THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
Interviewed by Laura Petrella, April 2009
LP: What was your most impact that you would be most proud of that you made throughout your movement?
BL: There are two. I have a very hard time differentiating because they’re both very powerful. I didn’t know they would be but they both are. So I can’t say one, I have to say two. One with the book Sappho Was A Right-on Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism published in 1971. It was the first book with a positive view of a lesbian lifestyle. Another one by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon came out about six months later, which was very good. But this was the first one and it was very powerful because people had nothing positive to look at.
The movies – the lesbian always got killed and it was always a very sad ending. And this was an analysis that brought lesbians forward from those dark periods where we’ve been arrested in bars and felt terrible about ourselves and were treated badly; from no self-respect, to actually taking us through the reasons – what society felt about us, what we felt about ourselves – it was sort of a psychological social analysis. And in the end we come out very proud and role models for all women – very exciting.
And of course we’re not there yet, but it’s still a good book. And now we’re 40 years later practically, but it’s still an interesting read. An analysis that came out of our consciousness raising really – with a very smart consciousness raising talking about ourselves and feeling this euphoria. We were so excited to realize that we were – the first thing when I heard “Gay Pride,” I thought – Wow: pride!
I Mean Just to Be Normal Was to Me Very Exciting.
So we were euphoric. And this book helped so many people. I got so many letters. And some women who read that book years ago said – it changed my life forever. They just hugged me and cried all kinds of things because it meant so much to them. In fact I knew one woman took it to court because she was trying to save her son from being taken away by his father because she was a lesbian. She took the book to court every day and read passages to herself to keep her calm. Those kinds of stories are great.
So I know that changed lives.
My life was changing at the time and all I did was write down the thoughts that were going – I wanted to explain it to my mother. So that took a book, because you just can’t explain it. So that’s really part of it. And everybody explained it to their mothers – and they needed this.
The other one was the book that we were just celebrating – Feminists Who Changed America. Again, I saw a need and a lot of people realized that there was a need to document our history as individuals – what we did – because even our families don’t know. You ask anybody – spouses, children – they knew their mothers were away from home doing something, but they didn’t know what. And now we have about 2500 people who were active in the movement – what they did – exactly what they did – when they did it and a little bit about them.
We tried to get some stories in there to make it exciting, because their lives were exciting. And so it’s not just facts. We do have quotes and anecdotes and things like that, because each woman is a hero and we want that to come out and for next generations to be inspired by these women because they are inspiring. You read these stories and say – wow – these women suffered. They were brave. They were brilliant.
I wanted to capture that because it would all be forgotten. The only people that might be remembered are maybe Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millet and some of them because they wrote books. But the presidents of NOW, the people that ran abortion clinics, the people that had local feminists newspapers, the people that challenged their employers because they were fired for being pregnant or they challenged them because they weren’t getting equal pay. They were fired.
They’re Not in Any Books, But They’re Heroes.
They paved the way – they maybe weren’t the first to succeed, but the fact that they challenged and suffered because of it – that’s exciting to me. Someone else achieved [their goals] after them – maybe. So those [are the] two things. And now people around the country are celebrating. This was the 12th celebration around the country and everybody was so turned on and so excited. It was a real love fest of all kinds of people from women’s music and sports. There was a tennis player that challenged her high school team to play tennis with the boys and won. Sports, legislators – you saw state senators and representatives there – it was a great event. It was a lot of fun. And that’s what it was meant to be – a celebration.
LP: Is there one story that touches you more than any one story in the book?
BL: Oh my gosh, one story in that book? There were so many of them. One that comes to mind – because I knew this woman well – there are so many good stories, but one is – her name was Betty Harragan. She was a public relations executive at J. Walter Thompson – the largest ad agency in the world at the time and she challenged them for equal pay. She wasn’t getting – we still don’t have equal pay – only 71 cents on the dollar – up from 56 cents.
