by yourself?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Yeah?


ET: I think so. I think so. I think I went with somebody, but I can't imagine who it would have been.


MS: O.K. And do you remember feeling comfortable even though it was mostly white men?


ET: Ahhhhhh. The music was fun. I like dancing. But there weren't that many women there, so it wasn't working.


MS: And the bar in West Philly, again, did that feel comfortable even though it was mostly men?


ET: I don’t know that it was mostly. It was sort of even.


MS: Oh, O.K.


ET: I remember it being kind of even.


MS: Was there a lot of interaction between the men and the women?


ET: No.


MS: Was it pretty much separate space?


ET: Yeah. Yeah.


MS: Yeah? Can you describe it for me? What it looked like?


ET: Dark, smoky. And I remember how it looked like maybe it wasn't a gay bar. Because there were these very feminine women with these very butch women, so they were heavily into their role thing. And it's like “well this is close, but this is not it either.” You know? And I kept on feeling like “well this is close, but this is not it either.” Everyplace that I went. 'Cause that just wasn't the kind of life I wanted to live either.


MS: Can you describe for me how the men and women were separate? Were the men in the front and the women in the back, or do you know how that worked?


ET: No.


MS: Was it more just that the groups that would form would be just men or just women?


ET: Yeah. It's really conversation groups that formed would be women talking.


MS: I see. So there was a real butch/femme scene?


ET: Oh, please. Yeah.


MS: Yeah?


ET: That, yech.


MS: And you weren't into that?


ET: No. Still not.


MS: Same thing with the men?


ET: I don't remember.


MS: You don’t remember. You were paying attention to the women.


ET: But I do remember in all of these bars, regardless of where, there would always be somebody very loud, very drunk. Very loud, very drunk.


MS: Did you talk to anybody these first couple times you went to bars?


ET: Oh I would. Even though I was saying I'm not into those roles thing, I would allow myself to be picked up. So that's some kind of role playing. I'd allow myself to be picked up, but then that started to not feel right.


MS: And who would pick you up?


ET: Oh, some butch-looking number. Even though maybe the way that I dressed in those days was more feminine than masculine looking, I wouldn't call myself a femme.


MS: O.K. But somehow that's how you were perceived by some people.


ET: 'Cause I wasn't like stone cold butch.


MS: Right.


ET: So must be. But it was a lot of confusion. I would be a confusing person for people in the bars, and also because sometimes I would ask women to dance and their girlfriends wouldn't like it. And it did seem incredibly coupled.


MS: Is that right? Yeah?


ET: That's my memory of that time. Incredibly coupled and wondering where are the single women. It just seemed coupled, which I couldn't see or recognize. But I do in hindsight again. So that was the deal.


MS: Were there other bars you were going to at that time?


ET: Yeah, yeah. There was this bar, what is that? Is that Camac Street? Camac? It was called Rusty's.


MS: Right.


ET: It was upstairs.


MS: And was that all women or mixed?


ET: Yeah.


MS: It was all women?


ET: Women.


MS: And was it mixed racially?


ET: Yeah. Maybe about thirty percent African American and about five percent Latina and the rest white.


MS: Did you like that bar?


ET: It was fun, but it was different. I preferred the bars that had DJs. This had a jukebox. And there was this other bar that was over on what would that be? Juniper Street. North of Spruce? I don't remember the name of that either.


MS: Was that a women's bar or mixed?


ET: Mixed, a very mixed bar. I think straight people even went there, too. It was one of those kind of places and everybody went to dance. Real good dance place. And it was also very, very mixed racially. I think that the number of Black people that went there was higher at that place.


MS: So you said that that was the way you got in touch with the lesbian community in Philadelphia.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Was it first through the bars?


ET: Mhmmm [assent]. And then maybe it was that year or later--there was the coffeehouse on North 3rd Street that some nights was for women and some nights for men. I would go there. And then there was the Women's School that was out of Calvary Church. What did I take there? Did I go there? No, I think that that was later when I was involved with somebody that I met at the lesbian coffeehouse.


MS: Oh really? So what was the atmosphere like at the lesbian coffeehouse?


ET: It was like being in somebody's basement listening to records really. I mean there would be this little record player. I think we were actually even playing 45s maybe. So it had that feeling that was on some levels kind of comforting.


MS: But I imagine different type of women went there than went to the bars.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: How would you describe the difference?


