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Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994, Part 4


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About this Collection

Introduction: Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: Atlanta Lesbian FeministAlliance

Introduction: Gay Rights Movement: Series 6: AtlantaLesbian Feminist Alliance

Archives, ca. 1972-1994: Part 4: Periodicals Collection

 

COLLECTION OVERVIEW

 

OrganizationalHistory

 

The Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) was founded in1972 by a group of radical lesbians, many socialist and all feminist, who brokeaway from Atlantas Womens Liberation Center and the Gay Liberation movementbecause they felt that neither had adequately addressed issues of concern towomen as lesbians and lesbians as women. ALFA initially worked to fill a socialvoid for and to offer a political voice to Atlanta lesbians, publicizing itsefforts through a self-produced monthly newsletter, the Atalanta. Overthe years, as the political and cultural climate changed and lesbians creatednew avenues through which to pursue their interests, ALFA struggled to find aclear and unique sense of purpose; this historically telling struggle iswell-documented by ALFA itself, in minutes and mailings to its membership. Inspite of its eventual decision to disband, ALFA remains known as one of theoldest lesbian feminist organizations in the United States, and a pioneer inthe fight for lesbian, gay, and womens rights.

 

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

 

Scope andContents Note

 

When ALFA disbanded in 1994, the archival collections andthe bulk of the periodicals collection were transferred to Dukes Rare Book,Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The book collection and theremaining periodicals stayed in Atlanta, with books relating to feminist theorygoing to Emory University and the rest to a community library. The ALFAArchives and Periodicals Collections that were transferred to Duke are anincredibly rich source of information about feminist and lesbian activism andcommunities, especially in the Southeast, from the early 1970s to the mid1990s.

 

The ALFA Archives includes the organizational records ofALFA as well as other southern radical womens groups such as LucinasMusic/Orchid Productions; Radio Free Georgia (WRFG) womens programming; thewomonwrites conference for lesbian writers and publishers; the Southern WomensMusic Festival; the Atlanta Socialist-Feminist Womens Union; and Dykes for theSecond American Revolution (DAR II). The extensive subject files, which are apart of ALFAs archives, document scores of other feminist, lesbian, andactivist organizations and events as well as provide information on a broadrange of feminist and lesbian issues. Of particular note are ALFAsTheory/Analysis (Women) files, as well as their collection of publications byKNOW, Inc.; using these primary materials, researchers can get a good sense ofthe issues that gave rise to the womens liberation movement and to ALFA in thelate 1960s and early 1970s.

 

The ALFA Periodicals collection contains literally hundredsof grassroots newsletters and journals, many of which are now ephemeral and notin any library. This extensive library of feminist, lesbian and gay, andactivist periodicals is more fully described in the Introduction to thePeriodicals Collection below.

 

Processing Note

 

For the most part, the original order of the ALFA Archiveswas maintained after being transferred to Duke. Several boxes, which had beenin storage and never fully processed by ALFA, were organized upon arrival atthe Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Minor rearrangementand consolidation of some of the ALFA records and subject files helped toreduce confusion and highlight areas of strength.

 

 

ALFA AND RELATED LESBIAN COMMUNITY TIMELINE

 

ALFA prepared the following timeline cataloging the eventsand milestones of the organization and related lesbian community through June1984, at which time the organization apparently ceased updating the timeline.The remainder of the timeline was prepared by Ian Lekus, who wrote theIntroduction to the Collection, and is based on the ALFA organization files andALFAs Atalanta newsletter.

 

1969: Great Speckled Birds Womens Caucus forms

 

1970: Atlanta Womens Liberation forms

 

1971: Gay Liberation Front forms and Womansong Theatreperforms in Atlanta

 

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

 

June 23, 1972: First ALFA meeting

 

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

 

Feb. 1973: Open House with MCC women

 

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

 

June 1973: First ALFA participation in Gay Pride March

 

July 1973: WRFG show Lesbian Woman begins; hosted by ALFAmember; ALFA Pickets the Journal and Constitution in protest of their refusalto 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, theOriginal ALFA House

 

Jan. 1974: First open lesbian participation in ERA Coalitionand March

 

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

 

June 1974: ALFA sponsors Gay 90s Carnival during Gay PrideWeek

 

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

 

Sept. 1974: Housewarming at the 2nd, and current, ALFAhouse; 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 ERAcoalition 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 GayPride Association attempts to form the Atlanta Gay Rights Association

 

July 1977: Boogiewimmin created; Charis expands and opensnew Womens Section

 

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

 

Oct. 1977: Benefit for Vicki Gabriners legal fight at theSweet 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 ToLove, a book produced by NGTF women.

 

April 1978: ALFA women active in planning the SoutheastConference Of Lesbians And Gay Men out of which emerges the Southeast LesbianNetwork 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 BaptistNational Convention and ALFA women join pickets at the World Congress Center

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Nov. 1978: ALFA Intern speaks at a Press Conference withrepresentatives of First Tuesday and ACLU celebrating the defeat of the BriggsInitiative in California; Alix Dobkin concert (Lucinas); Council On BatteredWomen opens shelter

 

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

 

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

 

March 1979: Feminist writers Judith McDaniel and MaureenBrady of Spinsters Ink speak at the ALFA house

 

April 1979: Margie Adam concert (Lucinas)

 

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

 

Nov. 1981: Southern Feminist Library & Archives isincorporated; 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 ALFAwomen 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 eventualdown-payment on permanent house

 

May 1982: Ramp built - ALFA 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 JudyChicagos Dinner Party at the FOX Theatre; Celebration of ALFAs 10thBirthday - 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 NationalConference at Spelman

 

July 1983: Jewish Lesbian Support Group forms

 

Aug. 1983: First Southern Feminist Library & ArchivesNewsletter Printed

 

Oct. 1983: ALFA women at Womens Peace Encampment nearSavannah 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 theTower Lounge

 

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

 

Jan. 1984: Fat Dykes organization meeting

 

Feb. 1984: Older Lesbian Energy (OLE) starts meeting inLittle 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 OutFrom Under: Sober Dykes & Their Friends, at Charis

 

May 1984: Jewish Lesbian Writers Group forms

 

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

 

June 1984: Premier of Out & About, gay/lesbian TVshow 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 lesbianand gay activists meet with Atlanta police commissioner and chief to discusscommunity-police relations

 

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

 

Aug. 1984: Women Against Military Madness lead discussion onWomens 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 NationalAnti-Klan Network (later the Center for Democratic Renewal), makes presentationat ALFA house

 

Feb. 1985: Alix Dobkin performs in Atlanta

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Nov. 1985: First ALFA costume ball

 

Mar. 1986: Lesbian Herstory Archives slide show at ALFAhouse

 

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 womenscommunity at International Womens Music Festival in BeerSheva, Israel

 

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

 

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

 

Nov. 1986-Oct. 1987: ALFA women and other local activistspublicize, sponsor benefit events, and debate platform for second NationalMarch On Washington For Lesbian And Gay Rights held Oct. 11, 1987

 

Feb. 1987: Feminist theologian Mary Daly reads at EmoryUniversity

 

Mar. 1987: Cris Williamson and Tret Fure performance atPeachtree Playhouse

 

April 1987: Fat Dykes erotica show and tell

 

April 1987: Womens Cycling Network first SoutheastConference at Atlanta

 

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

 

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

 

June 1987: Karen Thompson speaks at Charis Books & Moreabout her legal case to win access to her partner, Sharon Kowalski, who wasseverely injured and permanently incapacitated in a 1983 car accident. OtherJune and July 1987 readings at Charis include Mab Segrest & Mini BrucePratt, Margaret Randall & Gloria Anzalda, and bell hooks.

 

Aug. 1987: Atlanta Feminist Womens Chorus holds 70+ familyyard 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. Hardwickdecision

 

Oct. 1987: ALFA houses rental apartment burglarized

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

May 1989: ALFA co-sponsors speech by Ramon Cardona, arepresentative of El Salvadors FMLN (Frente Farabundo Marti para la LiberacinNacional), with the Atlanta Committee On Latin America and numerous other localsocial 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 inAtlanta, Minneapolis and at Southern Womens Music And Comedy Festival, whilePanther LL (gay male Levi/Leather club) holds fundraiser to support ALFA and tosubsidize ALFA members participation in Minneapolis memorial service

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Feb. 1990: AFLA/Boogiewimmin and Fourth Tuesday co-sponsorWinter Madness Dance

 

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

 

June 1990: Judy Grahn performs at Seven Stages PerformingArts Center

 

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

 

Jan. 1991: Four ALFA members take part in an Atlanta peacevigil 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 theorganization, ALFA hosts community potluck dinner to discuss whether to keepthe group active