So she challenged them and they fired her. She tried to sue them of course. She was a single mother with a teenage daughter. She had no income then – she was blackballed from the whole industry. Nobody would hire her. She brought suit and of course they had [an] overwhelming number of lawyers and they would just talk [over] her and expend her.
And NOW, the National Organization for Women helped her, I helped – everybody helped. But it wasn’t enough to compete with them. But she did win an EEOC decision – equal opportunity. I’m not sure what the commission is – EEOC. So she won that.
That’s an Empty Decision in this Country.
They have no enforcement powers. So you could win – but you win nothing. So poor Betty was trying to figure out what to do. She was then counseling other women in jobs. How to succeed in a corporation – a patriarchal male dominated corporation – and she did this – she had seminars. She published a book on it – how to succeed. Anyway she published a book on that. Then she was hired by some women’s magazines to write articles. Working Women and Savvy.
And then she started being hired by corporations to talk about how to work with women more effectively. She ended up being a public speaker and making some money and dressing very well and succeeding and her daughter went to college. When Betty died she left money for a feminist cause. And her daughter came to the New York event and donated the money to the book Feminists Who Changed America. So that was very sweet. So that’s one story about someone in the book.
LP: What do you see young women taking for granted nowadays?
Women Today Think They are Equal
BL: Wow. I think there’s a difference. Women in college probably don’t see the things they are going to confront when they get out of college. I think they start out – they do have women’s studies today, which is great. We had nothing like that. They have some opportunities to see what we did. But they now think they’re equal and that’s great because they’re not going to be intimidated.
And this psychological thing – it’s terribly important that they do think they’re equal, because they’re going to then challenge things when they come up, which we didn’t do because we really didn’t believe we were equal. And that’s one of the things that woke us up – “Hey, we are!” They’re going to find out that they have a lot of challenges when they go out there. They’re not going to have equal pay and when they find out about that – are they going to challenge it and some be punished?
We just had this major case in which Congress changed the law – The Ledbetter Act. Now if you find out you’re not getting equal pay you can challenge that legally. But corporations can do all kinds of things to you that intimidate you and it may be legal but they certainly have ways of punishing you. Not promoting you or isolating you or many other ways. I think they’re going to see – they think they’re equal – and I think that’s great.
Let Them Challenge All the Institutions Because They Still Need to Be Challenged.
We do not have equality. We do not have the opportunity. We do not have the respect that we should have. There’s a lot of work to be done and if they go out there with that frame of mind that they deserve it – they are going to kick ass and they’ll change things and that absolutely needs to be done.
And they’ll see this because there are things that we didn’t do yet – like childcare. Childcare is something that doesn’t have the respect. It denies women of opportunities because they’re not getting money to take care of their kids when they retire. You get no pension for having spent your life taking care of kids. Your husband gets a pension for helping people make money in corporations. But you’ve done all this nurturing and caring and it’s worth nothing in this society – it’s worth nothing. And that’s what’s so sad about it. There should be childcare available for everybody. You should get either compensated [or] paid for [it].
This society respects people by giving them money. And so there should be something like that. Now that’s a terribly radical notion but it really isn’t. If it’s valued – value means money and it means being taken care of. And so that is a very big area where we still need major changes in thinking and support. So that was not done and there’s a reason why we didn’t accomplish much in the earlier days and it’s still on the table.
I’m sorry it’s still bad. It is like we haven’t made that huge amount of progress. Some – absolutely. But we were in the homes – mostly in 63 when we started out – 63 early – the late 60s early 70s and [women were] taking care of children and they weren’t exercising their larger role in the House of Representatives and everywhere else and the Senate and in corporations and just in society at large.
So we were trying to get them to think outside the house – in the home – and be a part of the whole culture and society and business and get involved. Because taking care of children is in the home. But taking care of children is also education – it’s also health care. It’s more than your children. So we were trying to get people to think that way.
And that’s why most of us – some people early on were thinking of child care, but most of us were not thinking [about] that because we had to emphasize something else. To move from just in the home – to move out. And to [talk about childcare] would have been to bring people back to the home; except if you could get people to see this as a national issue that relates to all women – not just your children.