ET: More political.


MS: Yeah?


ET: But they probably wouldn't see themselves as political, some of them. I mean the woman that I got involved with wouldn't see herself as political, but it wasn't a pick up scene. In the classic sense it wasn't a pick up scene.


MS: Was the age different?


ET: Yeah. I think we were younger.


MS: And was it racially different than the bars?


ET: Maybe it was a little more white.


MS: Than the Market Street bar and Rusty's? More white than Rusty's?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Yeah?


ET: Yeah.


MS: So it was mostly college students or student age?


ET: Yeah, yeah. Nineteen, early twenties. Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And so someone picked you up one of the times you went there? Is that right?


ET: Well no, I think that that was sort of a mutual interest kind of thing. Yeah. It might be interesting for you to talk to her. We're still friends twenty years later, but she was around then. It might be interesting for you to talk to her.


MS: Great, yeah. So did that develop into a relationship?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And was that the first relationship you had in Philadelphia that lasted for any length of time?


ET: Yeah. I don't know what to call this other thing with this woman that I met at Temple. I don't know what to call that. An affair, let's call it an affair.


MS: And you had met her at school?


ET: Yeah. It didn't work. Didn't work.


MS: And she, and then the other woman, what was their race?


ET: The woman that I met at school, she was African American. And this woman that I met at the coffeehouse was Sicilian American. And that relationship lasted a year and a half, something like that.


MS: Did you two live together?


ET: No.


MS: You kept your own place?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And what was her story? She was your age?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Was she a student?


ET: Yeah. She was a graduate student at Temple. And she sang. She was part of Anna Crusis.


MS: Oh really?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And was that relationship really different than the relationship you had with Becky?


ET: Oh yeah.


MS: Can you talk to me about some of the ways it was different?


ET: Public, very public.


MS: Yeah? What does that mean to you?


ET: Our families met the other person.  And it was clear about what the relationship was. We would go out for romantic dinners. We wouldn't be all over each other, but it would be clear that we were a couple. We would hold hands on the street. Those kinds of things. Being real.


MS: And what was it like meeting her family? Were they O.K.?


ET: Yeah, it was kind of a trip. I'm trying to remember exactly when I met them. She was from Brooklyn. I think I may have met them there. No I met them here. I met them here, at her place.

Yeah. Well it was kind of overwhelming, 'cause there were a lot of them.


MS: Oh really?


ET: She has four sisters? Three sisters? Even though I didn't meet them all at one time, it was just seemed like a huge family to me.


MS: Was it fairly smooth or was it a difficult meeting?


ET: I remember it being smooth. I met her sister first, met her oldest sister first. And I met the other sisters separately. Actually I'm not sure if I met her parents while we were together or after. I may have met her parents after.


MS: Oh, I see.


ET: I may have met her parents after.


MS: And your parents met her?


ET: Yeah. My mother met her. My father didn't.


MS: And was that around when you came out to your mother?


ET: Yeah, I think it was before. I came out to my mother because I was doing some political thing and it was going to be on t.v.


MS: Oh I see.


ET: And even though my mother doesn't get these stations, my sister did and I didn't want them to find out on t.v. That was too tacky. But my mother came to visit and the girlfriend, my mom, and I went out for an evening on the town. And we went to the Latin casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which was this nightclub thing. And it was just this fascinating thing that there was this double bill and the double bill was Lily Tomlin and the Manhattan Transfer. And my mother really loved the Manhattan Transfer and we really loved Lily Tomlin. And so the three of us went to this nightclub and had this dinner and saw this show. And it was fun. It was fun.


MS: But was your mother O.K. with the news?


ET: She was O.K. You know she wasn't thrilled with my relationship, but it was O.K. for her.


MS: Did she say anything hurtful to you?


ET: No. She would never do that. That wasn't how she was.


MS: O.K.


ET: She would say things like--I remember the year she was like, “Well honey, I just want you to be happy.” You know? And I'd say “I am.” But she just really didn't get the concept. But we had fun. And we always had fun. And my mother always liked these women that I was with. It was interesting. One ex-lover of mine stayed in closer contact with my family than I did.


MS: Oh, is that right? Is this one of the ones we've talked about so far?


ET: No, this is a later one.


MS: Oh, oh.


ET: It's a later one.


MS: But I guess you're saying that they got close to your family.


