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  WINDY CITY TIMES

1971: The Chicago Daughters of Bilitis
Excerpt from Chicago After Stonewall: Gay Lib to Gay Life
by Sukie de la Croix
2021-05-03

This article shared 518 times since Mon May 3, 2021
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An excerpt from Chicago After Stonewall: Gay Lib to Gay Life, a new book by St Sukie de la Croix. You can buy the book from Amazon.com, all good bookstores, and for a signed copy, rattlinggoodyarns.com .

"At the time of the Stonewall Riots, the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was on hiatus in Chicago. The DOB was one of the first lesbian organizations. It was formed in 1955 in San Francisco and took its name from a book of poems by Pierre Louys called Songs of Bilitis. Bilitis was a female character in a romance with Greek poet, Sappho. According to documents at the McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern University, in August 1969 Helen Baldwin attempted to start a new DOB group from a P.O. Box in Brookfield, IL. The Daughters of Bilitis/Chicago Newsletter announced a visit from Rita LaPorte, DOB national president, on January 25, 1970. On October 10, 1969, while attending "Sex Week" activities at the University of Nevada, LaPorte is quoted in the Reno Gazette-Journal, 'A man isn't necessary for making love — and because he realizes it, he's miserable … men are merely necessary for impregnation and it bothers their egos.' LaPorte goes on to suggest that men feel threatened by lesbians and attempt to seduce them, 'They have to be big shots. It upsets them a great deal if a woman isn't interested in what they have. And they are also threatened on the intellectual level.' LaPorte did not support same-sex marriage, but would 'like to have the legal and tax advantages that go with marriage.'

"The discreet Chicago DOB with their plea to 'shy violets' and the more strident 'cast off the chains of male oppression' of the Lavender Woman collective were opposite ends of the lesbian political spectrum, though they were united in sisterhood. Nothing else has so far emerged about this 1969-1970 incarnation of DOB but it seems unlikely it lasted, because it harked back to the genteel Gab 'n' Java get-togethers of Chicago DOB groups in the early 1960s. In the DOB Chicago Area Provisional Charter minutes of March 9, 1962, the names of those present were Marge Heinz, Nellie Tumilty, Jean Stroud, Betsy Boyette and Del Shearer. At a time when lesbians could be fired from their jobs, lose their children, and be arrested for not wearing three items of female apparel, 'discretion, loyalty and secrecy' were paramount. The screening procedure for new members was stringent and strictly adhered to. The Provisional Charter minutes read:

"A discussion of interviewing procedures for new members led to the passing of a motion that all members shall be questioned on the following topics in the following manner: at a meeting or outside interview, she shall be asked by a member whether or not she is homosexual, her reasons for joining D.O.B., her familiarity with D.O.B.'s purpose, how she feels the organization may benefit her, and how she may benefit the organization. At a second meeting or interview she shall be asked again what she feels the purpose of D.O.B is, whether or not she believes in that purpose, if she realizes the primary nature of the organization over the individual personality conflicts and feelings, and questions to determine whether she realizes the requirement of the group loyalty."


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