Barbara Gittings Biography
Barbara Gittings Biography
Barbara Gittings Biography
Barbara Gittings Biography
Barbara Gittings Biography
Barbara Gittings Biography

Barbara Gittings Biography

The Powerful LGBT Activists

Barbara Gittings

Born On: July 31, 1932 | Austria

Education: Northwestern University

Movement: Gay rights movement

Who is Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings (July 31, 1932 – February 18, 2007) was a prominent American activist for LGBT equality. She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) from 1958 to 1963, edited the national DOB magazine The Ladder from 1963 to 1966, and worked closely with Frank Kameny in the 1960s on the first picket lines that brought attention to the ban on employment of gay people by the largest employer in the US at that time: the United States government. Her early experiences with trying to learn more about lesbianism fueled her lifetime work with libraries. In the 1970s, Gittings was most involved in the American Library Association, especially its gay caucus, the first such in a professional organization, in order to promote positive literature about homosexuality in libraries. She was a part of the movement to get the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality as a mental illness in 1972. Her self-described life mission was to tear away the "shroud of invisibility" related to homosexuality, which had theretofore been associated with crime and mental illness.

She was awarded a lifetime membership in the American Library Association, and the ALA named an annual award for the best gay or lesbian novel the Barbara Gittings Award. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) also named an activist award for her. At her memorial service, Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, "What do we owe Barbara? Everything."

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Daughters of Bilitis

In 1956, Gittings traveled to California on the advice of Donald Webster Cory, to visit the office of the new ONE, Inc., an early homophile organization that dedicated itself to providing support to homosexuals in the US. While in California, she met Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who had co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco. "She was a cute, curly-haired young woman wearing a shift and sandals. I remember she had this satchel, a backpack — I'd never seen anything like it. Or her", Lyon remembered. At her first meeting of the Daughters of Bilitis in someone's living room, Gittings brought up the obscurity of the name, which she thought was impractical, difficult to pronounce and spell, and referenced a fictional bisexual character, not even homosexual. "Even then I was pretty assertive...What were they doing with a name like that? It wasn't very nice of me, but they seemed to take it with reasonably good spirits."

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