ET: Yeah. And we were included in family things and my mother in particular would acknowledge relationship in her way, like she would send a holiday present to the two of us. That kind of stuff.


MS: You said that you had gone out to restaurants with that girlfriend and that you were fairly obvious as a couple. Were there particular restaurants that you remember that were comfortable to go to or would you just go any place?


ET: The Backstage was around then. Yes, I think the Backstage was around then.


MS: So that would have been a comfortable place?


ET: Yeah.


MS: What about any kind of other businesses? Bookstores?


ET: Well there was Giovanni's Room and the Alexandria Book Collective. Those both were around in that time period.


MS: Do you remember the first time you walked into Giovanni's Room?


ET: I think the first time I walked into Giovanni's Room it was on South Street.


MS: Yeah?


ET: I think Dolores was working, even though I didn't know that was Delores then. I think that that's who was working that day.


MS: So was that when Pat [Hill] owned the store? Or do you not know that?


ET: I don't know who owned it. I don't know, but I remember Delores from the days on South Street and then it moved to Spruce Street.


MS: And tell me what you know about Alexandria Books, 'cause I haven't heard very much about that.


ET: It was a collective. I'm not sure if I've got this skewed, but I think that they also did concerts.


MS: And was it a feminist collective, a women's collective, a lesbian collective? What combination of those things, as far as you knew?


ET: Feminists, I think they would have called themselves.


MS: But a lot of lesbians?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And where was the store? Do you remember that? I can check that in its advertisements.


ET: Well I think it was over on Walnut Street, like on 2100 block. And then I think it moved someplace else in the same neighborhood. I think that's where it started.


MS: Maybe I'll ask you a set of questions about neighborhoods. Were there neighborhoods in the '70s that you would have called a gay neighborhood or a lesbian neighborhood?


ET: Germantown.


MS: And why do you say that?


ET: Well all of us lived there.


MS: Yeah?


ET: I mean there's this one apartment building that I lived in, not until the '80s, but it was referred to as the Lesbian Arms.


MS: 'Cause there were so many of you there?


ET: Oh, so many. That was the Fairfax. It's at Wayne and what would that be? Schoolhouse Lane? But there were a lot of us.


MS: And would you be going up there in the '70s? I guess you lived in Germantown for a little while, right, up there?


ET: Yeah, yeah.


MS: So you knew that there were a lot of lesbians there at the time.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And why do you think Germantown? Why not other parts of the city? Was there something about Germantown that made it a comfortable place?


ET: Well I don't know that this is real, but I do think that lesbians like the great outdoors. And so it was so close to Fairmount Park and Lincoln Drive and the Wissahickon Trail and all that. I don't know. I mean that's why I liked to live there, 'cause it was walking distance to the great outdoors. But there were also in West Philadelphia a lot of collectives. When I lived on the 4800 block of Florence Avenue, that was a women's collective. And I was talking with somebody about this recently. Goodness, we were so silly. They all had names. All these collectives had names.


MS: Right.


ET: And ours was ROW house. Right on Women.


MS: Oh right.


ET: And they all had names.


MS: Do you remember any of the other ones?


ET: Oh no, I can't.


MS: I lived in one that supposedly was from that era, but I lived in it just a few years ago, called GLASS? Gay and Lesbian Anti-Separatist something or other? Sharon Owens was the longest standing person there. So I guess some of them are still around.


ET: Yeah, some of them are still around. And before I moved into this apartment, there was another collective that didn't start out as a lesbian collective, but started out really as a group of people who were resisting the war. That's how long it had been around, the Vietnam War. And that was at 44th and Pine. So West Philly had this whole collective houses scene. And then there was also the gay ghetto.


MS: Where was that?


ET: Like Spruce and Pine. Rittenhouse Square to Washington Square.


MS: And if we're talking about Germantown, West Philly, and that Center City area, were they lesbian neighborhoods, gay male neighborhoods?


ET: Mmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: White gay?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Black gay?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: I mean how would you further differentiate it?


ET: Well I'd say that for the most part, most African American gay and lesbian people that I met during that time, if they were from Philly, they lived in the neighborhood that they grew up in. If they weren't from Philly, they lived somewhere else. So that's that piece of it. The gay ghetto piece was white and male downtown primarily. Even though some women would go there, but it was sort of white and male and gay. The West Philly thing was the collectives. All of them were intentionally multicultural. Intentionally.


