1976 Gay Guide Reflects Valley Revolution


 

By mid-decade, the social revolution begun in the early seventies had markedly changed the gay subculture in the Connecticut River Valley in Western Massachusetts. This is graphically evident in the second edition of the New England Gay Guide: 1976 published by Gay Community News.

The southernmost, heavily-populated, and industrial Hampden County retained its traditional bar/cruising/bath scenes. By 1976, mid-Valley Hampshire County rivaled Hampden for sheer number of activities, all of which were new. Even northern, sparsely-populated, rural Franklin County had become semi-publicly “out” home for a few lesbians and gays.

Bambi Gauthier tells me that the 1975 first edition of the New England Gay Guide was a mimeographed and stapled publication by Gay Community News, the regional newspaper based in Boston that started in 1973. The Guide was organized alphabetically by states and then towns within each state. Bambi photocopied the Valley listings for me. For the purpose of this post I have cut and glue-sticked them into relevant segments for a close-up view.

While gay and women’s guides are notorious for being out of date, this 1976 version presents a fairly accurate approximation of what I’m finding in documents and/or anecdotes. Whoever wrote the copy also had a sense of humor. The Guide listings demonstrate not only the growth in the gay subculture that took place in the first five years of the decade, but also illustrate discernible differences in the character of that change, among the three counties and also among towns within the same county.

As the largest Valley city, Springfield, in Hampden County, has always been the epicenter of the area’s gay bar culture. It still was in 1976, when all three of the Valley’s gay bars were in the city. The Guide’s listing includes not only these bars, but the anticipated opening and noted closing of others, among them the bombed Arch downtown and the Hideaway (also known as the Girls’ Club) in nearby Chicopee. This appears to be so culturally typical that the Guide has a listing category “Bars, defunct.” Gay women appear to be comfortable at one of the three bars and encouraged at a second. The traditional baths, restaurant, nearest VD clinic, and interstate highway cruise spot near the Longmeadow exit are also included.

gay guide hampden county_edited-1

 

What had changed by 1976 in the heavily populated Hampden County, according to GCN’s Guide, was the addition of a few new activities outside the bars. A “small local sprig” of Dignity, the national religious group for gay Catholics, had a Springfield PO Box. The group appears to have been attending mass together in Hartford at the Metropolitan Community Church. The Springfield Gay Alliance also had a PO Box, as well as a phone, and the organization was meeting weekly at the Unitarian Church in Longmeadow. Another new activity, although bar related, is a listing for Artandryl, “An all-women’s band doing 60s rock and some feminist material.”

Listings for rural Franklin County are, not surprisingly, sparse but exciting. Though they had listed an agent’s address in NYC, the all-women band Deadly Nightshade  lived together in a farmhouse in Apple Valley, Ashfield. Though they had an Amherst PO box, the Hopbrook Community was just across the river. The Hopbrook Community of gay men in New Salem marked the beginning of the gay and lesbian (and radical hippie) back-to-the-land movement in the hilltowns of the Valley.

gay guide franklin cty_edited-1

Nestled between Hampden and Franklin, Hampshire County is a mix of small cities, towns, and farmland in which the largest industry is education. In 1976, Smith, Amherst, and Mt. Holyoke were elite colleges. Hampshire College was founded in 1970 as an “experiment in education.” UMass was one of the state’s large universities. This county proved to be extremely fertile ground for the social change Movements sweeping the country, including the Women’s, Gay and Lesbian. By the time the NE Gay Guide was published, the number of activities listed in Hampshire County surpassed those in Hampden County. All were new in the seventies. Some were extensions of old bar culture in slightly different form. Others were groups and organizations consciously created as alternatives to gay bar culture.

The greatest number of Hampshire County listings are in Amherst, on the east side of the river. Along with nearby Hadley, bars are listed though they are only gay tolerant or gay-themed one night a week. UMass, home to the beginning of the Valley’s Gay Liberation Movement , had multiple student groups, a first effort to support teens, the first gay radio in the region, and feminist endeavors that welcomed lesbians.

