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Gay Magazine No 11


Undeterred, Julber filed suit against Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen, contending the seizure of the magazine violated the constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His suit contended ONE was subjected to discriminatory treatment because of prejudice against gays.




Gay Magazine No 11



Brennan, the author of the Roth opinion, looked at all the petitions on his own. He would have seen the magazine and its supposedly obscene articles. After taking several votes, the justices decided on a simple, one-line ruling issued on Jan. 13, 1958, reversing the 9th Circuit decision.


The Ladder was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the United States. It was published monthly from 1956 to 1970, and once every other month in 1971 and 1972. It was the primary publication and method of communication for the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian organization in the US. It was supported by ONE, Inc. and the Mattachine Society, with whom the DOB retained friendly relations. The name of the magazine was derived from the artwork on its first cover, simple line drawings showing figures moving towards a ladder that disappeared into the clouds.


The first edition of The Ladder appeared in October 1956, edited by Phyllis Lyon, who co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in 1955 with Del Martin, both of whom had journalism experience. Many of its contributors used pseudonyms or initials. Lyon edited The Ladder as "Ann Ferguson" for the first few months, but dropped the name as a way of encouraging their readers not to hide.[1] The first issues of the magazine averaged 20 pages with each issue increasing in length from 12 pages to 30 pages by the end of the first volume. A volunteer staff produced each issue on a typewriter, copied by a mimeograph, and hand stapled. It included book reviews, news, poetry, short stories, a running bibliography of lesbian literature, letters from readers, and updates from DOB meetings. In 1959 it took a rare political stance against San Francisco mayoral candidate Russel Wolden who criticized incumbent mayor George Christopher's making the city a haven for "sex deviants."[2][3] The Ladder was issued in a brown paper covering for the duration of its existence. There were 175 copies of the first issue, and members of the DOB mailed them to every woman they knew who might be interested, including woman professionals in the San Francisco telephone book, and others throughout the United States.[4] It soon became available in newsstands in major cities and by subscription, obtained by word of mouth.[5]


By October 1957, there were 400 subscribers on the mailing list.[6] An early respondent to the magazine was playwright Lorraine Hansberry, writing a letter of thanks in May 1957 signed "L.H.N", offering $2.00 US for any back issues, and stating she was "glad as heck that you exist."[7] Lyon published her entire letter,[8] taking up two of the 30 pages of that issue. Historian Marcia Gallo wrote of The Ladder, "For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear."[9] While Gallo's assertion is supported by the publicized letters in the magazine, the letters left unpublished criticized the magazine on format, purpose, and content as ineffective.[10]


In 1963 Barbara Gittings took over editing The Ladder, giving it a more politically urgent stance and adding "A Lesbian Review" under the title of the magazine. The line drawings on the cover were replaced with photographs of lesbians, to make them more visible. The first woman who appeared in a photograph on the cover in May 1964 was an unnamed model. The first woman who allowed her name to be printed was from Indonesia who had sent her picture and a letter explaining how isolated she was.[7] Except for the first two covers, the rest of the portraits that appeared on the cover of The Ladder were shot by Gittings' partner, Kay Lahusen. The January 1966 cover with Lahusen's photo of Lilli Vincenz was the first to feature a named model without sunglasses or in profile view.[11][12]By 1966, Gittings remembered, there was a list of women who were willing to lend their photo and their name to the cover.[13] The improvement of the production quality in the magazine was evident due in large part to a monthly donation of $100,000 the DOB received from a source they knew only as "Pennsylvania" that was spread out between 1963 and 1969.[7]


