Making History: An Oral History of the Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights, 1945-1990


From its beginnings shortly after World War II to the current campaign for civil rights in the age of AIDS, the struggle of gay and lesbian people to gain dignity, visibility, and equal treatment under the law has been one of the most dramatic and inspiring political movements of this century. Making History is the first account of this period to be told in the words of the courageous men and women who participated in it--the people who, though often faced with public exposure and the sacrifice of family and ...
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From its beginnings shortly after World War II to the current campaign for civil rights in the age of AIDS, the struggle of gay and lesbian people to gain dignity, visibility, and equal treatment under the law has been one of the most dramatic and inspiring political movements of this century. Making History is the first account of this period to be told in the words of the courageous men and women who participated in it--the people who, though often faced with public exposure and the sacrifice of family and friends, relentlessly challenged the status quo. Through his engaging oral histories, journalist Eric Marcus traces the unfolding of the gay rights effort from a group of small, independent underground organizations and publications into a national movement. Here are the stories of its remarkable pioneers: a diverse group of nearly fifty Americans, both prominent and unknown, straight and gay, who hail from all corners of the nation. It is a group that includes lawmakers and clergy, parents, conservatives and radicals, housewives and drag queens, psychiatrists, teachers, and journalists. Making History introduces us to Lisa Ben, a Los Angeles secretary who published the first newsletter for lesbians on her office typewriter in 1947; Dr. Evelyn Hooker, who in the early 1950s pursued pioneering research that led her to the controversial and widely publicized conclusion that gay men could be just as well adjusted as straight men; Abigail Van Buren, who as "Dear Abby" took the unprecedented step of speaking positively about gay people and gay issues in her widely syndicated column; Copy Berg, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who shocked the Pentagon by contesting his dismissal from the navy for being gay; Ann Northrop, a Boston debutante who gave up a television news career and became an outspoken rights advocate; Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who has challenged the church by calling for the blessing of same-sex relationships; and Tom Cassidy, the CNN news a
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this thorough oral history of the gay rights movement in America during the last 45 years, Marcus ( The Male Couple's Guide to Living Together ) calls upon individuals as varied as Abigail Van Buren and Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, and many gay people as well, to discuss their efforts to promote the acceptance of homosexuals in society. While the AIDS crisis and legal advances of the last decade might receive short shrift in this overview, Marcus correctly places the Stonewall riots--precipitated by a police raid on a gay bar in Greenwich Village in 1969 and often mistakenly seen as the source of the movement--as an event that accelerated momentum already ongoing. Speakers reflect changing generational views, from the assimilationist desires of elders to the in-your-face demands for acceptance by younger gays, demonstrating the shift in the movement from the early position that ``we're just like everyone else except for what we do in bed'' to that of today's gay person taking pride in his or her unique nature. The book is a testament to the courage of individuals who have effected a positive change in our society. (June)
Library Journal
Marcus, the author of The Male Couple's Guide to Living Together ( LJ 3/1/88), has compiled a lengthy anthology of 45 testimonials representing the voices of 49 eyewitnesses to the gay and lesbian fight for equal rights. Within the book's five chronological sections (the Stonewall riot acts as the midpoint), leaders, founders, rank-and-file members, and others involved with the movement ranging from the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis to ACT UP and Queer Nation offer their own version of the frontline struggle. Found here are a drag queen, athlete, politician, several journalists and academics, psychiatrists, clerks, and many others from most regions of the United States. Notable inclusions are film critic Vito Russo, the ALA Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Barbara Gittings, and ``Dear Abby.'' By documenting the successes and failures of the gay and lesbian movement and reproducing the rifts that fractured the movement through its many incarnations, Marcus presents important and intriguing primary source material. Highly recommended.--Melody Burton, York Univ. Libs., Toronto