Two business listings in town are especially notable. Amherst was one of the earliest towns in the state to pass a non-discrimination law that included gays and lesbians, long before the state legislation. I am seeking a date and confirming detail for effort, which I think was led by a gay Selectman, Tom Hutchinson.

gay guide hampshire east_edited-1

The Guide’s listings for Northampton, across the river to the west, are a sharp contrast, highlighting a great cultural difference between it and the rest of the Valley. All of them are for women, even if only described as welcoming, such as Legal Services, which I believe was submitted by the lesbian who worked there.

About half the listings are an extension of the old bar culture: a lesbian dance night at a straight bar, and two of the all-women’s bands  that played the straight and gay dance club circuits. The other half are the feminist centers of activity that included lesbians , exclusively or with other women.

gay guide hampshire west_edited-1

The differences within the Valley demonstrated in the 1976 New England Gay Guide show how the beginning of change was rooted here, to greater or lesser degree, in varying form, and for differing populaces. Gender and sexuality were both ways in which gatherings were called together, but so was political ideology. These differences come into play over the coming decades, sometimes in very dramatic ways.

SOURCES:

__New England Gay Guide 1976. Gay Community News. Boston. 1976.

__Gay Community News (Publication) Collection · Documented ...https://historyproject.omeka.net › collections › show

 

Nutcracker’s Suite and the Anti-Rape Movement


 The dojo’s name was a private joke, known in the Lesbian feminist community as the Nutcracker’s Suite and in public as the Northampton Women’s Karate and Self-Defense Dojo. That wry humor was also reflected in the mural painted on the side of the squat little lavender stucco building housing the school at 68 Masonic Street.

There is a photo of the mural taken in the summer of 1978 by Elizabeth Samit and reprinted fifteen later in Northampton’s Lesbian Calendar. Dojo student, and later instructor, Beth Holt’s VW bug can be seen parked next to the building. The mural faced the fire department next door and so confronted the town’s firemen every day as well as those passing by. The mural and the institution it decorated were among the results of more than half a decade of anti-rape organizing in the Valley and a connection to the larger national movement.

dojo mural tlc coverPhoto and artwork copyright Elizabeth Samit a member of the Hestia Mural Collective, used by permission

Lesbian feminists were part of the Valley’s movement to begin ending violence against women, including rape. In 1973, after a series of rapes in Puffton Village, (an Amherst apartment complex lived in by many students), the newly-opened Everywoman’s Center (EWC) formed an action group to address the violence.

rape comm amherst
Enter a caption

Feb 20, 1973. Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It was essential to begin breaking the silence around this hidden and often misnamed form of assault, one of the many forms of abuse endured everyday by women. The next month, EWC, with the Valley Women’s Center in Northampton, convened a conference on rape, including a speak-out. Recruited to do the poster, I asked Jackie, another Green St. tenant, to pose on the floor of my room for the drawing I used in its design.

rape conference poster by me1973 poster layout by Kaymarion [Raymond]

At that speak-out, an increasingly emotional crowd of women filled the Main Street basement of the Unitarian Society to witness woman after woman share her experiences, many for the first time, myself included. Organizing immediately began in Springfield to include rape crisis intervention as one of the areas to be supported by the brand-new Springfield Women’s Center. A brief report on the conference and an action resolution were included in their dittoed newsletter dated March 21, 1973.

swc rape gp jan 73_edited-1Springfield Women’s Center Newsletter Mar. 21 1973

Feminist-invented actions were needed on multiple fronts; public education and individual self-defense training to prevent assaults, physical and emotional support for victims in crisis, advocacy on behalf of victims with police and courts, education of law enforcement, and changes in laws concerning rape and victims’ rights. There was no easy fix in working on behalf of assaulted women. These activists had to deal with the varied competency levels and sexist attitudes of police departments and prosecuting attorneys across the three Valley counties.