So that was the challenge. But we haven’t achieved that yet. And in fact you hear young women talk and they’re still talking about it like it’s an individual problem. I want to go to law school, but I want to have children. Which am I going to do? It’s shocking, because you can do both if you can change the culture to give you the support you need to do both. Rather than suffer the consequences of having no help – no support and doing it alone, which are damn near impossible. So the fact that they’re still thinking that it’s an individual problem – some of them – it’s shocking. We’ve had all this movement – movement – movement – there’s a movement.
You Know There Still Is a Movement.
Get all of the women together and change things in your town and change things in your state and change things in the nation. This isn’t your problem – this is a national, cultural problem, social problem, economic problem. So that’s kind of shocking to hear women say – I have a problem as individuals, because where is our history? We could change things – we can make big changes – take over things – together. We have power – we have lots of power – collectively.
So that’s something that is kind of upsetting to see them not see the power that we have collectively. That’s one thing. Another thing is the body image. Women today – a lot of young women are dressing very provocatively. You see their midriffs and they’re wearing high heels. They put on a lot makeup. They even do cosmetic surgery – some of them at a young age. We weren’t into that as a movement.
In fact most women who were active at that time were very conservative in their dress and did not emphasize their sexuality. Well you’ve got to remember – that we were only sex objects, pretty much – with some exceptions, as a rule. We were sex objects and we weren’t recognized in society for our brains or our possibilities: our vision and our capabilities were just ignored. We all saw it and it really was painful to see. To see that we were overlooked and not allowed to have certain jobs – not even open to us.
I wanted a job at Time Magazine – actually Sports Illustrated and they told me – I’m sorry the writers are all men. You can work in this little room in the research department, because that’s what the women do.
And We Just Took It.
When we found out we shouldn’t take it anymore we were pretty pissed off and angry. We found that out in our generation. Since we were treated as sexual objects only with no brains – we had to emphasize our brains. We had to say – don’t look at me that way. I don’t want you to look at my body; I want you to look at my mind. That is why we were so different.
Now that women have opportunities – many more everywhere – to running for president, and they see that they can do both. People see they have brains, people will pay attention to them and people will give them opportunities. So now they can be sexual because it’s not going to take away from their opportunities.
You Can Be Sexual and You Can Be Smart.
In our time you couldn’t be. See that’s the difference. You have to look at the time in history that things happen and why it’s different and that’s why it’s OK to be sexual today – because you can still be both. You couldn’t at that time. So those are a couple of issues that are interesting. We were sexual – we weren’t prudes like some young women think we were. It’s just that we didn’t advertise it.
I always I wished I would have been smarter, more beautiful and wealthier – that would have been a good beginning. But I did what I could do. I’m a rather passionate person. Was angry for years not knowing why, until the women’s movement came. And I’m not a leader really. I’ve done some things that needed to be done – I had some vision – but I’m not really a leader. But what I did was terribly important and I didn’t have any feminist credentials before I did this book.
Now I am – whatever I am. Everybody thinks I’m a fantastic feminist. I was really a troublemaker on the lesbian issue. And a very good troublemaker, I must say, because in the early years 1969 -70 we were being hidden. They tried to keep us quiet. they wouldn’t even mention the word “lesbian”. That word was not even mentioned. It was called “it” or the L word and I publicly would go out and raise my hand and say – lesbian – lesbian – lesbian – everywhere I could.
Some people thought I shouldn’t have. I don’t know. Anyway I was very loud in all the right places. National conventions – helped organize caucuses of lesbians.
We Found Our Power
In fact there were so many of us, we were able to change the vote and elect a president of NOW as the lesbian caucus. All the people running for National Organization for Women had to come to us and say something positive or they weren’t going to get elected. So we found our power in the National Organization for Women and eventually changed things.