Marcus has 45 people with some connection to the gay and lesbian rights movement tell their story. Arrangement is chronological, in five sections representing the first discussion groups and organizations following WW II, the rise of the "homophile" movement of the 1960s, the turbulent years of "gay liberation" (1968-1973), the broadening of the movement and the backlash (1973-1981), and the years since AIDS was first identified. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
Rich and often moving oral history by participants in the gay- rights movement. Marcus (The Male Couple's Guide to Living Together, 1988—not reviewed) speaks to people from street hustlers to ministers, beginning with those who remember the early post-WW II era, when being homosexual was a crime or, at best, considered a mental disorder. The testimonies of Hal Call, Martin Block, "Lisa Ben," Barbara Gittings, and other founders and early members of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis—both launched in the 1950's as social-outreach, quasi-political organizations—demonstrate the real dangers and frustrations of being gay in America. There are numerous anecdotes of infighting and power struggles, but also of the police and FBI harassment that gave rise to the militancy of the Gay Liberation Front in the 1960's and 70's and, currently, of ACT UP. There are compelling reminiscences of "coming out"; of often sleazy and dangerous gay "clubs"; of political activism and the 1969 Stonewall riot in Greenwich Village, which galvanized gays across the country; of the antigay backlash of the 1980's and 90's; of tragic losses from suicide and AIDS. But Marcus also records stories of empowerment and triumph, such as the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and the appointment by then-governor Jerry Brown of gay attorney Herbert Donaldson to a California judgeship. At times shocking, but often enlightening and inspiring: oral history at its most potent and rewarding. (Twenty-five pages of b&w photos—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060167080
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 384

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 1945-1961
"Gay Gal"--Lisa Ben 5
The Psychologist--Dr. Evelyn Hooker 16
The Organizer--Chuck Rowland 26
The Editor--Martin Block 37
News Hound--Jim Kepner 43
The Attorney--Herb Selwyn 54
"Gay Sexualist"--Hal Call 59
The Teacher--Billie Tallmij 70
The Outsider--Paul Phillips 81
Pt. 2 1961-1968
The Very Mad Scientist--Frank Kameny 93
The Rabble Rousers--Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen 104
One Angry Nurse--Shirley Willer 127
The Best Kind of Friend--Nancy May 136
The Defenders--Herbert Donaldson and Evander Smith 147
"Dear Abby"--Abigail Van Buren 166
Pt. 3 1968-1973
The Radical Activist--Martha Shelley 175
The Drag Queen--Rey "Sylvia Lee" Rivera 187
Fearless Youth--Morty Manford 197
The Old Timers--Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen 213
The Idealist--Randy Shilts 228
Mother and Child--Jeanne Manford and Morty Manford 237
The Good Doctor--Judd Marmor 250
Pt. 4 1973-1981
The Ex-Nun--Jean O'Leary 261
The Jock--David Kopay 274
The Good Sailor--Vernon E. "Copy" Berg III 279
The Iconoclast--Nancy Walker 293
The Insider--Charles Brydon 305
A Boy from Boise--Morris Foote 314
The Christian Educator--Carolyn Mobley 319
The Fighting Irishman--A. Damien Martin 332
The Protector--Joyce Hunter 347
The Conservative Congressman--Robert Bauman 356
Sale Juive--Paulette Goodman 368
The Hollywood Screenwriter--Barry Sandler 378
The "Sissy" from Mississippi--Greg Brock 388
Pt. 5 1981-1990
The Film Historian--Vito Russo 407
The Unwanted Messenger--Larry Kramer 420
The Storekeepers--Neil Woodward and Dan Otero 430
The Mixed Couple--Deborah L. Johnson and Dr. Zandra Z. Rolon 438
The Bridge Builder--Kathleen Boatwright 454
The Brave Alaskan--Sara Boesser 464
The Radical Debutante--Ann Northrop 474
The Bishop--John Shelby Spong 491
The Television Anchor--Tom Cassidy 503
The Role Models--Cecelia Walthall and Nancy Andrews 517
In Memoriam 526
Index 527
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