Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Barbara Grier

Widely considered a key figure in the world of lesbian publishing, Barbara Grier was born in Cincinnati and raised in Kansas City. She came out to her mother at age 12. Her mother was very supportive and bought her a copy of the lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness. This helped set in motion Grier’s love of literature and her belief it could be a tool for liberation. In the late 1950s, she began writing book reviews and literary commentary for The Ladder, the publication of the pioneer lesbian rights organization, the Daughters of Bilitis. This laid the groundwork for her to compile, with others, a massive bibliography, The Lesbian in Literature (1967), as well as two later expanded editions. In 1973, with her life partner, Donna McBride, Grier founded Naiad Press, to publish lesbian literature. Grier’s goal, as McBride described it, “was to make lesbians happy about themselves.” Naiad released over 500 books in the next decades and helped launch the career of writers like Katherine Forrest. Its most successful book was Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence (1985). After the Roman Catholic Church attacked the book, it became Naiad’s best-selling title, with several hundred thousand copies in print. Grier died of lung cancer on November 10, 2011.