In 1970, the DOB disbanded due to organizational problems, disagreements about aligning themselves with homophile organizations composed predominantly of gay men, and supporting the growing feminist movement. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon had joined the National Organization for Women and encouraged readers of The Ladder to do the same. Younger members who were sparked by more confrontational methods of protest, did not agree with some of the older members' ideas. Concerned that the magazine would be lost due to the lack of direction in the national organization, DOB president Rita LaPorte took possession of the 3,800-member mailing list for The Ladder (of which there were only two copies, the subject of which was an annual article to assure women that their names were safe) to Reno without the knowledge of Martin and Lyons, and she and Barbara Grier continued to publish it until September 1972 when they ran out of funds. When The Ladder severed its ties with the DOB, the anonymous donations to assist the magazine stopped.[7] A controversy arose between Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons, Barbara Gittings, and Helen Sandoz who maintained the mailing list was stolen, and Grier who stated taking the list was necessary to keep a dying organization alive.[7]


In 1975, Arno Press released a nine-volume compilation of The Ladder in hardback as part of their series "Lesbians and Gay Men in Society, History, and Literature" with a short foreword by Barbara Grier. Speaking to journalist and historian Rodger Streitmatter about The Ladder, Grier commented that "no woman ever made a dime for her work, and some ... worked themselves into a state of mental and physical decline on behalf of the magazine."[17] She felt that "most of (the editors) believed that they were moving the world with their labors, and I believe that they were right".[17]


Poetry submissions began almost immediately, as did short story submissions with lesbian themes. Book reviews of current paperbacks were regular features, including a heated exchange in print between contributors to The Ladder and author Marijane Meaker as Ann Aldrich from 1957 to 1963. Meaker had written the immensely successful Spring Fire in 1952 under the name Vin Packer and was known to the Daughters of Bilitis. Meaker's books We Walk Alone from 1955 and We, Too, Must Love from 1958 were her version of Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual in America, a nonfiction account published in 1951 about what it was like to live as a gay man in the US.[29] Meaker's books, published by Gold Medal Books, were distributed all over the US, and gave people in remote places an idea of what it was like to live as a lesbian. The books, however, were not particularly sympathetic to lesbians, and Del Martin and Barbara Grier took issue with Meaker's portrayals. They began to criticize the books in The Ladder and suggest that Meaker was expressing self-hatred in the books.[30][31][32][33] Del Martin wrote to Meaker personally in 1958, giving her a free subscription to the magazine. Meaker's reach to women was much broader through the distribution of her books, and she received so much mail from women asking for resources and support that she was unable to respond to all of it, so she referred the letter writers to the Daughters of Bilitis.[7] However, in print, Meaker responded to the open letters to her in The Ladder in her next book Carol in a Thousand Cities in 1960, by skewering the magazine's amateurish homemade appearance, fiction and poetry she did not appreciate, and the ideas presented in the magazine. Again, The Ladder responded, once more calling Meaker's loyalties into question.[34][35][36] However negative Carol in a Thousand Cities was to The Ladder, it was major advertising for the DOB and letters poured in for them from all over the U.S.


When the Daughters of Bilitis or the Mattachine Society had a convention, the news was reported. The magazine compiled some of the first statistics about lesbians in the United States by sending their readership questionnaires, the first in 1957 and again in 1963. There was a marked difference in the tone of the magazine after Barbara Gittings heard Frank Kameny speak at the national DOB convention that attempting to find the cause of homosexuality was a waste of time since it was equal to heterosexuality.[14] Many articles from 1956 to 1963 focused on ways to function in an overwhelmingly homophobic world, but gradually articles began to appear that were unapologetic in promoting lesbianism.


Much of what is known about Ernestine Eckstein's beliefs and life is taken from an interview in The Ladder in June 1966. Eckstein was one of two women of color to be featured on the cover of the magazine. The importance of Eckstein's issue of The Ladder should not be underestimated: "Her image on the cover, and her ideas throughout the pages of The Ladder, helped greatly to complicate notions of the kinds of women who were involved in DOB and expanded definitions of lesbian identity".[44] Her coverage in The Ladder is the only known published piece that substantially features Eckstein.


January 13, 1958In the landmark case One, Inc. v. Olesen, the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) magazine "One: The Homosexual Magazine." The suit was filed after the U.S. Postal Service and FBI declared the magazine obscene material, and it marks the first time the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of homosexuals. 041b061a72


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