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

Del Martin

Del Martin was born May 5, 1921, in San Francisco, California. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University before later receiving a Ph.D. from the Institute of Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Martin was married to James Martin from 1940 to 1944 and had a daughter while married. Martin met her longtime partner Phyllis Lyon in 1952. In 1955, Martin and Lyon helped co-found the San-Francisco-based Daughters of Bilitis, which became the first lesbian political organization to have national reach. Martin was the editor of DOBs magazine The Ladder from 1960 to 1962; she also helped to form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in San Francisco. In 1967, Martin joined the National Organization for Women, later becoming the first openly lesbian women elected to the board of directors. After attending the Gay Womens West Coast Conference in 1971, Martin and Pat Norman founded the Lesbian Mothers Union. In the 1970s Marin was active in the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club and co-authored Lesbian/Woman, which was published in 1972 (and in a second edition in 1991).  In 1977 Martin was appointed to the San Francisco Commission on the Statues of Women. In 2004 San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson ordered the city clerk to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Martin and Lyon were among the first same-sex couples to be married. The California Supreme Court voided the marriage later that year, but Martin and Lyon remarried in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legalized in California. Del Martin died on August 27, 2008. To learn more about her activism and life, see John D'Emilio Homophile Movement Oral Histories.