As with many other issues addressed by the Women’s Liberation Movement in the U.S., the thinking and experimentation of feminists in other cities helped inform those locally. In the ad hoc library on the Common Womon Club’s porch, I found a manila file folder of articles on women and violence. There were mimeographed papers from feminist activists around the country, including guidelines for counselors helping rape victims, the Detroit Women’s Crisis Center (1973); the goals and objectives of a city-wide anti-rape campaign led by an Ann Arbor Michigan municipal advisory board, (1975); and a guide to self-defense courses and martial arts, NYC Women’s Martial Arts Union (second edition 1974).

antirape lit

Mimeographed literature from around the country was gathered and read in the Valley as feminists invented ways to address the violence against women. These examples from a folder in Common Womon Club’s library that may have been a Valley Women’s Center/Union subject file.

In 1974, the Springfield Rape Crisis Hotline was started by volunteers in the Springfield Women’s Center. There is a note in the Herstorical Chronology of the Valley Women’s Movement  that a “Sep 6, 1975 benefit for Springfield Rape Crisis Center was disrupted by police, one woman beaten. Protests made to Mayor of lack of police cooperation.” Can anyone add details or documentation for this?  They were an activist group, witness a clipping I came across in which women disrupted a lecture.

swu rape_edited-2Undated and Unattributed clipping, likely April 1975 Springfield Union.

spfld rape ctr_edited-1Springfield Rape Crisis Center brochure undated

 

One of the long-term goals of the Springfield Center was to establish a school for self-defense and karate.  The need for this was also felt in Northampton during the hot summer of 1975, with a noticeable increase in physical harassment of lesbians on the streets of Northampton in reaction to new activity at the Lesbian Gardens and Gala Café. This prompted not just the formation of a slightly trained ad hoc Dyke Patrol to protect lesbians coming and going from lesbian events in town, but also greater awareness in the lesbian community of the need for self-defense.

One result was the formation of self-defense classes at the Lesbian Gardens  space over the Valley Women’s Center at 200 Main Street. The Lesbian Gardens was where I saw a woman in a karate gi for the first time. She was Cindy Shamban, an instructor. A year later, in 1976, Cindy teamed up with Pat Turney to rent fourth floor space in the Masonic Building at 25 or 26 Main St. in Northampton and open “a wimmin’s self-defense and karate school.” Separate all-wimmin’s and all-lesbian classes were offered on a sliding cost scale. There was also a karate class for little women age 5-13.

nutcracker opens dd nov 76_edited-1From Dyke Doings Nov. 1976

Self-defense demonstrations and workshops became included at women’s conferences in the Valley along with more – and more specific – planning for support for victims.  In 1976, a Rape Advocate/Counselor Training Conference, based on feminist principles, was held by Family Planning at their newly opened Center Street, Northampton offices. The Springfield Rape Crisis Center closed, though it is unclear if this was because the Women’s Center lost space. The hotline may have continued but became housed at the Springfield YWCA as HERA, the Hotline to End Rape. I have no documentation for this. Please share if you do. Everywoman’s Center in Amherst began doing Rape Advocacy/Counseling. 1976 also saw the first anti-rape march in the Valley, held in Northampton by the Valley Women’s Union. march ant rape_edited-1Undated [May 14, 1976?] and unattributed publicity for Anti-rape March

In a related 1976 move, NELCWIT battered women’s services started in Greenfield for Franklin County, another Valley first. By 1978, Everywoman’s Center had established the Crisis line that continues to this day, and Necessities/Necessidades (now Safe Passage) Hampshire County battered women’s services had opened. When did Hampden County Womanshelter open?

Ceres Inc, which bought the buildings at 68-78 Masonic Street to start a women’s restaurant, evicted the Navy Recruiters from number 68 and rented it to the Nutcracker’s Suite in April of 1977.Cindy & Robin @ The Nutcracker

“Robin and Cindy at the Nutcracker.” View onto Masonic Street. Photo courtesy of Cindy, photographer unknown.