In 1971 a woman named Arlie Scott and some others on the West Coast at a NOW convention came out with a resolution recognizing lesbianism as a feminist issue and that was very exciting, because they had buried us and it kept us under wraps because they were afraid we would hurt the ERA – the Equal Rights Amendment effort, which we still don’t have. We have it in many states but we don’t have it across the nation. We still don’t have it and that’s been going on since – I don’t know – Alice Paul – 1920 something.
It’s Amazing We Still Don’t Have Equal Rights.
It’s so simple just – we shall be judged as equals – I don’t know the exact wording but it’s such a simple concept [that] to think we don’t have it is amazing. The fact that we had lesbians in the movement was perfect for the right and the conservatives to discredit us. And I think that was happening. On the other hand, lesbians were in leadership in the movement and involved in every single issue. Whether it be childcare, abortion, pay equity – lesbians were doing everything. But we were kept under wraps.
And even though we had enough power to pass resolutions for staff and money for our cause – certain people at the top of the organization made sure very little happened for many years. Very little happened. And NOW? It was mostly in the radical groups outside of NOW that the lesbian issues went forward. And in the gay movement of course there was always a link between the two. And lucky for me, I was on the board of the National Gay – now National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
And the men had the money. The women didn’t and the men had enough consciousness. Or at least we pushed them to have enough consciousness to give us equality on the board and give us the money to go to the women’s conventions all over the country, so that was good. We went and lobbied for Lesbian Rights at all the feminist’s institutions all over the country.
So I would say today when I first heard President Clinton say the word “lesbian,” I thought – wow – the President of United States said “lesbian” – wow. Things have changed – the gay marriage. In fact the gays have made a lot more progress recently, I think, than women have. And that’s kind of interesting to me. I’m not sure why. But the gay marriage – while we’re still losing some things in some states we’re gaining things in other places. I think that it’s still on the front burner of issues. And I think that’s great. It’s changed the way most people think about lesbianism.
A Lot to Lose – Much to Gain
And it doesn’t seem to be a death knell to come out as a lesbian as it used to be. People that came out who had a lot to lose often lost a lot in the early 70s and they were scared to death. And rightly so – you had to be very brave and willing to risk. And that’s covered in the book – Sappho Was A Right-on Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism.
You may lose everything but what you may lose – it may be material but you gain so much self-respect and so much just being who you really are. And feeling good about yourself. It’s worth everything. So some women did come out and lost a lot, but then they say – they gained everything. They gained everything because they gained self-respect and happiness and the right to be themselves. Isn’t that what we want? To be who we are?
It’s still a problem today for many, many women. But it was a much more serious problem back then, for sure. We have people elected to office all over this country today who are lesbians. So obviously the public does not think it’s a problem in general.
LP: Is Hillary a lesbian or not?
BL: Oh no – I don’t think she is. She might have had some fun with some women. I have no idea. But I think that was one of the things her adversaries used because it’s been working for years – she’s a lesbian with no family values. I don’t think it’s true. If it is, who cares whether she is or not? If you’re a strong woman, you’re an assertive woman, you’re a competent woman, that’s a lesbian. Often, people think so. As a matter of fact when I told my first boss in 71 I was a lesbian – I’d come out [and] figured he’s going to find out anyway.
First thing he said to me was – does that mean you’re after my job? They have this image – and I said – “No,” and I wasn’t. But I did have his job in about a year and then he said – does that mean you’re after the secretaries here? I said – “No I’m not after the secretaries.” But when I was talking to my lover on the phone – they could overhear me and they complained and I was called in because I was talking to my lover and I thought, “Oh this is ridiculous!”
But those were tough times back then and they had these images of us that were just outrageous. We had to deal with them.
LP: So what year was this?
BL: Oh that was – what year did I take that job? I think that was 1971. I took that job as an editor of a supermarket magazine. In my career, I was a business magazine editor all my life. There is a funny story there. I was young – in my 20s – and I was going to conferences around the country – covering them. I went to a huge one in Dallas under a huge dome, because these are supermarket retailers – there are 80,000 retailers. It was a huge conference – 80,000 retailers. I don’t know how many people came to the convention.
