The Pre-Gay Era in the USA

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This exhibit features homosexual rights organizations and publications in the U.S. from the 1950s to 1969. It will grow to provide exciting primary sources such as articles from ONE and Tangents magazines, a complete inventory of ONE’s Blanche M. Baker Library as it was in 1965, biographical profiles of key activists of the era, images of covers of pulp novels from the 1950s and ’60s, and a complete index of the contents of ONE, Mattachine Review, and The Ladder.

Index: The Pre-Gay Era in the USA

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Every gay and lesbian organization in the country, and most across the world, can trace its origins to November 11, 1950, when Harry Hay, Rudy Gernriech, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, and Bob Hull met at Hay’s home and decided to form a clandestine organization they called Mattachine. By 1952, Mattachine was no longer a secret society but an active and dynamic social force, an ever-increasing body of men and women who demanded equal rights and fair treatment for homosexuals.

The Pre-Gay Era in the USA is the period of the homosexual/homophile movement that spans the period between World War II and the Stonewall rebellion of June 1969. The three primary organizations in the nation fighting for homosexual rights during this time were ONE, Incorporated; The Mattachine Society; and the Daughters of Bilitis.

ONE Magazine was launched in January of 1953, created by Mattachine members and other Los Angeles activists, and it rapidly became the nation’s first successful publication dedicated to homosexual issues. A few months later, in November of 1953, the Mattachine Foundation fractured, and a new Mattachine Society was established in San Francisco. Under the leadership of Hal Call, The Mattachine Review was born. In 1955, four lesbian couples formed the Daughters of Bilitis, and in October of 1956 they began publishing The Ladder.

This exhibit will record the history of these three organizations and their publications in as much detail as possible and in a culturally sensitive manner.

Todd White’s Introduction

In the early 1990s, Homosexual Information Center President Don Slater conceived the idea of making the HIC’s materials available online. Unfortunately, he died before he could see the project started. C. Todd White decided to pursue Slater’s vision in 1999 when he moved to Los Angeles and began studying this history and working with many of the elders of the movement who still lived in the area. White’s goal became to preserve HIC’s material in a legitimate archives while providing online access to the public through the Internet. His vision became realized last year when HIC’s collection became part of the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection on Sex and Gender, curated as a Special Collection at Oviatt Library at California State University Northridge, and now, with the creation of this website, through CLAGS.

This exhibit is the result of Dr. White’s ongoing study of the homosexual/homophile movement in the United States. Though primarily a historical endeavor, his training and experience in cultural anthropology causes him to value and use ethnographic methods involving fieldwork, focused and life-history interviews, and participant observation.

White secured his Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Southern California in 2005 and has converted his dissertation into a book, titled Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2009.

Invitation to Participate

This exhibit will strive to be as comprehensive as possible, and to that aim we encourage comments and submissions from those knowledgeable in the field. If you would like to submit biographical profiles, transcribed interviews, book reviews, photographs, insights, or corrections, please contact Dr. White at Where necessary, copyright information and rights must be provided in order for us to publish the materials.

This exhibit is sponsored and provided by the Homosexual Information Center, a non-profit surviving aspect of ONE, Incorporated that was formed in 1965 and incorporated in 1968.

This module is managed by C. Todd White, Ph.D.

All content for this module is copyright (©) by the Homosexual Information Center. All rights reserved.

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