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20th Century Lesbian History in the United States   Tags: feminist, herstory, history, lesbian, queer studies, women's studies  

The following is a pathfinder designed to help undergraduate college students and the general public research the topic of 20th century lesbian history in the United States.
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2011 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

20th Century Lesbian History in the U.S. Print Page

Archives, Libraries and Museums

The following list consists of archives, libraries and museums related to Lesbian History in the Unites States

  • Lesbian Herstory Archives  
    The Lesbian Herstory Archives, located in Brooklyn, New York, is one of the most vast archives in the United States dedicated to lesbian history. Most of the materials housed at the archives are only accessible on site.
  • Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives
    The Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives' collection is housed in Washington state. The collection consists of material related to lesbian history in the Pacific Northwest, including the US states of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and the Canadian state of British Columbia. Material can be accessed onsite and by appointment only.
  • Mazer Lesbian Archives
    The Mazer Lesbian Archives is located in West Hollywood, California. The Mazer Lesbian Archives offer onsite public viewing hours at the following days and times: 1st Sunday of each month
    2:00 PM-5:00 PM and every Tuesday 12:00 PM-3:00 PM. The archives website also offers a gallery of digitized material.
  • ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
    ONE Archives is not specific to just lesbian history. The archives are focused on collecting material reflective of the whole LGBT community. Most of the material is only accessible onsite. The archive is located in Los Angeles, California. The hours of operation are: Tuesday & Friday 1:30 PM - 5:30 PM
    Wednesday & Thursday 3:30 PM - 9:00 PM
    Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Sundays & Mondays - Closed
  • GLBT Historical Society
    GLBT Historical Society is located in San Francisco, California. The organization operates a museum related to LGBT history. They have both online exhibitions and in-house exhibitions. For on-site use the GLBT Historical Society is open the following days and times: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 AM –7:00 PM
    Sunday – Monday 12:00 PM –5:00 PM
  • Ohio Lesbian Archives
    The Ohio Lesbian Archives are housed in the basement of Clifton United Methodist Church located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The archive does not have any material showcased online. Material can be viewed onsite by appointment.
  • Kinsey Institute
    The Kinsey Institute is associated with Indiana University and is located in Bloomington, Indiana. The institute has been focused for 60 years on the study of sex and gender. Some information is attainable online. Onsite viewing of material may be conducted by appointment.
  • QZAP
    QZAP is an online archive of zines specific to the queer community. There are a large assortment of zines that are specific to the lesbian experience.


20th Century Lesbian History in the United States:

A Pathfinder

Labrys - Lesbian Pride Symbol

Labrys image created by: C. Curfiss


About this Pathfinder

*Below this video is an annotated bibliography of both primary and secondary source print documents regarding lesbian history in the 20th century US


Primary Source Print Material

Primary source material in print form that will be helpful in the study of lesbian history in the United States.

  • Katz, Jonathan. ed. . New York: Meridian Book, 1992.Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.: A Documentary History

            This book is a collection of primary source documents pertaining to LGBTIQ history.  It contains many sources specific to lesbian history.

  • Martin, Del and Phyllis Lyon. Lesbian/Women. Volcano, California: Volcano Press, 1991.

           Martin and Lyon were both founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and the periodical the Ladder.  This book captures the development of  the lesbian rights movement and lesbian culture in the US from the 1950s through the 1980s.

  • Tobin, Kay and R. Wicker. The Gay Crusaders. New York: Arno Press, 1975.

            This work gives first person accounts of the Gay Men's and Lesbian Liberation movements.  The book notes well the division between gay men and lesbians during the 1960s and 1970s.  The accounts are mostly focused on the east coast of the US. 


Secondary Source Print Material

Secondary source material in print form that will be helpful in the study of lesbian history in the United States.

  • Adam, Berry. The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: G.K. Hall and Company, 1987.

            While this book covers general queer history it also gives focus to the development of lesbian right's organizations, specifically.

  • Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revoltution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.

             The Stonewall Rebellion was made up of more than just lesbians but this work does a good job of illustrating the role lesbians played in the uprising.

  • Gallo, Marcia. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. New York: Carrol and Graf   Publishers, 2006.

            An excellent account of the development of the first US lesbian rights organization, the Daughters of Bilitis.

  • Inness, Sherrie. The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. 

            The book discusses the development of the meaning of  being a lesbian in the 20th century US.

  •   Kennedy, Elizabeth, L. & Davis, Madeline, D. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. New York: Routledge, 1993.

             This work is an account of the lesbian community in Buffalo, New York from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Subject Guide



Lesbian History Related Multimedia

An Introduction to Multimedia Resources Video of Glenne McElhinney giving a tour of the GLBT Historical Society's ( Dykes on Bikes exhibit:

Stonewall Uprising. A Public Broadcasting System documentary on the Stonewall rebellion:

Watch Stonewall Uprising on PBS.

Lesbian Chic in the 1920s a lecture given by Lillian Faderman at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives ( in 1990. Part one:
Part two:
Part three:
Part four:
Part five:
Part six:
Part seven:
Contact: Joanne Hodder

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