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

Barbara Gittings

One of the pioneering U.S. LGBT activists of the 20th Century, Barbara Gittings was born in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of a member of the US diplomatic corps. She dropped out of Northwestern University, in part because of conflicts over her sexuality, and spent the next several years searching for and reading books about homosexuality. Moving to Philadelphia in the 1950s, she visited New York gay bars, and eventually learned about organizations like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis. She founded a New York chapter of DOB in 1958, and from 1963 to 1966 was editor of The Ladder, DOB's national magazine. As editor, Gittings dared to put the word "lesbian" on the front cover as well as photographs of women who identified as lesbian. A partner of Frank Kameny in the move toward a militant homophile politics, she picketed the White House in 1965 and was a leader of the "national reminder" demonstrations outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the 4th of July. She was also deeply involved in the successful campaign that ended, in 1973, the disease classification of homosexuality by the American Psychiatric Association. A founding board member of the National Gay Task Force, in the 1970s and 1980s she focused much of her activism on the American Library Association and the effort to make LGBT books more widely and easily accessible. Gittings' partner of 46 years was Kay "Tobin" Lahusen, who was an activist and photographer. Gittings died in 2007 of breast cancer.