Barbara Gittings - Inductee

1932 - 2007

In 1948, a high school teacher told Barbara Gittings that she was probably kept out of the National Honor Society because of “homosexual inclinations.” At Northwestern University, she was confronted with rumors that she was a lesbian. Gittings could accept the label but questioned the prevailing view that homosexuality was “sick,” “sinful,” and “perverted.” Finding no positive reinforcement in Chicago’s libraries, it was years before she discovered a bit of fiction and nonfiction to sustain her. In 1956 she joined the Daughters of Bilitis, the first female homophile group in the U.S. dedicated to improving the lives of lesbians. When Gittings organized their first East Coast chapter, in 1958, a gay activist was born. In 1963 she was tapped to edit their legendary magazine The Ladder. She marched in the first gay picket lines in 1965 outside the White House, the Pentagon, and Independence Hall, carrying a sign reading “Sexual Preference is Irrelevant to Federal Employment” which, today, is in the Smithsonian Institution along with copies of The Ladder. From 1970 to 1973 Gittings helped successfully lobby the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 1973 she helped start what is now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). Gittings was co-Grand Marshall of the 1997 New York City Gay Pride Parade where she was declared a “Mother of Lesbian and Gay Liberation." In 2001, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) bestowed to her the first “Barbara Gittings Award” for Activism. The American Library Association presented her with its highest award – lifetime honorary membership – in 2003. She earned the APA’s first “John E. Fryer Award” in 2006. After a lifetime committed to the GLBT Civil Rights Movement, Gittings retired to an assisted living facility in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania with her partner of 46 years Kay Tobin Lahusen. She passed away on February 18, 2007 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 74.

Lesson Plans
Barbara Gittings Bronze Memorial

Plaque Sponsor

Adler University of Professional Psychology

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States Canada Austria

Era/Epoch Homophile Movement (1945-1969) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980) Stonewall Era (1969-1974)

Field(s) of Contribution

Editor

Journalism

Politics

Social Justice

Commemorations & Honors

ALA Barbara Gittings Award Named in her Honor (1971)

Seventh Annual Philadelphia PrideFest America Honoree (1999)

ALA LGBT Roundtable Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award Honor (2002)

Received GLAAD's First Barbara Gittings Award (2001)

Free Library of Philadelphia Barbara Gittings Collection (2001)

ALA Lifetime Honorary Membership (2003)

First John E. Fryer Award From the American Psychiatric Association Alongside Frank Kameny (2006)

City of Philadelphia Named a Section of Locust Street "Barbara Gittings Way" (2012)

National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument Inductee (2019)

Resources

Related Images

Barbara Gittings Bronze Casting Source Image

Barbara Gittings Wearing an "I Cannot Live Without Books" T-Shirt

Barbara Gittings at a Chalkboard

Barbara Gittings with Partner Kay Tobin Lahusen

Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and John E. Fryer in Disguise at Panel Discussing Psychiarty and Homosexuality

Barbara Gittings and Leonard Matlovich

Related Videos

Barbara Gittings in "Gay Pioneers" Documentary

Vito Russo Interviews Barbara Gittings and Harry Hay Part One

Vito Russo Interviews Barbara Gittings and Harry Hay Part Two

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Biography Vetted, Edited, and Certified By
Dr. Marcia Gallo
UNLV and Kay Tobin Lahusen
Ms. Gittings's Partner of 47 Years
Image Rights Usage Granted By
Kay Tobin Lahusen
Original Photographer
Image Source for Bronze Casting
Kay Tobin Lahusen
Original Photographer
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell