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Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994, Parts 1-3


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About this Collection

COLLECTION OVERVIEW

Introduction: Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994: Parts I-III

Organizational History

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) was founded in 1972 by a group of radical lesbians, many socialist and all feminist, who broke away from Atlanta's Women's Liberation Center and the Gay Liberation movement because they felt that neither had adequately addressed issues of concern to women as lesbians and lesbians as women. ALFA initially worked to fill a social void for and to offer a political voice to Atlanta lesbians, publicizing its efforts through a self-produced monthly newsletter, the Atalanta. Over the years, as the political and cultural climate changed and lesbians created new avenues through which to pursue their interests, ALFA struggled to find a clear and unique sense of purpose; this historically telling struggle is well-documented by ALFA itself, in minutes and mailings to its membership. In spite of its eventual decision to disband, ALFA remains known as one of the oldest lesbian feminist organizations in the United States, and a pioneer in the fight for lesbian, gay, and women's rights.

One of the activities of ALFA - deeply concerned from the outset with the preservation of lesbian herstory - was to build and maintain the Southern Feminist Library and Archives (SFLA). The library and archives, which provided a material link between ALFA and other progressive movements and organizations throughout the world, included the archival records of ALFA and several other southern feminist groups; a massive collection of feminist, lesbian, and activist periodicals; and a circulating library of feminist and gay and lesbian books. ALFA disbanded in 1994 after over 20 years of Southern feminist activism.

Scope and Contents Note

When ALFA disbanded in 1994, the archival collections and the bulk of the periodicals collection were transferred to Duke's Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The book collection and the remaining periodicals stayed in Atlanta, with books relating to feminist theory going to Emory University and the rest to a community library. The ALFA Archives and Periodicals Collections that were transferred to Duke are an incredibly rich source of information about feminist and lesbian activism and communities, especially in the Southeast, from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s.

The ALFA Archives includes the organizational records of ALFA as well as other southern radical women's groups such as Lucina's Music/Orchid Productions; Radio Free Georgia (WRFG) women's programming; the Womonwrites conference for lesbian writers and publishers; the Southern Women's Music festival; the Atlanta Socialist-Feminist Women's Union; and Dykes for the Second American Revolution (DAR II). The extensive subject files, which are a part of ALFA's archives, document scores of other feminist, lesbian, and activist organizations and events as well as provide information on a broad range of feminist and lesbian issues. Of particular note are ALFA's Theory/Analysis (Women) files, as well as their collection of publications by KNOW, Inc.; using these primary materials, researchers can get a good sense of the issues that gave rise to the women's liberation movement and to ALFA in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The ALFA Periodicals Collection contains literally hundreds of grassroots newsletters and journals, many of which are now ephemeral and not in any library.

Processing Note

For the most part, the original order of the ALFA Archives was maintained after being transferred to Duke. Several boxes, which had been in storage and never fully processed by ALFA, were organized upon arrival at the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Minor rearrangement and consolidation of some of the ALFA records and subject files helped to reduce confusion and highlight areas of strength.

ALFA AND RELATED LESBIAN COMMUNITY TIMELINE

ALFA prepared the following timeline cataloging the events and milestones of the organization and related lesbian community through June 1984, at which time the organization apparently ceased updating the timeline. The remainder of the timeline was prepared by Ian Lekus, who wrote the Introduction to the Collection, and is based on the ALFA organization files and ALFAs Atalanta newsletter.

1969: Great Speckled Birds Womens Caucus forms

1970: Atlanta Womens Liberation forms

1971: Gay Liberation Front forms and Womansong Theatre performs in Atlanta

Dec. 1971: "Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale" printed by Sojourner Truth Press (a womans press collective)

June 23, 1972: First ALFA meeting

Nov. 1972: First ALFA fundraiser (talent show) at the Twelfth Gate

Feb. 1973: Open House with MCC women

March 1973: Gay Conference in Atlanta; dance at GLF building on Pine Street

June 1973: First ALFA participation in Gay Pride March

July 1973: WRFG show "Lesbian Woman" begins; hosted by ALFA member; ALFA Pickets the Journal and Constitution in protest of their refusal to print info on ALFA events

Aug. 1973: Scarlet, the ALFA Steering Committee, is set up

Sept. 1973: :First ALFA newsletter printed

Oct. 1973: Last ALFA meeting at 1190 Mansfield Ave, the Original ALFA House

Jan. 1974: First open lesbian participation in ERA Coalition and March

Feb. 1974: First 2 ALFA Rap Groups established;
Susan B. Anthony Celebration, Rita Mae Brown reads from her new novel, Rubyfruit Jungle

June 1974: ALFA sponsors Gay 90s Carnival during Gay Pride Week

July 1974: The first "out" lesbian softball team in the Atlanta City League, the ALFA Omegas, play their first league game

Sept. 1974: Housewarming at the 2nd, and current, ALFA house; Margaret Mead interviewed for ALFA newsletter

Fall 1974: ALFA Poetry Group begins

Dec. 31, 1974: First performance of Red Dyke Theatre

Jan. 1975: ALFA sponsors fundraiser (Womans Dance) for ERA coalition at Ball Recreation Center;
ALFA woman speaks at ERA Rally

Feb. 1975: Maria Isabel, one of "The Three Marias," interviewed for ALFA newsletter

June 1977: Pokey Anderson (ALFA member in Houston, TX.) elected National co-chair of the National Gay Task Force (NGTF); Atlantas Gay Pride Association attempts to form the Atlanta Gay Rights Association

July 1977: Boogiewimmin created; Charis expands and opens new Womens Section

Aug. 1977: Dykes Together, a lesbian AA group, forms

Oct. 1977: Benefit for Vicki Gabriners legal fight at the Sweet Gum Head

March 1978: Meg Christian and Teresa Trull in concert (Lucinas); National Lesbian Organization founding Conference in Los Angeles

Mid 1978: Article by 2 ALFA women appears in Our Right To Love, a book produced by NGTF women

April 1978: ALFA women active in planning the Southeast Conference Of Lesbians And Gay Men out of which emerges the Southeast Lesbian Network and the initial planning for a Lesbian Writers Conference

May 1978: "Lesbian Region" column in ALFA newsletter starts

June 1978: Anita Bryant speaks at the Southern Baptist National Convention and ALFA women join pickets at the World Congress Center

July 1978: First Antioch Intern placed with ALFA; Piano donated to the ALFA house; Sweet Honey & The Rock concert (Lucinas); High Museum vetoes showing The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

Sept. 1978: Southeast Conference To Build The Matriarchy held at the Pagoda

Oct. 1978: ALFA house painted and redecorated; Feminist Chorus practices at the ALFA house

Nov. 1978: ALFA Intern speaks at a Press Conference with representatives of First Tuesday and ACLU celebrating the defeat of the Briggs Initiative in California; Alix Dobkin concert (Lucinas); Council On Battered Women opens shelter

Jan. 1979: First in a series of Community Sketches appears in the ALFA newsletter

Feb. 1979: Library Committee starts organization of Archives; Atlanta Gay Center starts functioning

March 1979: Feminist writers Judith Mcdaniel and Maureen Brady of Spinsters Ink speak at the ALFA house

April 1979: Margie Adam concert (Lucinas)

Aug. 1981: ALFA member, Margo George, receives the Gama "Humanitarian Award" for 1981; The Chamberpot performs at ALFAs birthday party

Nov. 1981: Southern Feminist Library & Archives is incorporated; Matrix Music and Orchid Productions forms out of Lucinas

Dec. 1981: Committee to Make ALFA House Barrier Free (Aka - the Ramp Committee) forms

Jan. 1982: Womens radio group forms, instigated by ALFA women working at WRFG

Feb. 1982: 5 week Sign Language Class starts at ALFA house

March 1982: Lesbian Family Support Group forms

April 1982: ALFA decides to start a House Fund for eventual down-payment on permanent house

May 1982: Ramp builtALFA is wheelchair accessible!! First open meeting of Sisters, a support group for Black lesbians

June 1982: ALFA-10 t-shirts printed

Aug.1982: ALFA Benefit Night (special showing) at Judy Chicagos Dinner Party at the FOX Theatre; Celebration of ALFAs 10th Birthday - first public performance of the Atlanta Womens Chorus and last (?) performance by Moral Hazard (sob!)

April 1983: Rita Mae Brown book signing at Charis

June 1983: Lesbian Pride March in Little 5 Points

June 1983: Black Womens Health Project holds National Conference at Spelman

July 1983: Jewish Lesbian Support Group forms

Aug. 1983: First Southern Feminist Library & Archives Newsletter Printed

Oct. 1983: ALFA women at Womens Peace Encampment near Savannah River Plant - Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) forms

Sept. 1983: Take Back The Night march

Oct. 1983: Kate Millett speaks at GA State University

Nov. 1983: First performance of the Jane Doe Band at the Tower Lounge

Nov. 1983: Atlanta City Council passes three anti-discrimination ordinances; the Atlanta Anti Discrimination Project (AADP) formed by BWMT and joined by ALFA to address compliance with the new laws

Jan. 1984: Fat Dykes organization meeting

Feb. 1984: Older Lesbian Energy (OLE) starts meeting in Little 5 Points Community Center

Feb. 1984: Lesbians For Empowerment, Action & Politics (LEAP) formed from Southeast Lesbian Conference planners meeting

March 1984: ALFA night at Sammies

March 1984: Robin Tyler at ALFA house

March 1984: Evelyn Beck, editor of Nice Jewish Girls, speaks at GSU on Jew-hating, racism and homophobia

May 1984: Jean Swallow & Sherry Thomas, authors of Out From Under: Sober Dykes & Their Friends, at Charis

May 1984: Jewish Lesbian Writers Group forms

May 1984: First Womens Music & Comedy Festival held in N. Georgia

June 1984: Premier of Out & About, gay/lesbian TV show on channel 16

June 1984: Lesbian Softball Tournament during Lesbian & Gay Pride Week; All-Star game with men from Hotlanta League

June 1984: Sonia Johnson speaks at Gay Pride rally

July 1984 : ALFA representatives and other Atlanta lesbian and gay activists meet with Atlanta police commissioner and chief to discuss community-police relations

Summer 1984: 250 people attend First Southeastern Lesbian/Gay Health Conference in Augusta, GA

Aug. 1984: Women Against Military Madness lead discussion on Womens Peace Encampment near Savannah River nuclear plant

Oct. 1984: Lesbian Empowerment In Action And Politics (LEAP) retreat held on women-owned rural land near Gainesville, FL

Nov. 1984: Party/reading/crafts festival for Charis Books & More tenth anniversary

Dec. 1984: Evelyn Newman, staff member from National Anti-Klan Network (later the Center for Democratic Renewal), makes presentation at ALFA house

Feb. 1985: Alix Dobkin performs in Atlanta

Apr. 1985: Lesbian comedienne and political satirist Kate Clinton performs at Dancers Collective

June 1985: Reading at Charis Books & More by Rosemary Curb, co-editor of Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence

Sept. 1985: Benefit concert by The Witt Sisters for the Southern Feminist Library and Archives

Sept. 1985: Atlanta African American women make presentation at U.N. Womens Conference in Nairobi, Kenya

Nov. 1985: First ALFA costume ball

Mar. 1986: Lesbian Herstory Archives slide show at ALFA house

Mar. 1986: SFLA/ALFA purchases house at 64 Clay Street

May 1986: Audre Lorde reads at Seven Stages

June 1986: Beth York represents ALFA and Atlanta womens community at International Womens Music Festival in BeerSheva, Israel

June 1986: U.S. Supreme Court votes 5-4 to uphold Georgia sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick. ALFA members take part in subsequent discussions and protests

Oct. 1986: ALFA/Boogiewimmin retreat at John Tanner State Park, featuring Amazon Mud Wrestling

Nov. 1986:

Oct. 1987: ALFA women and other local activists publicize, sponsor benefit events, and debate platform for second National March On Washington For Lesbian And Gay Rights held Oct. 11, 1987

Feb. 1987: Feminist theologian Mary Daly reads at Emory University

Mar. 1987: Cris Williamson and Tret Fure performance at Peachtree Playhouse

April 1987: Fat Dykes erotica show and tell

April 1987: Womens Cycling Network first Southeast Conference in Atlanta

April 1987: Atlanta March Committee sponsors Romanovsky And Phillips benefit concert for October March on Washington

May 1987: ALFA helps host Atlanta March Committees Third National Conference Of March For Lesbian And Gay Rights. ALFA and Black and White Men Together/Atlanta co-sponsor benefit at The Bar on Peachtree

June 1987: Karen Thompson speaks at Charis Books & More about her legal case to win access to her partner, Sharon Kowalski, who was severely injured and permanently incapacitated in 1983 car accident. Other June and July 1987 readings at Charis include Mab Segrest & Mini Bruce Pratt, Margaret Randall & Gloria Anzaldúa, and bell hooks

Aug. 1987: Atlanta Feminist Womens Chorus holds 70+ family yard sale to support the chorus trip to the March On Washington

Oct. 1987: ALFA takes part in National March On Washington, civil disobedience protests at U.S. Supreme Court against Bowers v. Hardwick decision.

Oct. 1987: ALFA houses rental apartment burglarized

Oct. 1988: Boogiewimmin produce "Family Feud"-style "Dueling Dykes" game show fundraising event for Southern Feminist Library And Archives

Fall 1988: SLFA issues promissory notes to finance mortgage from ALFA house purchase

Jan. 1989: Southeast Regional meeting held at Emory University to plan first National Lesbian Agenda Conference. In March, Atlanta outbids five other cities to win the right to host the conference. In April, Atlanta Lesbian Agenda Conference Committee (ALACC) forms and begins meeting at ALFA house to conduct host committee work

Mar. 1989: Boogiewimmin hold "Mortgage-Busting Auction." Promissory notes, auction, and gifts raise $27,600 from the lesbian community to successfully pay off balloon mortgage on the ALFA house

May 1989: ALFA co-sponsors speech by Ramon Cardona, a representative of El Salvadors FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional), with the Atlanta Committee On Latin America and numerous other local social justice organizations

May 1989: Pam Martin, a leader of ALFA and Fat Dykes leader, dies at age 44, weeks after moving to Minnesota. Memorial services held in Atlanta, Minneapolis and at Southern Womens Music And Comedy Festival, while Panther LL (gay male Levi/Leather club) holds fundraiser to support ALFA and to subsidize ALFA members participation in Minneapolis memorial service

Nov. 1989: Georgia Abortion Rights Action League leads march and rally at state capitol in defense of reproductive rights

Nov.-Dec. 1989: Pro-Choice Coalition invites Metro Atlanta Council Of Gay And Lesbian Organizations (to which ALFA belongs) to join. Some gay men object to joining the abortion rights coalition, prompting protest from feminist members (both women and men) of MACGLO. The disagreement is one of several controversies that leads MACGLO to disband in Jan. 1991

Winter 1989-1990: Act-Up/Atlanta forms womens committee and holds protest at state capitol against Georgia sodomy laws

Feb. 1990: ALFA/Boogiewimmin and Fourth Tuesday co-sponsor Winter Madness Dance

Mar.-Apr. 1990: ALFA and ALACC host ALACCs state conference in advance of April 1991 national conference; ALFAs annual spring Azalea Dance timed to coincide with state conference

June 1990: Judy Grahn performs at Seven Stages Performing Arts Center

Jan. 1991: Mab Segrest leads anti-racism workshop in lead-up to National Lesbian Conference

Jan. 1991: Four ALFA members take part in an Atlanta peace vigil on eve of Persian Gulf War

April 1991: National Lesbian Conference held in Atlanta, April 24-28

June 1991: In response to decreasing participation in the organization, ALFA hosts community potluck dinner to discuss whether to keep the group active

June 1991: 18 Queer Nation/Atlanta protestors arrested at major demonstration against Cracker Barrel restaurant chains policies to fire lesbian and gay employees. ALFA members take part in ongoing Cracker Barrel protests

June 1991: 30,000 people take part in Atlantas largest lesbian/gay pride march to date; ALFA marches in between Resist/Dissent and Digging Dykes of Decatur

Sept. 1991: To revitalize lesbian-feminist community interest in ALFA, Feminist Exchange committee forms and initiates Second Saturday Series on topics such as butch-femme politics, alternative health, and breast cancer

Oct. 1991: Five ALFA members arrested in Orlando at nursing home owners lobbyist convention for protesting in support of the rights of people with disabilities

Dec. 1991: ALFA co-sponsors Take Back Our Rights celebration/protest with 20 other community groups to mark the bicentennial of the federal Bill of Rights

Jan. 1992: Lesbian and gay community leaders announce plans to "queer" the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, demanding repeal of the state sodomy law, passage of a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation, and local adoption of domestic partner legislation

Mar. 1992: Ecofeminist activist Barbara Rose offers Womens Bicycle Workshop at ALFA house

Nov. 1992: To address limited increase in participation since June 1991 community meeting, 12 members attend ALFA general membership to vote upon whether or not ALFA should shut its doors. Members agree to keep ALFA open

Dec. 1992: ALFA member invited to join Fulton County Commissions Gay and Lesbian Advisory Commission

Jan. 1993: Sarah Schulman reads and presents video on Lesbian Avengers at Charis Books & More.

Jan. 1993: ALFA takes part in pro-choice rally to mark 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade; U.S. Representatives John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney lead the march

April 1993: Members present slide show on ALFAs history and future to packed house at Charis Books & More

Aug. 1993: Leslie Feinberg and Chrystos readings at Charis Books & More

Fall 1993: ALFA begins negotiations with various southern libraries to find a new home for its archives

Apr. 1994: ALFA members vote to close down the organization. Archives sold to Duke University

 

Introduction to Parts 1-3 of the Collection: Knowledge and Networks, Culture and Politics: ALFA and the Evolution of Lesbian-Feminist Organizing

Scholarship on modern American feminism, the history of sexuality, and social justice organizing in the United States since the 1960s cannot be considered complete without taking into account the politics and culture generated by lesbian feminists. For many women alienated by the widespread sexism they encountered in that decades civil rights and antiwar movements, feminism offered a new way to connect the personal and the political. Feminism offered a theoretical foundation for an alternative social structure to one in which men determined political, social, economic, and cultural relations. However, any notions that a universal sisterhood linked all women were quickly shattered as women of color, working-class women, and lesbians questioned the biases and assumptions of the pioneers of what has come to be called Second Wave Feminism.

For many lesbians, the emergent feminist movement quickly proved an inhospitable home. Betty Friedan and other leaders of the National Organization for Women warned of a "lavender menace" that threatened feminism and moved to silence or expel lesbians who were insufficiently discreet regarding their orientation. Roxanne Dunbar of the Boston-based Cell 16 declared that feminisms task was to get women out of bed rather than to change the sex of their partners. Still other feminist activists resented the accusations made by some sexist men and antifeminist women that all members of the feminist movement were lesbians.

At the dawn of the 1970s, lesbian activists rose up to challenge the prejudices of their heterosexual sisters. One group, the Radicalesbians, issued "The Woman Identified Woman" paper, arguing that lesbianism was not merely a matter of sexual preference. Instead, they argued that relationships between women lay at the heart of creating feminist consciousness and cultural revolution. This philosophy posited lesbianism as a political solution to womens oppression. In this view, sexual desire followed political orientation, with lesbianism being the logical extension of the feminist commitment to create womens space, womens culture, and womens organizations.

The relationships that developed through the daily labor of organizing for womens rights and through consciousness-raising groups and communal living arrangements fostered intense personal and political intimacy among feminists. A number of women experimented with lesbian relationships - some briefly, others more permanently. Because those lesbian-feminists who joined gay liberation groups commonly found that nascent movements internal culture to be as sexist as the womens liberation movement was homophobic, they created their own organizations, womens centers, coffeehouses, publications, and other lesbian-oriented places and spaces.

Over the next twenty years or so, a "Lesbian Nation" evolved, a political and cultural phenomenon that nurtured women-oriented cultural expression and worked to combat various forms of oppression. Naiad Press and Diana Press were just two of the many publishers spearheading an explosion in feminist publishing, while women-focused newsletters appeared and vanished across the country on what seemed like an almost daily basis. Womens music helped create a national sense of lesbian-feminist community through extensive networks of highly popular performers and festivals. Women also dedicated themselves to reimagining the divine, often by exploring ancient matriarchal and earth-centered religions.

What lesbian-feminism did and did not comprise remained an open question; in fact, that tension became a defining quality of the movement, especially as notions of lesbian culture and politics grew increasingly diverse through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. While some lesbians questioned whether to work on issues such as childcare and domestic violence (which some interpreted to be the domain of heterosexual women) or AIDS (often seen as the province of gay men), others committed themselves to an all-inclusive, coalition-driven approach to social justice. In some instances, this multipronged attack could lead to contradictory results. So where some lesbian-feminists strongly denounced pornography for denigrating and exploiting women, others argued just as vigorously for the freedom of sexual expression.

Confronting Invisibility and Oppression in "The City Too Busy To Hate"

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) archives illustrate how these dynamics evolved in Atlanta. ALFA grew out of the progressive community active in the Little Five Points neighborhood near the Emory University campus. White flight to Atlantas suburbs helped create a neighborhood where recent college graduates and community members more dedicated to political organizing than to professional careers could afford to live. By 1971, Little Five Points was home to a visible lesbian-feminist community, and women in the neighborhood held the first meeting of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance in June 1972. Vicki Gabriner, commenting on the Atlanta Womens Liberation in which she had been involved, noted that that group "was too straight," while the Georgia "Gay Liberation Front was too male." Lorraine Fontana, a former VISTA volunteer in inner-city Atlanta and a writer for the local countercultural-political newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, explained that "we need to organize ourselves; we need not to have to fight with these notions of sexism. We want a womens-only space - a place where women who come from other neighborhoods or outside of Atlanta can come to just be with other lesbians."1

ALFA members created such womens spaces in Little Five Points, first renting a house on Mansfield Avenue and then on McLendon Avenue. In 1986, after years of fundraising, ALFA purchased a house on Clay Street, which members renovated and made wheelchair-accessible. It was used for political, social, and educational meetings and housed the Southern Feminist Library and Archives. ALFA proclaimed itself a "lesbian-feminist organization open to all lesbians," whose concerns included the entire spectrum of lesbian-feminist issues. That agenda included liberating women, ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, and eliminating oppression derived from racism, anti-Semitism, economic inequality, and physical disability or appearance. It advocated an end to militarism, as well as the responsible, non-exploitative use of the worlds living and non-living resources (see box/folder 1.2)

Throughout its history, ALFA served as a public repository of social, economic, political, and cultural information for the womens and gay communities. Photographs and programs mark ALFA as a constant fixture in Atlantas annual gay and lesbian pride marches. Its newsletter, Atalanta, ran from 1973 until the organization ceased operations in 1994. Atalanta kept the community abreast of the latest local, regional, national, and international news. It printed activities calendars and meeting reports, provided action alerts for readers to get involved with various social justice causes, advertised the latest conferences, and reviewed all the latest releases in feminist and lesbian literature. The run of Atalanta is invaluable not only to scholars of local feminist and lesbian/gay studies but also to researchers examining how local activists work within national networks of cultural and political exchange.

Scholars are just beginning to synthesize the trends in womens and gay/lesbian histories since the early 1970s. In support of this research the ALFA papers open an invaluable and unprecedented window on this period, allowing researchers to track the political and cultural evolution of these communities over these decades just as ALFAs membership shifted away from the women who cut their political teeth in the overlapping liberation movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. Looking backward from the first decade of the twenty-first century, we see that the collection reveals how issues currently receiving extensive attention (e.g., lesbian and gay parenting, media representation of homosexuality) drew the attention of movement activists three decades earlier. One example of this can be found in a mid-1970s ALFA pamphlet that while explaining why lesbians should support the proposed Equal Rights Amendment also noted how ERA opponents had tried to frighten Americans by warning that the amendment would lead to homosexual marriage [box/folder 1.19].

Think Nationally, Act Locally and Regionally

While the ALFA Archives are invaluable to scholars writing national accounts of U.S. social movements since the 1960s, it is virtually unthinkable to write feminist or lesbian/gay histories of the post-Stonewall American South without using this collection. The Archives clearly show that ALFA members understood themselves to be situated within regional and national networks connecting diverse progressive social movements as well as urban and rural communities. ALFA and Atlanta more broadly served as a nexus in this web, as shown by the extensive institutional correspondence ALFA received from national feminist and gay organizations. Simultaneously, the correspondence files document how women from across the South - Durham, North Carolina; Tallahassee, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; Columbia, South Carolina; and many smaller cities and towns across Georgia - hoped that ALFA could help address their concerns.

ALFA volunteers made sure to preserve correspondence, news clippings, press releases, brochures, buttons, and other materials related to the work of other Atlanta activists involved in social justice organizing pertaining to its mission. The subject files are a particularly rich resource for scholars interested in community theatre and choruses, sexual assault and domestic violence, womens health, and race and labor politics. Numerous files pertain to local groups connected to national movements, including NOW, Gay Liberation Front, Queer Nation, and the Metropolitan Community Church. In some cases, the files record how ALFA worked with other groups, such as Georgians for the Equal Rights Amendment and the local chapter of Black and White Men Together (BWMT). In the latter example, the ALFA and BWMT collaborated to document racial discrimination in lesbian and gay bars in Atlanta, and the files include a speech made by lesbian-feminist writer Adrienne Rich before the 1982 annual convention of Black and White Men Together [box/folder 15.32].

In creating its Southern Feminist Library and Archives, ALFA organizers prioritized collecting womens books, periodicals, and personal papers (with particular emphases on lesbians and on the gay South), along with materials from Atlanta-area radical and progressive groups with whom lesbian-feminists were likely to create coalitions. The subject files reflect this approach as well: seminal documents from the early years of the modern feminist movement from authors such as Marge Piercy and Ellen Willis stand alongside "Female Liberation: A Joint Statement by Six Female Liberation Groups in Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C." [box/folder 13.1]

Conferences, festivals, and Pride events afforded lesbians and gay men from across the South and beyond opportunities to meet, discuss issues of common concern, listen to featured speakers and performers, and eat, dance, and relax together. In 1975, ALFA sponsored the Great Southeast Lesbian Conference, bringing in speakers such as Dorothy Allison, Charlotte Bunch, and Elena Nachman, and holding workshops on class, spirituality, sexuality, relationships, publishing, and health. ALFA members also took part in lesbian and gay health conferences in Athens, Georgia, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Archives also include position papers, programs, and other materials from the Southeastern Gay and Lesbian Conferences held across the region from the early 1970s to the early 1990s.

Archiving a Movement

"The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting," Milan Kundera wrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. For the women of ALFA, this principle lay at the heart of their activism. Collecting, preserving, and disseminating womens knowledge was central to ALFA members mission to work for social justice, share their experiences, and heal both themselves and the world at large. The most visible form of this activism was the creation of the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, which included much of the ALFA Archives and ALFA Periodicals Collections now at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Unlike some pioneers of modern feminism, ALFA members did not distinguish themselves by writing renowned theoretical essays or by staging dramatic protests that have become lodged in our collective memory of the movement. But over the course of two decades of organizing, in Atlanta and in coalition with other local, regional, and national organizations, ALFAs volunteers created one of the most important archives of the modern feminist movement.

The microfilm edition of the Archives will provide invaluable source materials to scholars interested in feminism, lesbian and gay studies, social movements and community activism, and cultural politics and production. Historians, sociologists, and political scientists will be able to make extensive use of the Archives, as will scholars from programs in women, gender, and sexuality studies, cultural studies, and library and information science. The Archives are as rewarding for undergraduate and graduate students and for junior scholars researching honors and masters theses, dissertations, and first monographs as they are for senior scholars writing synthetic works in these fields. Given the commitment of ALFA activists to documenting their own history, the collection will also prove valuable to anyone involved in creating and maintaining a community history archive, including the myriad of gay/lesbian and feminist local history groups across North America and beyond.

Cultural Politics, Cultural Communities

The politics of cultural organizing are deeply represented in the archives. Programs, festival guides, and correspondence document how Atlanta-area women regularly traveled north for the annual Michigan Womyns Music Festival. Simultaneously, extensive promotional materials, clippings, business records, and photographs document participation in and production of the Southern Womens Music and Comedy Festival in the mountains of rural northeastern Georgia. Atlanta was a favored destination for feminist singers and all-women bands, performance artists, comediennes, photographers, and other artists, with many of those events sponsored by ALFA and organized by Lucinas Music (a feminist music production company hosted by ALFA) and its successor, Orchid Productions. The collection contains information on a range of American and Canadian artists and performers, including Holly Near, Meg Christian, Ferron, Kate Clinton, Tee Corinne, Judy Chicago, Joan E. Biren (JEB), Alix Dobkin, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Cris Williamson. A run of catalogs from Ladyslipper Music, the Durham, North Carolina-based music distributor, is among the many catalogs collected by ALFA members, illustrating the abundance of work by feminist and other progressive musicians and filmmakers over thirty years.

The ALFA Archives offer ample opportunity for scholars to explore the intersections between political and cultural organizing. ALFA supported WomanSong Theater and Red Dyke Theater and sponsored the first "out lesbian" softball teams in the local womens leagues, the Omegas and the Amazons. Organizers of the Womonwrites lesbian writers conference met at the ALFA house to plan the event. Scholars of the politics of tourism will discover the brochures and other advertisements for women-only and gay/lesbian-specific resorts and excursions. Feminist performers demonstrated how the arts, political protest, and humor need not be mutually exclusive: the subject files [box/folder 10.13] document the play, "Ladies Against Women," staged by the Berkeley-based Plutonium Players. This theatre troupe toured North America, raising money for reproductive rights, civil liberties groups, organized labor, and the anti-nuclear energy movement. In their satires, the Players urged support for "the Rights of Americas Unconceived," "the National Association for the Advancement of Rich People," and "Another Mother for World Domination," the latter being a group of women who purportedly held bake sales on behalf of the Pentagon.

Changers and the Changed

Befitting its roots in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s, ALFAs mission statement committed the lesbian-feminist organization to addressing a broad spectrum of social justice issues, including the arms race and the threat of war, racism, environmental destruction, economic oppression, and discrimination against disabled persons. ALFAs own records, the subject files collected by its volunteers, and those donated by members and sister organizations afford scholars a rich vein of evidence of how intertwined the lesbian-feminist movement was with other social movements from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Alongside the Plutonium Players, women from ALFA took part in the feminist peace encampments at the Savannah River Plant in Barnwell, South Carolina, one of the two U.S. facilities producing plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons in the early and mid-1980s. Research reports, workshop brochures, maps, and other materials detail the military and ecological issues monitored by Women Against Military Madness.

The ALFA Archives provide abundant materials for researchers examining the relationship between gender, sexuality, and the state, addressing such issues as womens legal rights, work and welfare, law enforcement, the military, and conditions in jails and prisons. ALFA received letters from women serving in the armed forces: for example, one officer stationed in West Germany in the 1970s mailed in her membership dues along with an order for Rita Mae Browns Rubyfruit Jungle and Sarah Aldridges The Latecomer [box/folder 3.2]. Correspondence arrived from women in state and federal prisons across the Southeast and even from Ohio and Iowa. The subject files document ALFAs concern for how prison life was shaped by issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, including materials from Aid to Imprisoned Mothers, letters from the African National Prison Solidarity Committee, information advertising the Women in Southern Prisons conference, and a press release from Lambda Legal Defense Fund [box/folder 16.12] addressing the difficulties some federal prisoners faced receiving womens or gay periodicals.

While some feminist scholars have drawn firm distinctions between radical politics and cultural politics, the lives of ALFA members demonstrate how fluid that boundary could be. Files pertaining to ALFA pioneer Vicki Gabriner illustrate this dynamic. The Brooklyn-born Gabriner came to Atlanta after spending the 1960s working for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. After coming out as a lesbian, she joined other ALFA members in lobbying the Georgia state legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The FBI arrested Gabriner in 1973 for an infraction related to her work as a member of the Weathermen (a revolutionary group spun off from Students for a Democratic Society, the main white student movement of the 1960s) while she resided in an ALFA home. Subsequent files include newspaper clippings and other updates of the progress on her case, as well as fundraising letters and advertisements for benefit concerts held to defray her legal costs.

While Gabriner engaged in this legal battle during the mid-1970s, she played on ALFAs softball team and wrote to WomenSports magazine urging improvement of their coverage of lesbians [box/folder 13.15]. The media files record her active participation in the coalition ALFA formed with area gay men to lobby for greater coverage and more positive representations of the lesbian and gay community in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution - and the hostile resistance from the newspapers management [box/folder 2.21]. Gabriner also wrote on occasion for the gay press, helping create an alternative media and give voice to issues rarely if ever covered by mainstream journalists. One such article is her 1979 interview with Susan Freundlich published in Gay Community News discussing connections between the womens and deaf communities, addressing topics such as Freundlichs work providing sign language interpretation at womens music concerts [box/folder 14.5].

Over the last third of the twentieth century, the United States and the international community witnessed epochal transformations in the politics and culture of gender and sexuality. Those shifts are as fundamental as silicon to the networks that tie us together in a global knowledge economy, but their histories can be ephemeral as the electrons that run through the fiber-optics cables crisscrossing the planet. The microfilm edition of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives preserves an invaluable cross-section of those developments and will be essential to scholars writing these histories for generations to come.

Ian Lekus
Duke University

Footnotes

1 James T. Sears, Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 110. Historical material on the Atlanta lesbian-feminist community drawn from Searss work and from Saralyn Chesnut and Amanda C. Gable, "Women Ran It: Charis Books and More and Atlantas Lesbian-Feminist Community, 1971-1981," in John Howard (ed.), Carryin On in the Lesbian and Gay South (New York: New York University Press, 1997), pp. 241-284. Both works draw upon the ALFA Archives for original source material.

 

Editorial Note

Documents from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994, from the holdings of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, will be published in four parts. This collection guide contains a detailed description of the first three parts, as well as a full introduction to it. A collection guide to the fourth part, Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodical Collection, which describes that collection in detail, follows.

Format

This guide lists materials in the order in which they appear on the reels. Materials are arranged on reels according to box and then folder number. The archives are divided into three parts: Administrative Files, Subject Files, and Archives. Part 1, Administrative Files, contains materials pertaining to the daily workings of ALFA. Part 2, Subject Files, consists of (1) material sent to ALFA by local, regional, national, and international womens, lesbian, and gay organizations and (2) papers, newspaper and journal clippings on issues affecting women, lesbians, and gays. Part 3, Archives, consists of the archives of other lesbian and feminist groups in the Southeast, which were acquired by ALFAs Southern Feminist Library and Archives.

Selection Process

The selection of materials for the microform edition of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance, ca. 1972-1994 collection was based on several criteria:

Relevancy: Selected materials represent the history and development of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance. Selections emphasize ALFAs importance to and involvement in the gay and lesbian rights movement, the womens movement, and womens political activism. Materials that did not have as their primary focus one of these aspects were generally, although not always, excluded from publication.

Research Need: Certain materials have not been microfilmed largely because of their relatively low priority with respect to research needs. Examples of such materials include ledger books, telephone logs, bank deposit slips, and postal forms.

Format: Such artifacts as audiocassettes, t-shirts, and so forth that are technically part of the collection obviously do not fall within the purview of this microfilm collection.

Privacy: Some materials could not be microfilmed for reasons of confidentiality. In the interest of protecting the privacy of individuals, a concerted effort was made to exclude records that contained peoples home addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, or personal financial information.

Recording Unfilmed Materials

Description entries for all unmicrofilmed folders appear in this collection guide. The entry is marked Not Microfilmed. These materials are, however, available to researchers who use the collection on site at the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library at Duke University.

 

Introduction to Part 4: Periodicals Collection

Civil Writes: Movement Publishing and the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, 1969-1994

Scholarship on modern American feminism, the history of sexuality, and social justice organizing in the United States since the 1960s cannot be considered complete without taking into account the politics and culture generated by lesbian feminists. For many women alienated by the widespread sexism they encountered in that decades civil rights and antiwar movements, feminism offered a new way to connect the personal and the political. Feminism offered a theoretical foundation for an alternative social structure to one in which men determined political, social, economic, and cultural relations. However, any notions that a universal sisterhood linked all women were quickly shattered as women of color, working-class women, and lesbians questioned the biases and assumptions of the pioneers of what has come to be called Second Wave Feminism.

For many lesbians, the emergent feminist movement quickly proved an inhospitable home. Betty Friedan and other leaders of the National Organization for Women warned of a "lavender menace" that threatened feminism and moved to silence or expel lesbians who were insufficiently discreet regarding their orientation. Roxanne Dunbar of the Boston-based Cell 16 declared that feminisms task was to get women out of bed rather than to change the sex of their partners. Still other feminist activists resented the accusations made by some sexist men and antifeminist women that all members of the feminist movement were lesbians.

At the dawn of the 1970s, lesbian activists rose up to challenge the prejudices of their heterosexual sisters. One group, the Radicalesbians, issued "The Woman Identified Woman" paper, arguing that lesbianism was not merely a matter of sexual preference. Instead, they argued that relationships between women lay at the heart of creating feminist consciousness and cultural revolution. This philosophy posited lesbianism as a political solution to womens oppression. In this view, sexual desire followed political orientation, with lesbianism being the logical extension of the feminist commitment to create womens space, womens culture, and womens organizations.

The relationships that developed through the daily labor of organizing for womens rights and through consciousness-raising groups and communal living arrangements fostered intense personal and political intimacy among feminists. A number of women experimented with lesbian relationships - some briefly, others more permanently. Because those lesbian-feminists who joined gay liberation groups commonly found that nascent movements internal culture to be as sexist as the womens liberation movement was homophobic, they created their own organizations, womens centers, coffeehouses, publications, and other lesbian-oriented places and spaces.

Over the next twenty years or so, a "Lesbian Nation" evolved, a political and cultural phenomenon that nurtured women-oriented cultural expression and worked to combat various forms of oppression. Naiad Press and Diana Press were just two of the many publishers spearheading an explosion in feminist publishing, while women-focused newsletters appeared and vanished across the country on what seemed like an almost daily basis. Womens music helped create a national sense of lesbian-feminist community through extensive networks of highly popular performers and festivals. Women also dedicated themselves to reimagining the divine, often by exploring ancient matriarchal and earth-centered religions.

What lesbian-feminism did and did not comprise remained an open question; in fact, that tension became a defining quality of the movement, especially as notions of lesbian culture and politics grew increasingly diverse through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. While some lesbians questioned whether to work on issues such as childcare and domestic violence (which some interpreted to be the domain of heterosexual women) or AIDS (often seen as the province of gay men), others committed themselves to an all-inclusive, coalition-driven approach to social justice. In some instances, this multi-pronged approach appeared to generate contradictory results. So while some lesbian-feminists strongly denounced pornography for denigrating and exploiting women, others argued just as vigorously for the freedom of sexual expression.

Confronting Invisibility and Oppression in "The City Too Busy to Hate"

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) illustrates how these dynamics played out. ALFA grew out of the community of antiwar, civil rights, and other social justice activists and members of the counterculture clustered together in the Little Five Points neighborhood near the Emory University campus. White flight to Atlantas suburbs helped create a neighborhood where recent college graduates and community members more dedicated to political organizing than to professional careers could afford to live. By 1971, Little Five Points was home to a visible lesbian-feminist community, and women in the neighborhood held the first meeting of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance in June 1972. Vicki Gabriner, commenting on the Atlanta Womens Liberation in which she had been involved, noted that that group "was too straight," while the Georgia "Gay Liberation Front was too male." Lorraine Fontana, a former VISTA volunteer in inner-city Atlanta and a writer for the local countercultural-political newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, explained that "we need to organize ourselves; we need not to have to fight with these notions of sexism. We want a womens-only space - a place where women who come from other neighborhoods or outside of Atlanta can come to just be with other lesbians."

ALFA members created such womens spaces in Little Five Points, first renting two houses as feminist communes. In 1986, after years of fundraising, ALFA purchased its own house on Clay Street, which members renovated and made wheelchair-accessible. It was used for political, social, and educational meetings and housed the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, the core of which now exists as the ALFA Periodicals Collection. ALFA proclaimed itself a "lesbian-feminist organization open to all lesbians," whose concerns included the entire spectrum of lesbian-feminist issues. That agenda included liberating women, ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, and eliminating oppression derived from racism, anti-Semitism, economic inequality, and physical disability or appearance. It advocated an end to militarism, as well as the responsible, non-exploitative use of the worlds living and non-living resources.

Documenting a Movement

"The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting," Milan Kundera wrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. For the women of ALFA, this principle lay at the heart of their activism. Collecting, preserving, and disseminating womens knowledge was central to ALFA members mission to work for social justice, share their experiences, and heal both themselves and the world at large. The most visible form of this activism was the creation of the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, which comprised much of the ALFA Periodicals Collection and ALFA Archives now held at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Throughout its history, ALFA served as a public repository of social, economic, political, and cultural information for the womens and gay communities. In creating the Southern Feminist Library and Archives, ALFA organizers prioritized collecting womens books, periodicals, and personal papers from across North America and beyond. They also collected extensive materials from Georgia liberal, progressive, and radical groups with whom lesbian-feminists were likely to create coalitions. The volunteer archivists placed particularly high emphasis on documenting the works of lesbians in general and of the lesbians and gay men in the southeastern United States.

The ALFA Archives are invaluable to scholars writing national accounts of U.S. social movements since the 1960s. Moreover, it is virtually unthinkable to write lesbian/gay or feminist histories of the post-Stonewall American South without using this collection. The Periodicals Collection, along with the companion ALFA Archives, clearly demonstrates how ALFA members understood themselves to be situated within regional and national networks connecting diverse progressive social movements as well as urban and rural communities.

The microfilm edition of the Periodicals Collection will provide essential primary source materials to scholars interested in lesbian and gay studies, feminism, social movements and community activism, and cultural politics and production. Historians, sociologists, and political scientists will be able to make extensive use of the Periodicals, as will scholars from programs in women, gender, and sexuality studies, cultural studies, and library and information science. The Archives are as rewarding for undergraduate and graduate students and for junior scholars researching honors and masters theses, dissertations, and first monographs as they are for senior scholars writing synthetic works in these fields.

Thematically, the Periodicals Collection documents a vast array of political and cultural issues of concern to lesbian/gay and feminist activists across North America and beyond from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Topics represented include civil rights legislation and court cases, questions of race and class, AIDS and other health concerns and crises, sexual assault and domestic violence, urban and rural community building, ecology and nuclear power, international solidarity movements and the rights of women and sexual minorities across the globe, disabilities, religion and spirituality, self-defense and the martial arts, sports, aging, pornography and sexual expression, music, poetry and prose, satire and other forms of humor, and student and youth issues.

Because documenting social movements comprised a core pillar of ALFAs mission, its Library and Archives arranged acquisitions of key womens liberation, gay liberation, homophile, and countercultural publications whose emergence predated the founding of ALFA. Early feminist newspapers in the Collection include those from large cities such as Everywoman (Los Angeles) and RAT (the New York underground newspaper taken over by feminists in 1970), as well as a run of The Female Liberation of Durham-Chapel Hill Newsletter. Additionally, the Periodicals Collection contains most of the 1962-1972 run of The Ladder, the preeminent lesbian serial of the late 1950s and the 1960s, which was published by the Daughters of Bilitis. ALFA members also arranged to archive the 1969 "On the Liberation of Women" and 1972 gay male and lesbian-feminist issues of motive, the magazine of the 1960s-era Methodist Student Movement.

As the AIDS crisis brought lesbian-feminist and gay male activists together in substantial numbers for the first time since the early days of gay liberation, many women also wrestled with a new feminist ethos that seemed to privilege the personal and the cultural over the political. The 1978-1993 run of Lesbian News, published in Los Angeles, illustrates this contested evolution. Early issues of what started out as a California-focused newsletter took up highly political issues such as the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, and Dianne Feinsteins subsequent inauguration as San Franciscos first female mayor; the 1979 lesbian and gay march on Washington, D.C.; the Briggs state ballot initiative which would have banned lesbians and gay men from teaching in public schools; the Equal Rights Amendment; and the boycott of Coors-brand beers (based on the Coors familys decades of financial support for anti-gay and anti-feminist organizations, its union-busting activities, its unabashed opposition to the Civil Rights Act and affirmative action, and its advocacy of closer ties with the South African apartheid government). Early 1990s issues featured feminist zines, queer youth, lesbian sex clubs and weddings, and the Dinah Shore womens golf tournament, which draws thousands of lesbians to Palm Springs every year. The January 1992 edition featured a cover story on womens music twenty years after its emergence, with Olivia Records President Judy Dlugacz and singers Alix Dobkin and Cris Williamson contrasting their long-term accomplishments in feminist communities with the contemporary mainstream success of Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman.

Think Globally, Archive Locally

Not surprisingly, the Periodicals Collection holdings pertaining to the Atlanta metropolitan area are especially rich. They demonstrate the intricacies of community formation, mobilization, and sustenance over more than two decades, and will be especially interesting to scholars exploring how communities are dynamic entities which evolve over time. Moreover, they offer a deep vein to researchers interested in the complex interplay of social, political, and cultural organizations that constitute communities in civil society. From the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, several Atlanta newspapers offered sweeping coverage of the gay and lesbian community, though their reporting usually paid far greater attention to gay mens interests than those of the lesbian community. The male-oriented Atlanta Barb published in the early 1970s not long after gay liberation groups began to organize in the city, while ALFA subscribed to the Atlanta Gay Centers The News from 1979 to 1993. Southern Voice, Atlantas most comprehensive LGBT community newspaper to date, began publishing in 1988, and the Periodicals Collection holdings are nearly complete through 1994.

Other remarkable holdings include a full run of the first eleven volumes (1982-1994) of Black and White Men Together/Atlantas newsletter, along with the 1988-1994 issues of Fourth Tuesday Forum, the eponymous publication of a leading social organization for Atlanta lesbians. There are extensive holdings of newsletters from PFLAG/Atlanta (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the Periodicals Collection (1986-1988), as well as from the Atlanta Business and Professional Guild (1982-1984). The newsletters of local and regional campus gay and lesbian student groups from schools such as Emory University and Georgia State University are included in the collection. The impact of the AIDS epidemic in Atlanta is documented by the collection, with issues of the Atlanta NAPWA News and the AIDS Survival Project Newsletter, the latter of which offers people living with HIV/AIDS research updates, community calendars, project listings, medical advice columns, and legal, insurance, and nutrition information.

ALFA members made concerted efforts to collect lesbian and gay community publications from across Georgia and the greater Southeast. Scattered holdings document the Athens Gay/Lesbian Alliance (1984-1985) and Augustas gay and lesbian contact group (1984-1985), while a 1986-1994 run of the First City Network News traces the history of the gay and lesbian community of Savannah and southeastern Georgia. Beyond the Peach State, the SFLA collected newspapers from southern cities such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tuscaloosa; the nearly complete 1981-1990 run of The Gaze, a Memphis gay newspaper, is one especially rich example of this type. Lesbian-specific holdings include Austins Goodbye to All That (1975-1978), Louisvilles Lesbian Feminist Union Newsletter (1976-1978), The Newsletter of Durham-Chapel Hill (1982-1994), the Tuscaloosa Lesbian Coalitions newsletter (1989-1993), and Richmonds Lesbian Feminist Flyer (1978-1994). The SFLA also archived southern feminist publications such as Montgomerys From NOW On (1974-1977), and the newsletters of the Tallahassee Area Womens Network (1988-1994), the Nashville Womens Alliances (1978-1994), and the Charlotte Womens Center (1975-1987).

Atlanta-area feminist publications also comprise a significant element in the Periodicals Collection. The archives hold a near-complete 1974-1992 run of the newsletter from the Atlanta chapter of the National Organization for Women, and comparably deep holdings (1981-1993) from GARAL, the Georgia Abortion Rights Acton League affiliated with the national NARAL. Atlanta Womens ERA (1977-1978) and ERA Georgia (1979-1981) document local and statewide lobbying on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment and other pro-feminist legislation. The newsletters of the Georgia Womens Political Caucus, which are especially deep during the early 1980s, offer further evidence for researchers of womens participation in formal political processes.

The geographic coverage of the ALFA Periodicals Collection is sweeping, to say the very least. Beyond the Southeast, the archive holds newspapers and newsletters from Austin, Bennington (Vermont), Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Iowa City, Los Angeles, Madison, Milwaukee, New York, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Tulsa. Canadian publications from Montreal, Saskatoon, and Vancouver are included, and the most noteworthy Canadian newspaper in the collection is The Body Politic (1974-1987). This internationally influential Toronto newspaper remained committed to gay liberations sweeping vision of social justice even while organized gay male politics took a centrist turn in the years between the decline of the New Left and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. The Collection also includes select materials from beyond North America. Some are lesbian-specific, such as Lesbian Network from Rozelle (New South Wales), Australia. Others are general womens magazines, perhaps most notably one issue of News Letter, a Teheran-based publication with articles on Iranian women after the 1979 Revolution and in the Iran-Iraq War. The Collection also includes individual or scattered issues of publications from Amsterdam, Havana, Helsinki, Köln, Madrid, Oslo, and West Berlin.

Changers and the Changing

In accordance with its broad mission for social justice, ALFA members collected periodicals from anti-racist, international solidarity, environmental, and other activist organizations with whom they were likely to form coalitions. As such, this collection contains the Atlanta-based National Anti-Klan Networks newsletters from the first half of the 1980s; scattered issues of the Atlanta Clergy and Laity Concerns Atlanta Report from the early 1980s; and a large run of 1983-1991 newsletters from the Atlanta Committee on Latin America.