 

June 1991: 18 Queer Nation/Atlanta protestors arrested atmajor demonstration against Cracker Barrel restaurant chains policies to firelesbian and gay employees. ALFA members take part in ongoing Cracker Barrelprotests

 

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

 

Sept. 1991: To revitalize lesbian-feminist communityinterest in ALFA, Feminist Exchange committee forms and initiates SecondSaturday Series on topics such as butch-femme politics, alternative health, andbreast cancer

 

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

 

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

 

Jan. 1992: Lesbian and gay community leaders announce plansto queer the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, demanding repeal of the statesodomy law, passage of a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation, andlocal adoption of domestic partner legislation

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fall 1993: ALFA begins negotiations with various southernlibraries 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 THE PERIODICALS COLLECTION

 

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

 

Scholarship on modernAmerican feminism, the history of sexuality, and social justice organizing inthe United States since the 1960s cannot be considered complete without takinginto account the politics and culture generated by lesbian feminists. For manywomen alienated by the widespread sexism they encountered in that decadescivil rights and antiwar movements, feminism offered a new way to connect thepersonal and the political. Feminism offered a theoretical foundation for analternative social structure to one in which men determined political, social,economic, and cultural relations. However, any notions that a universalsisterhood linked all women were quickly shattered as women of color,working-class women, and lesbians questioned the biases and assumptions of thepioneers of what has come to be called Second Wave Feminism.

 

For many lesbians, theemergent feminist movement quickly proved an inhospitable home. Betty Friedanand other leaders of the National Organization for Women warned of a lavendermenace that threatened feminism and moved to silence or expel lesbians whowere insufficiently discreet regarding their orientation. Roxanne Dunbar of theBoston-based Cell 16 declared that feminisms task was to get out of bed ratherthan to change the sex of their partners. Still other feminist activistsresented the accusations made by some sexist men and antifeminist women thatall members of the feminist movement were lesbians.

 

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

 

The relationships thatdeveloped through the daily labor of organizing for womens rights and throughconsciousness-raising groups and communal living arrangements fostered intensepersonal and political intimacy among feminists. A number of women experimentedwith lesbian relationships - some briefly, others more permanently. Becausethose lesbian-feminists who joined gay liberation groups commonly found thatnascent movements internal culture to be as sexist as the womens liberationmovement was homophobic, they created their own organizations, womens centers,coffeehouses, publications, and other lesbian-oriented places and spaces.

 

Over the next twentyyears or so, a Lesbian Nation evolved, a political and cultural phenomenonthat nurtured women-oriented cultural expression and worked to combat variousforms of oppression. Naiad Press and Diana Press were just two of the manypublishers spearheading an explosion in feminist publishing, whilewomen-focused newsletters appeared and vanished across the country on whatseemed like an almost daily basis. Womens music helped create a national senseof lesbian-feminist community through extensive networks of highly popularperformers and festivals. Women also dedicated themselves to reimagining thedivine, often by exploring ancient matriarchal and earth-centered religions.

 

What lesbian-feminism didand did not comprise remained an open question; in fact, that tension became adefining quality of the movement, especially as notions of lesbian culture andpolitics grew increasingly diverse through the 1980s and into the early 1990s.While some lesbians questioned whether to work on issues such as childcare anddomestic violence (which some interpreted to be the domain of heterosexualwomen) or AIDS (often seen as the province of gay men), others committedthemselves to an all-inclusive, coalition-driven approach to social justice. Insome instances, this multi-prolonged approach appeared to generatecontradictory results. So while some lesbian-feminists strongly denouncedpornography for denigrating and exploiting women, others argued just as vigorouslyfor the freedom of sexual expression.

 

Confronting Invisibility and Oppression in The City TooBusy to Hate

 

The Atlanta LesbianFeminist Alliance (ALFA) illustrates how these dynamics played out. ALFA grewout of the community of antiwar, civil rights, and other social justiceactivists and members of the counterculture clustered together in the LittleFive Points neighborhood near the Emory University campus. White flight toAtlantas suburbs helped create a neighborhood where recent college graduatesand community members more dedicated to political organizing than toprofessional careers could afford to live. By 1971, Little Five Points was hometo a visible lesbian-feminist community, and women in the neighborhood held thefirst meeting of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance in June 1972. VickiGabriner, commenting on the Atlanta Womens Liberation in which she had beeninvolved, noted that that group was too straight, while the Georgia GayLiberation Front was too male. Lorraine Fontana, a former VISTA volunteer ininner-city Atlanta and a writer for the local countercultural-politicalnewspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, explained that we need to organizeourselves; we need not to have to fight with these notions of sexism. Wewant a womens-only space - a place where women who come from otherneighborhoods or outside of Atlantacan come to just be with other lesbians.

 

ALFA members created suchwomens spaces in Little Five Points, first renting two houses as feministcommunes. In 1986, after years of fundraising, ALFA purchased its own house onClay Street, which members renovated and made wheelchair-accessible. It wasused for political, social, and educational meetings and housed the SouthernFeminist Library and Archives, the core of which now exists as the ALFAPeriodicals Collection. ALFA proclaimed itself a lesbian-feminist organizationopen to all lesbians, whose concerns included the entire spectrum oflesbian-feminist issues. That agenda included liberating women, ending discriminationbased on sexual orientation, and eliminating oppression derived from racism,anti-Semitism, economic inequality, and physical disability or appearance. Itadvocated an end to militarism, as well as the responsible, non-exploitativeuse of the worlds living and non-living resources.

 

Documenting a Movement

 

The struggle of humanityagainst power is the struggle of memory against forgetting, Milan Kunderawrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. For the women of ALFA,this principle lay at the heart of their activism. Collecting, preserving, anddisseminating womens knowledge was central to ALFA members mission to workfor social justice, share their experiences, and heal both themselves and theworld at large. The most visible form of this activism was the creation of theSouthern Feminist Library and Archives, which comprised much of the ALFAPeriodicals Collection and ALFA Archives now held at the Duke University RareBook, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

 

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

 

The ALFA Archives areinvaluable to scholars writing national accounts of U.S. social movements sincethe 1960s. Moreover, it is virtually unthinkable to write lesbian/gay orfeminist histories of the post-Stonewall American South without using thiscollection. The Periodicals Collection, along with the companion ALFA Archives,clearly demonstrates how ALFA members understood themselves to be situatedwithin regional and national networks connecting diverse progressive socialmovements as well as urban and rural communities.

 

The microfilm edition ofthe Periodicals Collection will provide essential primary source materials toscholars interested in lesbian and gay studies, feminism, social movements andcommunity activism, and cultural politics and production. Historians,sociologists, and political scientists will be able to make extensive use ofthe Periodicals, as will scholars from programs in women, gender, and sexualitystudies, cultural studies, and library and information science. The Archivesare as rewarding for undergraduate and graduate students and for juniorscholars researching honors and masters theses, dissertations, and firstmonographs as they are for senior scholars writing synthetic works in thesefields.

 

Thematically, thePeriodicals Collection documents a vast array of political and cultural issuesof concern to lesbian/gay and feminist activists across North America andbeyond from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Topics represented include civilrights legislation and court cases, questions of race and class, AIDS and otherhealth concerns and crises, sexual assault and domestic violence, urban and ruralcommunity building, ecology and nuclear power, international solidaritymovements 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 documentingsocial movements comprised a core pillar of ALFAs mission, its Library andArchives arranged acquisitions of key womens liberation, gay liberation,homophile, and countercultural publications whose emergence predated thefounding of ALFA. Early feminist newspapers in the Collection include thosefrom large cities such as Everywoman (Los Angeles) and RAT (theNew York underground newspaper taken over by feminists in 1970), as well as arun of The Female Liberation of Durham-Chapel Hill Newsletter.Additionally, the Periodicals Collection contains most of the 1962-1972 run of TheLadder, the preeminent lesbian serial of the late 1950s and the 1960s,which was published by the Daughters of Bilitis. ALFA members also arranged toarchive the 1969 On the Liberation of Women and 1972 gay male andlesbian-feminist issues of motive, the magazine of the 1960s-eraMethodist Student Movement.