MS: Women and men?


ET: Some. Some of the women's ones were intentionally trying to be a different kind of world. There were some collectives in Germantown, but not really. It was very inexpensive to live in Germantown. Like when I was living there, in the mid-'70s, and I rented two floors of this house. And I had one room that I used for my sewing business and I had a bedroom and I had a study and there were three bathrooms and there was a backyard. And it was like 250 dollars a month. So you could be not having a real job.


MS: Right.


ET: And afford to live in someplace really nice.


MS: Do you think that's why it became a lesbian area?


ET: I think so.


MS: Yeah? Cheaper rent?


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And was Germantown more lesbian than gay male, would you say? Or was it also mixed?


ET: Well I'm not sure. Most of the folks that I knew in Germantown were lesbians. That's not saying the men weren't there. I just didn't know them.


MS: O.K. And if you had to pick a few neighborhoods in the city where most lesbians and gay men would really not want to live?


ET: K. and A.


MS: Yeah?


ET: Absolutely not.


MS: Which is Kensington and...?


ET: Allegheny. Absolutely not. And certain sections of South Philly.


MS: And what was it about those neighborhoods?


ET: They probably had Klan meetings in those neighborhoods. Really. I remember one demonstration that was at a city councilperson's office near Kensington and Allegheny. And the folks that showed up, I guess maybe this was around trying to get the Fair Practices Act changed before it was actually changed. So that might have been, I don't know, '74, '76, something like that. And most of the folks who were there were European, but there were some African folks there. And the bigots weren't clear about what their role was this day. They didn't want these queers there, but their repertoire wasn't together; their heckling, bashing repertoire wasn't up to speed. So they relied and they fell back on the “nigger go home” shit.


MS: Is that right?


ET: Really. And it was hysterical. It was such street theater that everybody just started laughing.


MS: Because most people demonstrating, I take it, were white?


ET: Yeah. So it was ludicrous. It was ludicrous. So Kensington and Allegheny, absolutely not.


MS: O.K. And then some parts of South Philly?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Well I want to go back to politics in a second, 'cause you just mentioned this demonstration. But before doing that, you were saying, when you were talking about Germantown, that the people you knew there were mostly women.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And I wanted to ask about this time in Philly, in the early '70s and mid-'70s, what your general impression was of how things stood between lesbians and gay men. In your life and then more generally, what your impressions are of what things were like. Was it that the two communities had little to do with one another? Or was there active hostility? Or was there active sense of community between the two?


ET: Hmmm. I don't think that there was hostility between African American lesbians and gay men. But I think that there was hostility between white lesbians and gay men.


MS: Is that right?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Could you break that down? On the African American side, you saw lots of signs of good feeling between the two?


ET: I guess good feeling would be one way of putting it. Probably the real way would be to say that we had a sense of community, whereas there really is no entity white folks.


MS: Right.


ET: I mean 'cause white folks--most will say no, they're Italian or they're Sicilian or they're Irish or something like that. So there wasn't this togetherness community. White folks--I don't think it exists.


MS: Right.


ET: But with African American people there was always a community. So it just wouldn't make much sense. And I'm really trying to fathom this. It's hysterical to me, the notion of separatist African American lesbians, who don't have anything to do with anybody else. It just doesn't make sense.


MS: I guess you were also talking before about how much you thought feminism was influencing you.


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: So it was a kind of feminism that was not hostile to African American gay men? Is that fair to say?


ET: Yeah, yeah. Don't totally trust that, what you just said. But I think that's what was happening. You know there's like trusting and accepting and then there's patronizing and condescending, which I think part of white feminism did, not treating males of African descent as true, true equals. Sort of sliding in with, “Well we've both been persecuted, but you Black men had it harder,” or something. I don't know. Of like still being Miss Anne in the big house. Still holding on to some level of privilege? I don't know. I'm not making sense.


MS: But maybe if you could pin it down to specific things that you remember, like interactions or events.


ET: Well one thing—I remember being at a self-defense class at the Free Women's School. And this is at the same time that there were a series of rapes on Penn's campus. And I remember there being some article--I don't know whether it was in the DP [Daily Pennsylvanian] or in the Inquirer or something like that--of this white woman saying that she didn't want to be forceful in her saying, “No, leave me alone,” because she didn't want to hurt this Black man's feelings. I mean that kind of stuff that makes no sense to me, which is like don't treat this person as an equal, in the sense that you don't want to be raped by this person, you say so. And their race should have nothing to do with it. But their race was having something to do with it. I remember there being this discussion about that at this self-defense class. And it was that kind of thing. But that's crazy. You know that's big time crazy.