At some point, that mural went up. I don’t know who painted it there, but the design came from the cover of the first issue of Black Belt Woman, published in 1975-76 from Medford Massachusetts. The image is from a woodcut by Elizabeth Samit.

bbw1cover

First issue Sep 1975 of magazine from Medford MA. Graphic by Elizabeth Samit

Pat Turney, later named Banshee, became part of the network being formed among women across the continent. She contributed writing to Black Belt Woman, and included the dojo in the sixty page directory of women in the martial arts published by the magazine in 1976.

Pat and the Nutcracker’s Suite organized and hosted the second annual 1977 National Training Camp for Women and the Martial Arts. Ninety women from over a dozen karate styles worked out together for three June days at Hampshire College in Amherst. I had the pleasure of designing the teeshirt for that. The training was reported in Off Our Backs.

Pat & Cindy @ training camp“Pat Turney and Cindy at Training Camp “, photographer unknown. Courtesy of Cindy

 

summer tng tee 1977 by me

Tee shirt by-blow from summer training by Kaymarion [Raymond] photographed by Anne Moore

Perhaps because of the training camp, Wendy Dragonfire joined Banshee as an instructor at the Nutcracker’s Suite briefly before Banshee withdrew for further training elsewhere.

dojo flyer 1977

Undated [1977] flyer. the graphic on the right is by me and was used as the t-shirt design for the ’77 National Training

Wendy took over the school in September of 1977. Its name changed to the Valley Women’s Martial Arts and in 1978 moved to Springfield. As part of a now national campaign, Northampton’s first Take Back the Night March was held in 1978. Over 1500 women showed up.

take back 1978_edited-1

abbreviated flyer (for space reasons). As a women’s march, men provided childcare and sideline support.

songs 78 march_edited-1mimeographed songsheet first Take Back the night March

78 march pr_edited-1Springfield Union Nov. 6 1978

78 march coverage_edited-1

Undated Springfield Union clip of March coverage, estimated 1500 marchers

SOURCES:

__The Lesbian Calendar. May 1993. Cover photo of dojo mural “Olive Oyl on the dojo” 1978 by Elizabeth Samit.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton MA. 1979. http://vwhc.org/timeline.html

__Ballou, Bill. ”Rape Crisis Committee Formed.” [Probably daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton.] Feb. 20, 1973.

__[Raymond,]Kay[marion.] Rape Conference poster. Northampton. [1973.]

__Springfield Women’s Center Newsletter. Mar 21, 1973. (Five page ditto.)

__Filosi, Penny. “Female Protesters Disrupt Rape Lecture.” [Springfield] Union. [April 1975?]

__Rape Crisis Center. Brochure. [Springfield.] Undated.

__Dyke Doings. Nov. 1976. Northampton.

__”Valley Women’s Union to Stage Rape March.” Undated [May 14, 1976?] and Unattributed.

__Black Belt Woman. September 1975. Medford MA. __ Black Belt Woman: Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense. Online description/contents of issues. “Historic magazine of the women’s martial arts and self-defense movement arising out of the second wave of feminism, published from 1975 to 1976.”  http://www.greenlion.com/BBW/bbw.html

__Valley Women’s Union Newsletter. Nov. 1976. Northampton.

__”articles on women and violence.” Subject file c. 1973-75. From Common Womon Club, Northampton reading library.

__Delaplaine, Jo. ”Martial Arts.” Off Our Backs. Aug. 31, 1977.

__Valley Women’s Martial Arts Inc.”Valley Women’s Martial Arts: 20th Anniversary 1977-1997.” 1997. Easthampton MA.

__Bloomberg, Marcia. “Women plan march to underscore rape crises.” Springfield Union. Nov. 6, 1978.

__Weinberg, Neal. Springfield Republican. ”Women stage protest against […]” Partial clipping without date, probably Nov. 19, 1978.

__[additional source to find ?Author?  “3000 Women March In Take Back the Night March.” Valley Women’s Voice Feb. 1979. I have a note of this but not the coverage itself. Was this in reference to the Nov. 1978 March?]