And I came in from the airport sitting in the front seat with the driver and I said, “Do you know of any lesbian bars in Dallas?” I don’t think he knew of any, but the next day I walked past these thousands of people to the front row where the journalists hang out. And my boss was there and he said – “Oh. I knew you were here.” And I said, “How did you know I was here?” He said, “Some guy was talking about this woman in the limousine asking where the lesbian bars were.” He said, “Yeah, that’s my editor – that’s Barbara Love.”
So you know things like that happened that were very funny because anybody who knew me, immediately said that had to be me. And he just laughed. So there are some funny stories.
A Badge of Courage
There are many stories that make me laugh, but there is one – you can tell from yesterday’s luncheon that Patricia Ireland asked, “How many women have participated in civil disobedience?” Lots of hands went up. Then she said, “How many of you have been arrested?” And about six or seven hands went up and everybody cheered. Well that reminds me of the late 60s early 70s when it was a badge of courage to be arrested. People wanted to be arrested because it meant that you had been on the front lines and you were brave and it was kind of funny. “Yay – I was arrested!”
I remember we did have a civil disobedience action in New York City and we blocked the Brooklyn Bridge when we didn’t get Civil Rights in New York City for gays and lesbians. We were out there in force blocking the bridge. And the police came because we were blocking traffic. They were taking people away and my friend Jean O’Leary who is now deceased but a very famous lesbian in New York and in California – she wanted to be arrested. So she ran after the paddy wagon and jumped on so she could be arrested. So it’s a funny story. So that was one story.
LP: How about the most influential person?
Betty Needed to Be Confronted
BL: Well that’s an interesting question. I haven’t ever thought of that before. In the movement I have to say that it was Betty Friedan, because Betty was the spokesperson for the movement because of her book – The Feminine Mystique. [She] was always in the press wherever there was anything that happened. The press went to her for her opinions and she frequently said terrible things about lesbians. And this was what it was about according to the press because Betty Friedan said so – that we were infiltrators, seducers and blackmailer’s. She actually used those three words in a 10-year synopsis of the movement in the New York Times.
I was constantly confronting her saying, “No no, no, no, that’s not true.” And the rest of the movement was moving on and had accepted us – and was just fine. But she was behind. She didn’t recognize this liberation – the Liberation Movement. I had to always confront her publicly and also the whole organization and even hold press conferences to correct things she said and get everybody involved in those press conferences to say [that] because Kate Millett came out as bisexual, that doesn’t mean that she’s no longer our leader – which Time Magazine said was true.
Now she’s being discredited because she’s coming out as bisexual? And we had a whole press conference to correct that – and correct what Betty said. So I was always out there. And even at the psychological conferences, saying, trying to mimic the men, “What made you a heterosexual?”
Actually, it was fun, but because of Betty, my whole reputation at the time was in confronting this very negative image of us everywhere. And Betty was a large part of that.
The Press Looks for the Weirdos
Of course it wasn’t just Betty then, because the press had this negative image – beyond a march – the gay pride march. Just normal people – my friends and I – I was an executive at CBS. I’d see the cameras – like NBC, ABC, CBS (my own station) – I was working for CBS – my own station! They’d have a TV camera – they’d have the lights off and the cameras off and you’d walk down. You could see some very bizarre person and they were waiting in the wings – they were waiting for that. That’s what they wanted to show.
They didn’t want to show normal people – hell no. They wanted to show men’s rear ends. They wanted to show all the weirdos. So sure enough – I knew this was going to happen – I happened to be right behind the truck. It wasn’t CBS, where I was an executive – it was either ABC or NBC. And they turned the lights on when the ferry began coming. And do you know what I did? I grabbed the cameraman’s legs and tried to pull [him] off the truck – I can’t believe the things I did. And so that truck and the cameraman turned off onto a side street and got out of the frame. I was just so angry that they’d do that. I couldn’t believe it.