MS: I can see that having an impression on you, 'cause you remember it real, real clearly.


ET: Right. And I still feel that that attitude, that feeling, is still there. It's still prevalent. And it's the same kind of stuff of not wanting to hurt a person's feelings if they're differently abled. Just treat them like a person. It's the same kind of stuff.


MS: Right.


ET: They shouldn't get special kind of treatment because of their life station. I don't know.


MS: Do you remember anything else like that, aside from that class, where this issue came up?


ET: Well I mean the issue came up for me in a number of ways with having interactions with white separatist lesbians, who I experienced as--I don't know, hindsight calls it being uncomfortable with being female. I don't know. But it didn't fit for me.


MS: You thought they were uncomfortable with being women?


ET: Yeah. And the shaved head look. For a lot of years, I did have real short hair. Real short black hair. It was a different statement than real short white hair. And like even though I have on jeans today, that's not normally how I dress. I like dresses; I like skirts. I like being pretty. You know? And that was not the thing then. And it just didn't fit me. Didn't work.


MS: Could we talk some about some of the political groups that you were involved with at the time, 'cause you mentioned a couple of those on the phone.


ET: Yeah. Well I was trying to remember the name of that one group, but I think it was something like Philadelphians for Human Rights. And I remember there being a little of argument about the name, with some people wanting it to be some real blatant name and other people not being ready for that yet.


MS: And who organized this group? Do you remember who was leading it?


ET: No, not really. I mean I guess I could have probably been considered one of the leaders of this group. And I remember that we met in Giovanni's when it was on Spruce Street. So I think that was '75, '76, something like that.


MS: And what did the group do?


ET: The main thing that I remember us doing was a demonstration in JFK Plaza in '76, but I think that that group was also the group that put on the pride parade. That wasn't the pride demonstration, if I remember right. I think that that was just something around July Fourth maybe. Don't quote me on that. But there was like a pride demonstration. And I don't remember. I don't remember what year Sergeant Matlovich was the grand marshall of the parade. But I think it was one of those mid-'70s years. Was it the Air Force he was suing or whoever?


MS: Right.


ET: And the parade, I think, started at Rittenhouse Square and went to the Judge Lewis Quadrangle on Market. I think that's where it went.


MS: And Philadelphians for Human Rights were the principal organizers of that?


ET: Yeah. Yeah.


MS: And it was a pride thing, you were saying?


ET: Yeah. Yeah. And something that I liked about that group is that it was pretty diverse. It was men and women. It was ethnically kind of diverse and fulfilling. You know I think everything has to be put in the perspective of Philadelphia being like the fifth most segregated city in the United States. So given that, that anything was diverse at all is this major miracle. And I think that some of the people that were involved in these activities were native Philadelphians and some were not. So it was a mix of folks. But that demonstration that was at JFK Plaza was a different kind of political demonstration. I don't know. I think there was some kind of tension about being legit and having visibility in some city place. And there was a lot of discussion about having a city speaker, I mean an elected official, be a speaker there. And we did get Lucien Blackwell, who was a city councilperson, to be a speaker. And it was sort of a lesson on how people might be our friends, but they don't have the right language. I can't remember what he said, but he said something totally offensive.


MS: Oh no. Really?


ET: Yeah. It was like “oh no!” It was something totally offensive, like I think he used the phrase, “so-called gay people.” No, he probably couldn't have even said that. It was probably “so-called homosexuals.” I don't know, but he did it.


MS: Right.


ET: So it was a good thing, but it was like mmhmm [dissent].


MS: Well it probably contributed to his education over time.


ET: Yeah.


MS: You had mentioned something to me about the Bicentennial celebration.


ET: Yeah. That was it.


MS: Oh, that was it?


ET: Yeah that was it, around the Bicentennial. 'Cause Rizzo was mayor and I think that this was probably a more left kind of group. It was more leftist, which is why there was this dissension about whether we wanted an elected official there or not.


MS: I see.


