Coll. 011: Boston Daughters of Bilitis Collection and Focus/Maiden Voyage Publication Finding Aid
The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was a lesbian organization founded in 1955 in San Francisco by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon for the purpose of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, public education, involvement in research, and lobbying to change the laws criminalizing homosexuality. Starting primarily as a private social group for lesbians focused on the integration of the lesbian into mainstream society, the aims of the group shifted during the 1960s due to the changing political, social and economic conditions of the decade. The DOB took up political activism to lobby for the rights of lesbians, promoting individualism with a decreased emphasis on societal conformity. During the 1960s many regional chapters were chartered around the country and globally, continuing the organization even after the closing of the San Francisco national office in 1978.
The Boston chapter was founded in 1969 during a period when many homophile organizations were forming in Boston. Early leaders of the Boston DOB included Lois Johnson, Shari Barden, and Laura Robin/McMurry, who were prominent promoters of the group and its activities. Early on in the history of the Boston DOB, debate occurred over the group’s overall purpose, with an outcome emphasizing the original DOB mission of personal and social support for lesbians, education of the public on lesbianism, and the lobbying for the reform of laws limiting the civil and human rights of lesbians. Many younger, politically active feminist lesbians thought of the organization as old-fashioned and left to create new groups or join other, more radically activist, homophile organizations. The Boston DOB became the longest running chapter of the DOB, maintaining an office in Cambridge until the early 2000s, with 30 years of documented history present in this archive.
The Daughters of Bilitis collection consists of three archival boxes (1.5 linear feet). Box 1 contains a series of folders centered on the activities, organizational structure, and publications of the Boston chapter with some national publications, including the DOB journal, The Ladder. This collection also contains limited information about other activities of non-DOB homophile or feminist groups in the Boston area. The majority of the materials present date between 1965 and 1999, and include original documents as well as photocopies of newspaper and journal articles, event flyers, calendars, and correspondence. Boxes 2 and 3 contain the Boston DOB newsletter, originally entitled Maiden Voyage until 1971, when it was renamed FOCUS. The publication collection is arranged chronologically, beginning December 1969 and ending October 1983, with multiple issues filed together.