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 Unpublished paper submitted to KMR for use in the chapbook. 2003.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

 

Rough Outlines: Preview the Past


This June, as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots are celebrated, notice all the photographs, a few movies, and the many news clippings displayed in remembrance of that time. Someone saved them all so they could be seen today. Here is a combo note on blog housecleaning and a public service announcement.

I can see in WordPress statistics that visitors have been going to the 1980s page, probably expecting to find more than one story from that period. I created that decade page to hold the post about Northampton’s first lesbian and gay march. Posting that story is, to date, the sole jump forward in the narrative, aside from reflections on the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016.

Part of the housekeeping as the blog posts accumulate is figuring out how to make them more accessible to readers. Yes, they can be read in the order they’ve been written, or entered from a subject search, but it should also be possible to read the posts in the order the history unfolded. Over the last few months I have organized the posts chronologically within decades to make this possible. If you go to the 1970s page (select the tab at top of blog), you can now find such a chronological list with links to the accumulated posts. The About and BC/PreStonewall pages are also now re-organized with new listings of the related posts to form tables of content.

The major drawback to doing this is the lack of posts to fill in the decades. I am involved right now with a detailed accounting of the 70s, the period in which I was most active personally, with a few interspersed flashbacks to an older past. This is slow work. I have written pieces only up to circa 1975-76 right now.

However, even if I haven’t gotten around to writing about or finding writing for the 80s, 90s, 00s, I have plenty of material gathered in preparation. All these decade pages could legitimately be considered “Under Construction.” As this is seriously a work-in-progress blog, I have  created pages for some of later decades and posted my rough, working timelines as informative place-holding material.  Check out the new tabs at the top of the blog. I hope that this will give readers a sense of the scope of activity centered in Northampton and encourage participation in sharing and helping preserve this history.

The following information will be pinned to the top of the new 1980s, 90s, 00s pages, with some variation:

 [insert whatever timeline is appropriate]

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

This is one of my working timelines of LGBTQ+ organized activity centered in the Northampton area. I HOPE TO SHARE ALL THE STORIES REPRESENTED ON THIS TIMELINE SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE. It functions as a rough outline for organizing my work and has gone through multiple drafts. I last roughed out these four decades of timeline in 2004 from my research notes. Each timeline is also organized thematically. These can be laid side by side for continued content over the decades. They also fit within a larger Valley context (and timeline.) These timelines are not complete nor definitive. For example, I might have found mention once of a group meeting in some alternative Valley newspaper calendar, so noted them in that year but have no other evidence of their meeting before or after, or even if anyone showed up. I have a fantasy that someone(s) with Excel spreadsheet talent will transcribe it into a document, which, pie-in-the-sky, could become the basis for interactive content.

1970s working timeline02132015

1970s working timeline of Northampton LGBTQ+ activity by Kaymarion Raymond

If you were part of this past activity please share that story. Show us a picture. Tell us here, throughout the blog in comments, or through the email contact tab above, or let me know where you can be contacted if I  or a trained interviewer have questions.

Do you have letters, T-shirts, buttons, journals, flyers, photos, posters, newspaper clippings, meeting notes, recordings, or any other items that document this history? If the community you are currently part of uses electronic communication via some form of social media please make a record of that activity in some form; a written  summary, copies of public posts, representative images or memes, event publicity. Paper endures without technology so printed material is a treasure.

Please document and share the story, as copies or as gifts to any of the many interested archives in the Valley or to this project. If there are items you can’t part with now, please make arrangements to have them given to an archive after your death. More information at end of this post.

80s timeline_edited-1

1980s working timeline of Northampton LGBTQ+ activity by Kaymarion Raymond

If you are interested in this history as a student or researcher, please share here whatever you find: the stories regarding this place and activity, or the resources others can use to discover the stories; scans of documents, location of documents in archives, including periodical holdings, interview transcripts, articles or books. Links to your own published work related to this history are welcome.

As an independent scholar I have little access to the extensive literature now available through academic library database subscriptions, particularly scholarly accounts and interpretations of events that occurred here or elsewhere in the Valley. What are you finding that should be included in a queer Northampton bibliography? Where are these documents available?

Would you be interested in drafting a blog bibliography or source listing for researchers? More simply, as you read some of the posts, are you finding broken links or errors that escaped proofing? Let me know. Please add your comments on that post or email me through the blog contact.

90s timeline_edited-2

1990s working timeline of Northampton LGBTQ+ activity by Kaymarion Raymond

Archival resources. The Valley is rich in repositories, though none of them are as rich in resources as they need to be to house and process all possible collections. They range from small local historical societies and private collections to large concentrations of documents with regional and even global content. They each have particular focus and try to avoid duplication.

There has been a gradual change in attitude so that many now welcome some part of the LGBTQAI odd-by-any-other name history, whether as that of a citizen of a town, an alum of a college, as feminist or lesbian, or a political activist in Western Massachusetts. Mechanisms have been developed to preserve some privacy if you choose to donate your papers, though archives can’t keep the FBI out.

I am happy to talk with anyone about the options available or passing on donated documents. A Guide to Donating Your Papers” from the Valley Women’s History Collaborative is a good introduction, though the list of archival resources is incomplete.   http://vwhc.org/donor_guide.pdf

Archives interested in preserving this history;

__The Archive Project. POB 302 Hadley, MA 01035. (413) 585-0369. Contact Phil Gauthier, archivist. gokey3@gmail.com. The Project doesn’t have a webpage. Hours by appointment only. Private collection of mostly Amherst-Northampton area gay records including local ACT UP and Queer Nation chapters, gay organizations and the Northampton Pride March. Includes some regional material as well.

__Sexual Minorities Archive in Holyoke.

https://sexualminoritiesarchives.wordpress.com/

__Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn.

http://www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org/

__Historic Northampton.

https://www.historicnorthampton.org/

__Special Collections and University Archives, Du Bois Library, UMass, Amherst. Western Massachusetts history to include LGBTQAI.

https://www.library.umass.edu/locations/scua/

__Sophia Smith Collection as well as the College Archives, Smith College, Northampton. Women’s history globally to include Valley feminists and lesbians.

https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections

__Amherst, Hampshire and Mt. Holyoke Colleges all preserve college group and alumni records. Your local town library or historical society may also be interested.

2000s timeline notes

2000s working timeline of Northampton LGBTQ+ activity by Kaymarion Raymond

 

 

 

Lesbianville Lookback


This years Pride parade in Northampton drew 35,000 or 60,000 folks (depending on who reported), a visible change from the 300 or 800 (depending on who reported) Lesbians, gay men and allies who started the annual march down Main Street in 1982. Other contrasts are visible  in the fan photos of the 2019 event on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NohoPrideOrg. Interesting, to me, was the conscious decision not to have the now  traditional rainbow arch be made of balloons this year, for environmental reasons.

On a historical note, for the day of the Pride parade the Hampshire Gazette published an extremely well researched feature article by Greta Jochem , “The Legend of ‘Lesbianville’: Looking back at a city nickname and claim to fame.” If you don’t get frustrated by the paywall, it includes not only the story of that coined term but  links to the 1990s national news coverage that led to and then piled on the straight media titillation.

https://www.gazettenet.com/Lesbianville-Lookback-25246526

natl enquire lesbianville12112014