I did some weird things. So I had a lot of passion. We all did. I can’t believe I tried to pull this guy off the truck with his expensive camera.
Couldn’t Say You Were a Member of NOW and a Lesbian at the Same Time
I know that there was one meeting I was at – this sounds astounding today. This had to be around 71 – 72. In the New York chapter someone brought up a resolution that you couldn’t say you were a member of NOW and a lesbian at the same time. This is a resolution people had to vote on. It failed by one vote. One vote! They were going to pass a resolution that you couldn’t say you were a lesbian and a member of the National Organization for Women – crazy. They wouldn’t say that to our faces but when it was an opportunity to vote they would express their opinion.
LP: So give me your coming out story. How was it before and then [after] coming out?
Coming Out by Accident
BL: How was [it] before? I guess there are maybe two definitions of coming out. Having your first lesbian experience and then telling people that you were a lesbian. So I had my first lesbian experience actually in France with an American woman. We talked about it afterwards on the beach and she said well it was fun, but it’s not for me. And I said it was fun and it is for me; it is for me. Hallelujah. That was my first experience and it was a real breakthrough.
But we didn’t have gay liberation at that time. We’re talking about 1961. That was before gay liberation. Anyway, my coming out was interesting because I came out in a big way and I didn’t do it through bravery – it was just an accident. I was one of the organizers of this conference I mentioned earlier to defend Kate Millett who had been on the cover of Time Magazine saying she was a leader of the movement because of Sexual Politics, which was an incredible book that made a huge difference. Probably the most important book she’s written – one of the most important books ever about the women’s movement.
And then later she was forced at a conference – somebody said – “Come on Kate, you’re married. Are you a lesbian or are you not a lesbian?” And Kate said she was bisexual – which I don’t know whether she’s bisexual, [but] she’s certainly a lesbian.
It Was Safer to Say You Were Bisexual.
So then Time Magazine was in the audience and they wrote up – oh now she won’t be a leader of the women’s movement – a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing. So we felt we had to do something about that because we’re always trying to correct the record. So we had everybody we could get – the usual players – Ti-Grace Atkinson and Gloria Steinem – every woman in the movement we could possibly get together that would defend Kate to say she is a leader in the movement.
Even Wilma Scott Heide, who was president of National Organization for Women – it was kind of a surprise, but she sent a supportive telegram. It was quite a big press conference and of course the big TV stations were there. And since I was one of the organizers – I was really a nobody –a troublemaker – like I said – I had the microphone. And I was rambling on about I don’t know what – street people – who knows what I was saying.
But somewhere in there I said – I am a lesbian. Wow. That was news. It was NBC. This NBC network news reporter thought that was the most important thing that happened at the press conference. And I looked at the nightly news to see what was going to be said about Kate Millet and I saw a close up of my face saying – I am a lesbian – I thought – whoa – NBC Nightly News – I’m out. I don’t need to tell anybody after that – I figured I’d just assume people knew I was, which wasn’t of course true.
You couldn’t have said it in a much bigger way. So then I was asked to be on the David Susskind TV Show. That was interesting, because he couldn’t find anybody else willing to come on and say they were a lesbian for a long time. Took about four months. Then he found some other brave women – as I said I wasn’t brave it was just an accident. But I said I’d go on that.
What the heck – what could I lose – it was an honor to be on the David Susskind Show. He found some others – one was a Girl Scout leader. Another worked for a bank and went on television with a pseudonym. Can you imagine going on a network TV program with a pseudonym? Well she did. Of course the woman lost her job at the bank – the woman lost her job with Girl Scouts. The other one was a Reverend – a black woman. The Reverend? I don’t know where they found her, because David Susskind asked -Where do you find other women? Where did you meet other women? And she said, “On street corners.” I said, “What? I’ve never met a lesbian in my life on a street corner.”
Where Do You Come From? You Come From Mars.