ET: 'Cause some wanted us to be legit and some wanted us to have a demonstration to embarrass Rizzo. And he had been horrible as police commissioner. I'm sure other folks have talked to you about that. And he was just horrible. Bars were always raided and it was horrible. But part of why the name Philadelphians for Human Rights was that was that we were concerned about a larger social agenda. And the city had done something not dissimilar to what they're doing to the homeless right now, of clearing out poor people from Society Hill, for instance, because it was becoming fashionable. So the city was in collusion with realtors to clear those areas of poor people. And they were primarily poor African people who were living in what is now Society Hill in the '70s and in the '60s. And those people left. And then also around the Bicentennial it was like spotless in Center City, but if you would go north of Vine or south of South, it was still the normal disaster area of Philadelphia. And that was offensive. So this group had a larger social agenda.


MS: Although it was mostly lesbians and gay men in the group?


ET: It was lesbians and gay men in the group.


MS: O.K. But their agenda was larger?


ET: Yeah.


MS: So did this event on JFK Plaza take place while stuff was happening down at Independence Mall?


ET: I think so. I'm not sure about that, but I think that it was. It might have even been on July Fourth. I'm not sure about that, though.


MS: O.K. And was it, as far as you remember, part of a larger leftist counter-demonstration?


ET: Mmmmm [dissent].


MS: Or was it its own thing?


ET: Yeah, it was its own thing. A lot of the people involved were--if you would go to something left, we'd be there. If there was some labor demonstration, we'd be there. If there was something about poor people's rights, there would be this contingent of us. Some of us would be clearly queer, some would not be, but we would be there.


MS: Do you remember some of the names of the people who were involved or would you rather not say?


ET: Well one person was somebody that I met in this organization who has since died. We became very, very close friends. His name was Jeff Davidson. He died four years ago. And I think it was that kind of organization where men and women were working together in an organization, and I think previous to that time, particularly in the predominantly white lesbian and gay movement, things were kind of separate, but I think here in Philly then we were working together.


MS: Well maybe we should talk some about the women's movement and the women's community, ‘cause you mentioned a few things about that. Were you pretty involved with organized feminism, would you say?


ET: Well I didn't really like structured organizations that much, but I was involved with NOW. That met some needs, didn't meet some others. It met the need to be part of something big, but it was real white.


MS: Do you remember the election of Jan Welch, who was the first lesbian president?


ET: Vaguely.


MS: Vaguely?


ET: Vaguely.


MS: Do you remember Marge McCann in that?


ET: Yeah, I think that is where I met her. I think that is where I met her.


MS: O.K.  And what sorts of things would you do? Would you go to meetings? Would you help organize things?


ET: No, no. I wasn't about helping organize that stuff.


MS: O.K.


ET: No. But I would go to meetings and I loved to go to demonstrations.


MS: Oh you did?


ET: I just loved it, yeah. It was a lot of fun.


MS: Well about the same period of time, I know Anita Cornwell has written about experiencing both homophobia and racism within the women's movement.


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Does that correspond to your experience?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Yeah?


Et: I mean like that comment about NOW being real white, it's like I can choose the battles I want to fight, and I'm not interested in, still not interested in, helping white people get in touch with their racism. It does not interest me. And particularly, white people will say they're not racist. Please. So I think that 'cause it's not politically correct to be racist, feminists would not own it.


MS: Right. So you found that at the time?


ET: Yeah. It's still that way.


MS: Right.


ET: It hasn't changed. It hasn't changed.


MS: Do you remember any particularly disturbing incidents or events that you could point to?


ET: I was talking about this with somebody else. I would go places with the group of women who I was close with. And we would go and we would leave, so while we would go and be part of this bigger thing, we were this small group that supported each other.


MS: And those were your closest friends, right?


ET: Yeah?


MS: How big of a group, would you say?


ET: Eight to ten.


MS: Yeah?


ET: Eight to ten.


MS: The same group of women through this whole time, pretty much?


ET: Pretty much. Some of the faces would change.


MS: Well maybe we should go back to a couple of the early relationships that you had. I think, before the tape went on, you were talking about others that you had. So I think when we last left off you were with the woman who you had met at the coffeehouse.


ET: Julianne.


MS: Who you were with for a year, year and a half.


ET: Yeah. Julianne. I don't know. There was a lot that was fun about that relationship, and scary, 'cause it was the first real relationship that was really public and felt good and felt right. And neither one of us was having hesitations about being in this relationship with another woman. So I think it felt like the first relationship that was a great one.


