Created to honor Phyllis Lyon, 1924-2020, and Del Martin, 1921-2008—activists, pathfinders, and OLOC members—the $500 Award will be presented to a Lesbian 70 years or older whose life and work have impacted and will continue to impact the lives of Old Lesbians.
Del and Phyllis were out, proud, and unapologetic when few were. They forged an enduring image that continues to inspire generations of Lesbians around the globe. In 1955, with others, they co-founded The Daughters of Bilitis, the first US Lesbian organization, and they also published the groundbreaking monthly newsletter, The Ladder, the first nationally-distributed Lesbian publication. In 1972, they co-wrote the equally groundbreaking book Lesbian/Woman. Their writing and tireless activism on behalf of women earned much praise, many awards, and an invitation to the White House, and drew upon the great strengths of Lesbian tradition, advancing our visibility and pride and carrying that heritage forward.
In April 2020, following Phyllis’s death, the Award was renamed from the Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award to the Martin-Lyon Old Lesbian Pride Award to reflect the fact that their work was done together as partners.
Ruth Berman, 1934, and Connie Kurtz, 1936-2018, sued the New York City Board of Education and won health and dental benefits for domestic partners of all New York City employees. They shared their story in the media, including the award-winning documentary Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House, The Donohue Show, and Geraldo Rivera. It was the first time many North Americans had seen an out Lesbian couple.
They were very active in Democratic, LGBT, feminist, and #BlackLivesMatter politics, which Ruthie continues to carry on. They facilitated countless consciousness-raising workshops over decades for colleges, women’s groups, NOW, progressive straight groups, and more. Ruthie and Connie started a branch of PFLAG in Florida and served as Co-Chairs of the New York State NOW Lesbian Rights Task Force.
They represented OLOC at the Congressional LGBT Caucus in Washington, DC, in 2016, and starting that same year, the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elders Law was introduced in the House in Congress. They have received many, many awards for their activism and we are proud to honor them this year.
Carol Anne Douglas, 1946, worked on the editorial collective of the Washington, DC-based feminist news journal off our backs from 1973 to 2008, when the journal ceased publication. During that time, she reviewed more than 200 books and interviewed many exciting feminists.
She participated in Passages, a DC-area-based group that held annual conferences for Lesbians that were focused on visibility for Old Lesbians. She taught feminist and Lesbian theory at the Sojourner Truth Women’s School and other areas in DC as a free class from the early 80s through the early 90s. She also taught feminist theory in the Women’s Studies program at George Washington University from the early 90s until around 2000.
She joined OLOC in 2010 and helped found the DC Area chapter in 2013. She is the chapter’s Coordinator. She has written several Lesbian books, including Love and Politics: Feminist and Lesbian Theories, and the novels Lancelot: Her Story and Lancelot and Guinevere. Her essays have been published in several anthologies, including September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives, edited by Susan Hawthorne and Bronwyn Winter, Spinifex Press.
The Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award was split between two Old Lesbians this year. At the Gathering ceremony in Oakland, each of them spoke of her work on behalf of Old Lesbians. Here is a little more about each of them:
Arden Eversmeyer, 1931, founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (1999), to ensure that the stories of Lesbians born in the first part of the 20th century are recorded in history. Project volunteers have documented hundreds of diverse life stories recording the sacrifices and obstacles faced by Lesbians of that era. OLOC has been a strong supporter of the OLOHP for most of its existence, assisting with financial support as well as outreach to the community of Old Lesbians. The collection is now archived, and continues to grow, as part of the prestigious Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.
Today, Arden is grateful to live in a time when she can be her true self with acquaintances, friends, family, medical professionals, and everyone. Yet, at the same time that Arden lives a life comfortable with being out, many of the interviews the OLOHP conducts remind her that not everyone else is as fortunate as she is and that her work—and that of so many others who strive to improve the lives of LGBT individuals—remains vital.
Reflecting how far our society has come, Arden was recently honored for her work by the National Women’s History Project and also was a featured speaker at a US Department of Energy celebration of Women’s History Month.
Joan Emerson, 1935, coordinated the San Francisco Bay Area OLOC from 1996 to 2013. Born in Washington, DC, in 1935, where her father was a lawyer for the New Deal, she graduated from Reed College and earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught sociology at Carleton College and the State University of New York at Buffalo, and she wrote articles that became classics.
Her biggest regret was watching the women’s movement and the civil rights movement from the sidelines. She left the field of sociology and at age 55 began training to work as a psychotherapist with children.
In 1996, at age 61, she attended the OLOC National Gathering in Minneapolis. Arriving only “to explore the Lesbian world,” within 24 hours she had enthusiastically joined the Old Lesbian community. Impressed by the self-acceptance OLOC women had in being women, old, and Lesbian, she offered to revitalize the San Francisco chapter. She did that and continued to guide the chapter until very recently.
Joy D. Griffith, 1935, won the Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award at the July 2012 OLOC Gathering. Joy took over Golden Threads in 1996 and ran the Annual Golden Threads Celebration for 12 years. She also edited the Golden Threads quarterly publication and personally answered every letter she received. Joy, as part of a lawyers group in Burlington, helped make civil unions happen in Vermont. Asked to join an equality group at the Department of Health, she helped develop a safe and positive level of understanding and acceptance for the health/medical needs of LGBTs, especially for Old Lesbians. Joy has brought happiness and empowerment to the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Lesbians for over two decades.
Kathy Glass, 1932-2014, and Carmah Lawler, 1929-2020, (partners for 32 years) received the first ever Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award at the 2010 OLOC Gathering in Cleveland. They have been active in the Jefferson County Democrats, the Stonewall Democrats, and the League of Women Voters for many years. They have raised thousands of dollars to support candidates sympathetic to LGBT issues and they frequently testify in state legislative hearings on behalf of bills beneficial to the LGBT community. They often begin their testimony with “This is what an Old Lesbian looks like.” Their persistence has resulted in many laws in Colorado protecting LGBT individuals.
*note* OLOC has several DVD’s about Del Martin for loan from our library.
No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon The story of Del and Phyl’s long activist careers, from the early days of the Daughters of Bilitis on into the 21st century. This is a must-see movie. 2003 DVD ONLY 57 minutes.
One Wedding and A Revolution The day San Francisco said I do. A Debra Chasnoff film about the marriage of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin in San Francisco in 2004. Touching and informative story of the decision on the part of Mayor Gavin Newsome to carry out justice. 2004 DVD ONLY 19 minutes.
Celebrating the Life of Del Martin Debra Chasnoff gave us a copy of the film that says goodbye to Del at her memorial. Includes appearances by many familiar faces and many moving speeches and wonderful music performances. DVD ONLY 58 minutes Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 2012
Phyllis Lyon regarding Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award, 5 minutes 34 seconds.