This was all on TV – it was very funny. So anyway it was hard to find people who were willing to come out at that time. Then I was asked to be on other shows. Later I went on the Barbara Walters television show. And I was still nervous because I was using my real name and I thought people could come find me and throw stones at me. So I don’t know. It was still a shaky time – early 70s – to be out as a lesbian. Nothing happened. Nobody sent me any letters or any dirty photos. I never had any threats.
Somebody on the bus recognized me right after the Barbara Walters show and said – “I saw you on television this morning.” Hanging on to the strap. I said, “What did you think of it?” I’m thinking she’d say something about my comments – like the issues. She said, “I thought you should have had your hair cut.” So much for our passion for our issues – she thought I should have looked a little better. Of course I probably should have had my hair cut.
LP: Was there any major personal discrimination from having come out?
Where Were You on August 26th, 1970?
BL: Oh there was discrimination. Again it wasn’t talked about – this stuff was done behind your back. I applied for a job at another company. I was with an editor of a super market magazine. I was interested in a job at Supermarket News, which was a publication. And I applied there and they wanted me. And they offered me the job. But of course when my job at Super Market found out, they gave me a promotion and a raise, so I didn’t go.
But I found out later from the Editor – who was the boss at the time – that when I was going to go to the personnel department – he called them up and said – “You really want to hire her? You know she’s a public lesbian.” And to his credit this guy said, “That doesn’t matter to me.” And I still would have been offered the job. But you can see that personnel was sort of warning him and saying – maybe you don’t want her. I didn’t take the job anyway. But those kinds of things were going on.
So yes, there’s no doubt that I did. They didn’t like it. And one time – I was out on the streets. I took a day off, but I did a wrong thing. I said I was sick. It was August 26th when we had all of the celebration of women’s events. I had put together a little street theater thing at Rockefeller Center and I was playing Dr. Fraud in a suit and tie; and we had a little skit and we had another one with Adam and Eve – all this gay and lesbian stuff.
We Had a Huge Crowd at Rockefeller Center and the TV Cameras Were There.
And they loved it. They loved things that were very visual. And this was of course a little play that I had written. They put it out on all three TV stations. So of course my boss and the executives saw [it] and I was editor of the magazine at the time. They did not like it. The next day they were in a meeting. They called me in to Personnel and said – You have to do your job or leave the company.
I said, “I’m doing my job.” The magazine was closed. Everything was in order. “I took one day off. And it didn’t hurt anything. I’m doing a great job – I get a great review and the magazine was totally put to bed.” I was told, “We’re not going to give you a raise this year because of this. That was punishment, because the next three or four years I was with this company my raises were always based on the raise I didn’t get so I had lost a lot of money.
But it was all right because you know you have to do what you have to do. I just probably should have said I’m taking a personal day off instead of saying I was sick. That was my mistake – so yes, I was punished for that – there were consequences.
LP: Now give me something. What would you like the young generation to remember you as? To define you.
Message to the Younger Generation
BL: What would I like the younger generation to know me as? I suppose more as a lesbian feminist. More as a lesbian activist maybe than even a feminist. I had to broaden my image a lot to do this last work for the last 10 years because I wanted everybody included in this book – our enemies of lesbianism, including our friends. I wanted the radical’s – the communists – the anarchists as well as the conservatives. There were more conservative feminists – Republicans who maybe some of them were even anti-abortion, but they were pro equal rights. It was confusing – some of the issues.
So I wanted everybody included so I played down my lesbian stuff because that wasn’t it. It was the whole women’s movement. I was trying to capture individuals and gain credibility of all of these people. And I’m kind of sorry about that. That I was not active as a lesbian during all those years because I was doing this book on feminism, which has gotten great acclaim and it’s been a very important book. But for my lifetime, viscerally, for me and my gut, I’m more connected to what I did for lesbians with Sappho Was A Right-on Woman in 1971.
I’m very proud of what I’ve done as a feminist. I got this great award for feminist work – contribution to Feminists in documenting our history. But viscerally I’d say Feminist Troublemaker. You could put that on my tombstone.