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LGBTQ+ Studies: A Resource Guide

The Daughters of Bilitis

Lesbian couple Kay Tobin Lahusen, photojournalist, and Barbara Gittings, activist and editor of The Ladder. 1981. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Daughters of Bilitis were the first lesbian rights group in the United States, founded in San Francisco in 1955. The DOB began publishing The Ladder in 1956 becoming the first nationally distributed lesbian periodical in the United States. While Lisa Ben published Vice Versa in 1947-8, it was never distributed nationally. The Daughters of Biltis founders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were not aware of the other homophile organizations already in existence when they formed. They began as a private social club, an alternative to the frequently raided bar scene, but quickly grew into a national lesbian rights organization, with local chapters all over the country. The Daughters of BIlitis faced enormous odds, and they were subject to not just the surveillance of local police, but also the CIA and FBI.

To find additional materials, search the Library of Congress Online Catalog:

The Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder in 1956. This was the first nationally distributed lesbian magazine in the United States. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are provided when available.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Local chapters of the Daughters of BIlitis formed across the country. Often, these chapters would host their own events and programming, and publish their own periodical content.

DOB Regional Organizations (Not a comprehensive list)

  • Dallas
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • New York