 

 

Lesbian Alliance Forms at Smith College


As the student founders of Smith College’s first lesbian group graduated, the unfunded and unofficial Sophia Sisters folded in 1975. The next year, however, a new student group formed. Calling themselves the Lesbian Alliance, over the next several years they fought hostility from other students to achieve official group status, space in the Women’s Resource Center, and student government funding. As the 1977 flyer included below indicates, they laid the organizational foundation for  a much greater town/gown collaboration in the 1980s. It is likely members of SCLA attended the first (?) Seven Sisters Lesbian Conference held at Radcliffe in 1978.scla apr3 77 flyer w mtg agenda, scarchives_edited-1

 

 

Flyer/Agenda. Courtesy of the Smith College Archives

Sources:

_Braverman, Stacy. “Crushes at Smith.” Unpublished paper submitted to KMR for use in the chapbook. 2003.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres Inc. Northampton MA. 1979. http://vwhc.org/timeline.html

__Lozier, Anne. “Records of the Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance, 1976-2003.” Finding Aid, College Archives, Smith College. Northampton. 2003

 

Lesbian Gardens


After the early 1976 Separatist conflicts and Lesbian realignment, Lesbian Gardens on the third floor at 200 Main St. in Northampton fell empty except for a weekly music group. The Valley Women’s Union still had drop-in space on the second floor. In the fall, new “Gardeners” Stephanie and Robin began to revitalize the large open loft space where a rainbow painted across the windows looked out at the City Hall. Though there wasn’t much interest in massage, games, or drop-in nights, popular new activities included a drawing group, Lesbians in the social services discussion group, film showings, play performances, a Dykes and Tykes potluck, a dance (to bring-your-own records), and several skills exchanges. Donations from these activities paid the rent share.

dyke doings sep-oct 76_edited-1First issue of Dyke Doings mimeographed newsletter Sep-Oct 1976

Getting these activities going was greatly aided by the mimeoed publication of  a monthly newsletter.  Dyke Doings was edited by Stephanie, Laura, and Robin. Before its demise in June 1977 after eight issues, it was hand delivered, often by bicycle, to two hundred, mostly Northampton Lesbian households. It included information on all the various doings in town, plus the first Lesbian classified ads, most for roommates. In later issues, it included two other area firsts: notices for a Lesbian teen rap group and a Lesbian land trust. As you will see from posts still to come, the newsletter provided a crucial communication channel for a plethora of newly created enterprises.

One Lesbian product printed in DD was directory of thirty-five Lesbians willing to trade a variety of skills. Compiled by the Skills Exchange as a way to form a community self-reliance network, it encouraged recognition of knowledge as a resource and barter as a way of strengthening a local Lesbian economy. The Exchange also sponsored three Markets at the Gardens, where goods as well as services were exchanged. These were the beginning of what in the 1980s became the Lesbian Home Show.

This new burst of activity was cut short at the end of 1976, when the Valley Women’s Union, and Lesbian Gardens within it, received an eviction notice for the two floors that had been rented since 1970. Both groups held emergency meetings and offered to double the rent being paid. This was refused by the landlord, who sued for $700 in damages incurred by the tenants and listed reasons for the eviction.

lg vwu eviction_edited-1 Valley Women’s Union handout, undated [early 1977]. Unknown artist.

The suit for damages and many of the landlord’s other complaints were specifically about misuse and abuse of the Lesbian Gardens space. Complaints included unpaid use of heat, use of the building at night (including people staying overnight), filthy bathroom, posters all over. In discussions between the lawyer hired by VWU and the landlord, it became clear that the issue of lesbians played an important part in the eviction, not only unauthorized use of the space, but alienation of the straight tenants sharing the second floor bathroom and stairwell entry. Although not stated by the landlord, the rumors in the community added that Dyke graffiti and yelling in the common stairwell during the Separatist implosion and the theft of fire extinguishers may also have been factors.