MS: Mhmmm [assent].


ET: It went downhill from there.


MS: Do you want to say about how it ended?


ET: Well actually people didn't understand us ending this relationship, 'cause we really cared a lot about each other, but it wasn't going anywhere, and we actually wanted to have a party to celebrate the relationship even though it was ending. And everybody thought we were nuts. Everybody thought we were nuts. We didn't do it, because we got such pressure from our friends that that's too weird, too strange.


MS: You were parting on very good terms, it sounds like?


ET: Oh very, very good terms. But we were, and we're still, close, and I don't know what that says, but we're still close.


MS: And you got involved with someone else pretty shortly after that?


ET: Mhmmm. Mhmmm [assent]. I don't remember where I met her.


MS: But is it still before '76? Still in there?


ET: No it's '76.


MS: '76 you got involved with the next lover?


ET: Maybe it was '75. It was one of those dates like where I was living. So there you go. It’s here. It must have been '75, when I was living on Florence.


MS: And you said you don't remember where you met?


ET: I don't remember where I met her. That's interesting. I don't remember where I met her. But we lived in one of those collective houses, so that was an interesting experience, too.


MS: How many people altogether? Was it like four or more like ten?


ET: No, I think it was like seven or eight.


MS: All women?


ET: All women, all lesbians.


MS: Multiracial?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And you two were together?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Were there a lot of couples in the house?


ET: No. We were the only couple.


MS: And what was unique about that collective house, because obviously not very many people were living in that sort of arrangement.


ET: Most of the women that were living there were at Penn or had just graduated from Penn or some other college. One of the women was going to some other college in town, and I don't know which. And interestingly enough, I just saw her. She moved to the West Coast and I just saw her about three weeks ago for the first time in like fifteen years.


MS: Wow.


ET: And we just laughed a whole lot about those days, like about how we were baby dykes, we were dumb. What did we know about life? But it was a different, a wonderful sense of community. It was supportive and that group, Philadelphians for Human Rights, we would meet at the house sometimes.


MS: Would you eat meals together?


ET: Yeah. We would eat meals together, share chores.


MS: Did the neighbors know it was a lesbian collective house?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Yeah? Ever have any trouble that you remember?


ET: No.


MS: Did you have a lot of house parties?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Lot of people?


ET: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Mixed men and women or mostly women's parties?


ET: Mostly women's. Two of the women that lived in the house were separatists, so that caused a lot of tension, 'cause some of my friends were men.


MS: Really? So would you want to have your men friends come over?


ET: Of course.


MS: And that created tension?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Do you remember the fights? I mean who had their way? Do you remember?


ET: I did. My men friends would come. The separatists were the minority.


MS: Did you have respect for that position?


ET: I didn't understand it.


MS: Were they like “we want nothing to do with men” or were they like more “we don’t want men in our home”?


ET: No, “we want nothing to do with men,” which made no sense to me. So what are you living in Philadelphia for? I really couldn't grasp the concept. I could understand the women who really didn't want to have anything to do with men and they moved to women's land.


MS: Right.


ET: You know? That I could understand. Alright. But I think if you're going to be living in a metropolitan area, how can you avoid men? Plus it just didn't make sense. I mean I like men. My being a lesbian is a reflection of how I feel about women. It has nothing to do with how I feel about men. You know? So it just always seemed real reactionary. And when I spent some time with this former housemate, we were laughing about the women. Those two separatist women are now married to men and have kids. And we were hysterical thinking about those two women. “I don't want anything to do with men!” They're now married to men and they have kids, living in the 'burbs. And it's like, “Oh my god. I had reasons to not have trusted that.” This makes no sense.


MS: Were there racial tensions in the household at all?


ET: There were class tensions in the house. There were class tensions in the house.


MS: Around household expenses?


ET: Ah, well no. There was one woman in the house who was wealthy and had never done any kind of chore.


MS: Oh.


ET: So she just didn't get the point and she wanted to pay other women to do her chores. It just made some of us, some of us working class gals, real crazy. It was like this is not an option. This is not what we agreed to do.


MS: You lived in that collective for two years? Is that right?


ET: Something like that.


MS: Did it break apart at the end or was it more just that you moved out?


ET: I moved out. My partner and I moved to Germantown. I think it stayed together for a while.


MS: So is this the partner you were beginning to tell me about?


ET: Could be.


MS: You couldn't remember where you met her?