ALFA members concern for environmental justice is well documented in the Periodicals Collection. Many women from ALFA took part in the feminist peace encampments at the Savannah River Plant in Barnwell, South Carolina, one of the two U.S. facilities producing plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons in the early and mid-1980s. While extensive materials documenting this work are available in the ALFA Archives, the Periodicals Collection includes the 1980s run of Georgians Against Nuclear Energy and selected issues of The Peace Option, the newsletter of the Atlanta Freeze, affiliated with the national Nuclear Freeze/Jobs With Peace Campaign (later SANE/FREEZE).

One other noteworthy newspaper is a 1978 issue of Supporters of Silkwood, a publication dedicated to continuing the work of Karen Silkwood, the chemical technician at a Kerr-McGhee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma who died in a suspicious one-car crash in 1974. Her death took place after she left a meeting of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union to meet with a New York Times reporter, in order to deliver evidence she had gathered to support her claim that Kerr-McGhee negligently allowed workers to be exposed to plutonium. The Supporters of Silkwood issue includes updates from the legal cases brought by her estate against Kerr-McGhee, a chronology of events of her life and the fallout from her fatal car crash, lyrics of a song by feminist folksinger Fred Small about her, and news of a Bonnie Raitt concert held to publicize the case.

Some women sought to combine their environmental politics with their desire to build their own lesbian-feminist communities in rural areas. A nearly complete run of Maize: A Lesbian Country Magazine offers a snapshot of this phenomenon. The magazine includes announcements, articles, book reviews, cartoons, correspondence, and photographs showing the physical, intellectual, and cultural labor that women performed in order to build these new communal homes in California, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other parts of the United States, and as far away as Aotearoa/New Zealand. One essay offers the perspective of the Oregon Womons Land Trust in Wolf Creek, Oregon, who encountered difficulties when they tried to buy out the shares of land co-owned by members of an adjacent gay male commune. Other pieces discuss womens art colonies, gardening, herbs, vegetarianism, dispute resolution, financial planning for land acquisition, and the feminist peace encampment at Greenham Common in Berkshire, England.

Researchers looking to explore how lesbians and gay men have struggled to find welcoming and affirming spiritual homes will find the ALFA Periodicals Collection a boon. Particularly well-documented are the labors of lesbians and gay men in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast to create their own religious institutions and communities. The Collection includes the newsletter runs from Atlantas two congregations affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church, an international Protestant fellowship founded in Los Angeles in 1968 by and primarily for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons. The run of newsletters from First MCC of Atlanta spans 1979-1994, while the All Saints MCC newsletters cover 1989-1992.

Scholars will also find useful materials uncovering how lesbians and gay men worked to incorporate their feminist and sexual politics into traditional religious institutions. The Periodicals Collection includes several newsletters along these lines, such as Dignity Atlanta and Integrity Atlanta (lesbian/gay Catholic and Episcopal groups, respectively), along with the Norfolk Unitarian Universalist Gay Communitys Our Own. Also represented are a 1978-1985 run of the Evangelical Outreach Ministries Newsletter (later re-titled Bridges), an Atlanta-based network for lesbians and gay men from Evangelical traditions. Especially noteworthy are the newsletters of Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlantas only Reconstructionist synagogue, which local lesbians and gay men founded in 1985 in order to live openly within their Jewish heritage. With its notices of social events and volunteer opportunities with Jewish Family Services, Chanukah stories and accounts of hamantaschen bake-offs, the congregations newsletter is as valuable for researchers studying regional and religious identity as it is for scholars in sexuality and gender studies.

More generally, the newsletters and magazines of the ALFA Periodicals Collection offer incomparable evidence of the evolution and vast diversity of the women and men involved in the lesbian/gay and feminist movements. They range from the typewritten newsletters of the Charlotte Womens Center to the early issues of BLK, a glossy magazine published for African-American gay men and lesbians which began publishing in 1988. They are as politically divergent as the Gay Activist Alliances Gay Activist (scattered 1973-1979 issues) and Gay Clone (scattered 1977-1978 issues). Both published in New York, GAA lobbied for mainstream acceptance and looked unfavorably upon feminist and gay liberation politics, while gay anarchists published Gay Clone.

The Personal Is Political

Even beyond community newspapers and organizational publications, the ALFA Periodicals Collection offers incomparable evidence demonstrating how lesbian, gay, and feminist activists interpreted the widely shared principle that "the personal is political." One such example is the near-complete run of Moms Apple Pie from 1975 through 1994, published by the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund. Moms Apple Pie covers the diverse ways lesbian mothers negotiated the vast array of legal, social, and cultural challenges they faced in a society premised upon women and men raising children together. Golden Threads served a readership of lesbians who passed the half-century mark. Extensive holdings of Fighting Woman News (1975-1989) cover the feminist martial arts movement, as women claimed their physical and psychological rights to self-defense in a traditionally male arena.

While some periodicals in this collection are notable for their extensive holdings, other titles are remarkable for their rarity. The one issue of Montana Womens Resource (summer 1976) offers articles on women leaving the state in order to have abortions, herbal treatments for yeast infections, information on birth control pills and IUDs, a Barbara Ehrenreich essay on women healers and male doctors through history, the Equal Rights Amendment and other feminist concerns for the upcoming presidential election, women and science fiction, and a review of Ursula LeGuins The Dispossessed, a novel about an anarchist utopia. Other such rare holdings include one issue of Asian Lesbians of the East Coast; one of Gay Comix, edited by Howard Cruse, a pioneer in gay and lesbian cartoon art; two very early issues of Girljock, about lesbians and sports, before the publication evolved into a widely circulated glossy magazine; a single mailing from Sissies in Struggle, offering poetry and a resource list for men who rejected traditional definitions of masculinity. Five issues (1975-1977) of the Susan Saxe Defense Committee Newsletter, published in support of the lesbian whose arrest on charges related to her involvement in anti-imperialist revolutionary movements, prompted heated controversy among feminist activists in the mid-1970s.

Over the last third of the twentieth century, the United States and the international community witnessed epochal transformations in the politics and culture of gender and sexuality. Those shifts are as fundamental as silicon to the networks that tie us together in a global knowledge economy, but their histories can be ephemeral as the electrons that run through the fiber-optics cables crisscrossing the planet. The microfilm edition of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection documents the extraordinary intellectual and material labor that generated these revolutions, and preserves an essential record for scholars writing these histories for generations to come.

Ian Lekus
Duke University

 

Editorial Note

Documents from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994, from the holdings of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, is published in four parts. This collection guide contains a detailed description of Part IV, The Periodicals Collection, as well as a full introduction to it.

Format

This guide lists serials gathered by the membership of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance during the period of its existence.

Selection Process

Two criteria were applied to the selection of materials. The first was rarity. Serials that, according to a review on OCLC, indicated a significant number of holders - regardless of format (i.e., print, microform or digital) - were excluded. Serials for which permission to reprint in microform was not granted were excluded. Otherwise, permission was requested for every individual periodical to reproduce in microform.

Information provided

Titles are sorted roughly in alphabetical order, with volume, issues, and date information recorded, where available. The date on which the individual issues arrived at the headquarters of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance was recorded as well under "Date Recd," allowing for some form of dating where none may have been provided by the individual issue.