As a result, in Feb. 1977, Lesbian Gardens disbanded. Many activities simply ceased, though Sweetcoming Bookstore moved to the new Egg space on Hawley St. The Drawing Support Group went on meeting for several more months in homes of the members.  The Valley Women’s Union moved their mimeograph machine to a shared office a few blocks away at the newly opened Common Womon Club on Masonic St. Dyke Doings continued for several more months providing news of the moves Lesbians made and were to make.

Sources:

__Dyke Doings. Issues I-IV Sep/Oct1976-Jan 1977, (I am missing two issues), Issues VII-VIII Apr/May-Jun 1977. Northampton.  I would be very grateful to have copies of the two issues I’m missing. Anyone?

__Valley Women‘s Union Newsletter. January, March 1977. Northampton.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres In. Northampton 1978. LINK https://www.vwhc.org/timeline.html

 

The Peak of Lesbian Enterprise


An unprecedented number of Lesbian enterprises existed in Northampton in 1976-77, both old ones and new, that evolved out of the 1975-76 Separatist struggles. What particularly made this creative flowering different was that Lesbians were, for the first and only time, able to control, rent, and/or buy multiple spaces within downtown Northampton.

This was made possible in large part by the economic decay of the downtown. Its largest business, McCallums Department Store, had closed and many others followed as the city’s population sprawled and shopping malls were built further and further down King St.

When I moved to Green St. in 1970,  everything I needed was within walking distance. Over the next decade, much of that disappeared except for a changing cast of banks, bars, and restaurants. One by one, all but two of the neighborhood markets folded as well as the A&P on Bridge St. and the supermarket on Conz St. The working population that lived downtown in rooming houses or over just about every business aged and declined, too. Two downtown schools – Hawley Junior High and St. Michaels – closed. The working people’s businesses I relied on began to close their doors: Fine’s Clothing, Woolworth’s Five and Dime, Tepper’s General Store, Foster and Farrar Hardware, Whalen’s Office Supply. For a brief time, before real estate speculation and gentrification took hold and turned Hamp into Noho (competing nicknames), space affordable to women became available.

Below is a map of current downtown that I’ve amended with the location of the major 1970s Lesbian enterprises, which peaked in 1976-77. Following it is a brief description of the activity that took place at each address. All of this will be detailed in future posts if I haven’t already.bst 70s map_edited-2

#1. 200 Main St. Lesbian Gardens. Third floor space that was originally rented along with half the second floor by the Valley Women’s Center/Union. 1974-77. Currently Harlow Luggage building.

#2. 66 Green St. Green St.Top two floors, rooming house that started to be lesbian in 1972 and continued to be all or mostly lesbian at least until 1991. Building bought and demolished by Smith College. Currently grass.

#3. 1 Bridge St. Gala Café.  Lesbian backroom 1975-1979. Torn down, part of Spoleto’s currently in that space.

#4. 25 Main St. Nutcracker Suite. One large room on a back corridor as I recall, I believe on the fourth floor, 1976-77. This address also was used by the Grand Jury Information Project, Ceres Inc., and later, I believe, by Chrysalis Theatre. It was in what is now known as the Fitzwilly’s (Masonic) building.

#5. 19 Hawley St. The Egg and Marigolths. 1976-77 (estimated). Originally rented in 1973 by Mother Jones Press which in 1976 became Megaera Press and joined with Old Lady Bluejeans distributing and the Women’s Film Coop to form the Women’s Image Takeover WIT. Additional space in the building was rented to accommodate several craftswomyn and Greasy Gorgon Garage auto repair. These formed a collective of businesses with the self-chosen odd name. Sweet Coming bookstore moved there in 1977.

#6.  78 Masonic St. Common Womon Club. 1976-82. Private dining club for feminist vegetarians owned by the non-profit Ceres Inc. Later bought by Bill Streeter for his book bindery. Currently it is the Mosaic Café.

#7.  68 Masonic St. Nutcracker Suite: Women’s Self Defense and Karate Dojo. Moved from Main St. 1977-78. Womonfyre Books. 1978-82. Owned by Ceres Inc. Later bought by Bart’s Ice Cream as their bakery. Currently it is lesbian owned Bela Vegetarian Restaurant.