ET: Yes.


MS: So you moved in together in Germantown?


ET: Yeah.


MS: And that was the first time you lived with a girlfriend? Is that right?


ET: Mhmmm [assent]. By ourselves, yeah.


MS: Right. By yourselves. And was that alright? Was that easy?


ET: Well she was nuts. I mean really nuts. She was unbalanced. So that was weird. Did I leave right away? No, of course not. So this is a weirdness about the relationship with my mother. “O.K., so you're going to do this gay thing, alright.” But she said “you're going to have to stay with the person forever.” That was like her idea of it. So then I broke up with this one woman and started being involved with this other woman. My mother was furious. She was furious. She really liked Julianne. And that was also part of it. But her morals were like, O.K., she could buy this gay thing, but....


MS: 'Cause you were not permanently with someone? So she certainly wouldn't have understood any kind of promiscuity?


ET: Oh mercy!


MS: And your sense, your impression of the lesbian community at that time, was it basically monogamous couples? Was there a lot of sleeping around?


ET: I think that there was, but I think that my relationship history is kind of indicative of women, that we like to have this intense relationship and then for whatever reason that ends and then we get into another one. This serial monogamy thing, which doesn't work. It doesn't work.


MS: And is your sense that there was a really different pattern among gay men?


ET: The gay men that I knew would stay in longer-term relationships and have these things.


MS: Do both, in other words?


ET: Yeah.


MS: Did you look upon that as the best of both worlds or as hypocritical or just not for you?


ET: I didn't think it was hypocritical. I think they could and can work with the right people. I don't think that's my ideal. But I think that it would be alright. I think I'm a country girl at heart, even though that abhors me sometimes. The reality is that yeah, that's me. Wife and kids.


MS: Well I have a final summary question, but I also just want to make sure there's nothing that we haven't missed that you think is really important that I haven't asked you about in those years. But maybe my summary question will cover that.


ET: O.K.


MS: It's just that if you could tell me what you think's most important to write about about lesbian and gay history in the early and mid-'70s, what really stands out for you as the most important thing that you'd want everyone who read my work to know?


ET: Hmmm. I think the creation of institutions, an attempt to create permanent institutions, things like bookstores or community centers or newspapers. I feel that that became reality then. Really trying to have a sense of community. I remember when I was involved with the community center when it was on Kater Street and this whole discussion would go around and around and around and around about having a youth group. And about how terrified we were of that, terrified because we were believing the bad press that was out there about us recruiting kids.


MS: Right.


ET: But at the same time, really feeling a sense of commitment to the next generation, that they needed to not be floundering around in the dark like we all were. We were. Like these isolated queers out there somewhere feeling like there's nobody else like us. And really didn't want the next generation of sexual minority youth to feel that isolated. And we had a series of discussions at board meetings about that. So it was those kind of institutions. And there were a lot that just sort of went whew, right then--that community center, Eromin Center, the papers, the bookstores.


MS: Why do you think it happened then?


ET: I'm not sure. I guess a quick analysis is enough time passed along for it to happen. I don't know. I think that that's part of it, but it was public. We were venturing to be public. And also the institution building was saying that we wanted to be around as a culture. We wanted to continue and then there's a whole thing about the youth was real important for us. We didn't know how to address it. I'm happy to see that it's being addressed now. In like the last six months or so, I've spoken with three different youth groups. and it's just so exciting. I am just so thrilled. I feel like they're my children. You know? And it just makes me very happy to see them having a place to go and that there's Forty Acres of Change. There's this African American lesbian and gay youth group. And then there's this group over at Voyage House and then Penguin Place has its youth group. Three of them!


MS: It's amazing.


ET: That's real exciting. So even though some of those institutions that sprung up in the '70s aren't here, the fact that we want them continued, the fact that we need these institutions continued, that's real exciting.


MS: Any final words?


ET: No. It was fun. I'm glad you're doing this. This is another part of the institution, that our history's there. And it helped me remember a lot of happy times. I could think about the gay men, friends that I've lost to AIDS, and it's sad. But you've helped me remember when I met Jeff Davidson in Giovanni's Room, so I'm very grateful for that, too. And he was a very important part of my life for a lot of years. He still is, even though he's dead. And it was a lot of fun. We would have fun.


MS: Well thank you for doing this.


ET: Oh, thank you, thank you. I enjoyed it.