Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were two of the most badass women who ever existed on the planet. They began their lifelong activist careers in the 1950s, a time when women were supposed to stay in the kitchen, and lesbians – and gay men, and anyone remotely gender nonconforming – were persecuted, arrested, and institutionalized. But none of that stopped Phyllis and Del. They founded the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization, and they continued their activist efforts throughout their lives. You can learn more about the impact they’ve had by reading my picture book biography of Phyllis and Del, When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community.
I spoke with Phyllis earlier this week, and I asked her:
“What does feminism mean to you?”
I figured she’d have plenty to say. Here’s her response:
I think feminism means women taking their place, rather than being put in their place. For so long, people would pat women on the head, just like they’re petting a dog. Good girl! Good dog! Isn’t that awful? Now, more than ever, people are seeing that women are people, and that we deserve rights just like everyone else.
Feminism has had a big impact on me. Because I got involved in feminism so early on, I’ve had the chance to do many things that other women haven’t been able to do. Women suddenly realized they needed to get going and fight for their rights, because nobody was going to just give it to them.
Thank you, Phyllis! That’s Del on the left, and Phyllis is sitting on the right.
Want to know a little more about these two incredible women? Here you go!
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon have fought for more than 50 years for the rights of lesbians and gays. They were involved in many political groups over the years, including the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, the National Organization for Women, and the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Society. Phyllis and Del have published two books together, Lesbian/Woman (1972) and Lesbian Love and Liberation (1973). They were also the subjects of the documentary “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon,” which premiered on their 50th anniversary. In 2005, the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association inducted Del and Phyllis into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame for their pioneering work on The Ladder. In 2007, they received the 2007 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Pioneer Award. In 2004, Phyllis and Del were the first same-sex couple to be married in San Francisco, when then-mayor Gavin Newsom issued an order to allow same-sex couples to wed. They became the first same-sex couple to wed legally in 2008, shortly before the passage of Proposition 8 – and before Del passed away on August 27, 2008.
Feminism from A to Z is now available for pre-order!