 

As the AIDS crisisbrought lesbian-feminist and gay male activists together in substantial numbersfor the first time since the early days of gay liberation, many women alsowrestled with a new feminist ethos that seemed to privilege the personal andthe cultural over the political. The 1978-1993 run of Lesbian News,published in Los Angeles, illustrates this contested evolution. Early issues ofwhat started out as a California-focused newsletter took up highly politicalissues such as the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, and DianneFeinsteins subsequent inauguration as San Franciscos first female mayor; the1979 lesbian and gay march on Washington, D.C.; the Briggs state ballotinitiative which would have banned lesbians and gay men from teaching in publicschools; the Equal Rights Amendment; and the boycott of Coors-brand beers(based on the Coors familys decades of financial support for anti-gay andanti-feminist organizations, its union-busting activities, its unabashedopposition to the Civil Rights Act and affirmative action, and its advocacy ofcloser ties with the South African apartheid government). Early 1990s issuesfeatured feminist zines, queer youth, lesbian sex clubs and weddings, and theDinah Shore womens golf tournament, which draws thousands of lesbians to PalmSprings every year. The January 1992 edition featured a cover story on womensmusic twenty years after its emergence, with Olivia Records President JudyDlugacz and singers Alix Dobkin and Cris Williamson contrasting their long-termaccomplishments in feminist communities with the contemporary mainstreamsuccess of Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman.

 

Think Globally, Archive Locally

 

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

 

Other remarkable holdingsinclude a full run of the first eleven volumes (1982-1994) of Black and WhiteMen Together/Atlantas newsletter, along with the 1988-1994 issues of FourthTuesday Forum, the eponymous publication of a leading social organizationfor Atlanta lesbians. There are extensive holdings of newsletters fromPFLAG/Atlanta (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the PeriodicalsCollection (1986-1988), as well as from the Atlanta Business and ProfessionalGuild (1982-1984). The newsletters of local and regional campus gay and lesbianstudent groups from schools such as Emory University and Georgia StateUniversity are included in the collection. The impact of the AIDS epidemic inAtlanta is documented by the collection, with issues of the Atlanta NAPWANews and the AIDS Survival Project Newsletter, the latter of whichoffers people living with HIV/AIDS research updates, community calendars,project listings, medical advice columns, and legal, insurance, and nutritioninformation.

 

ALFA members madeconcerted efforts to collect lesbian and gay community publications from acrossGeorgia and the greater Southeast. Scattered holdings document the AthensGay/Lesbian Alliance (1984-1985) and Augustas gay and lesbian contact group(1984-1985), while a 1986-1994 run of the First City Network News tracesthe history of the gay and lesbian community of Savannah and southeasternGeorgia. Beyond the Peach State, the SFLA collected newspapers from southerncities such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tuscaloosa; the nearly complete1981-1990 run of The Gaze, a Memphis gay newspaper, is one especiallyrich example of this type. Lesbian-specific holdings include Austins Goodbyeto All That (1975-1978), Louisvilles Lesbian Feminist Union Newsletter(1976-1978), The Newsletter of Durham-Chapel Hill (1982-1994), theTuscaloosa Lesbian Coalitions newsletter (1989-1993), and Richmonds LesbianFeminist Flyer (1978-1994). The SFLA also archived southern feministpublications such as Montgomerys From NOW On (1974-1977), and thenewsletters of the Tallahassee Area Womens Network (1988-1994), the NashvilleWomens Alliances (1978-1994), and the Charlotte Womens Center (1975-1987).

 

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

 

The geographic coverageof the ALFA Periodicals Collection is sweeping, to say the very least. Beyondthe 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, andthe most noteworthy Canadian newspaper in the collection is The Body Politic(1974-1987). This internationally influential Toronto newspaper remainedcommitted to gay liberations sweeping vision of social justice even whileorganized gay male politics took a centrist turn in the years between thedecline of the New Left and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. The Collectionalso includes select materials from beyond North America. Some arelesbian-specific, such as Lesbian Network from Rozelle (New SouthWales), Australia. Others are general womens magazines, perhaps most notablyone issue of News Letter, a Teheran-based publication with articles onIranian women after the 1979 Revolution and in the Iran-Iraq War. TheCollection also includes individual or scattered issues of publications fromAmsterdam, Havana, Helsinki, Kln, Madrid, Oslo, and West Berlin.

 

Changers and the Changing

 

In accordance with itsbroad mission for social justice, ALFA members collected periodicals fromanti-racist, international solidarity, environmental, and other activistorganizations with whom they were likely to form coalitions. As such, thiscollection contains the Atlanta-based National Anti-Klan Networks newslettersfrom the first half of the 1980s; scattered issues of the Atlanta Clergy andLaity Concerns Atlanta Report from the early 1980s; and a large run of1983-1991 newsletters from the Atlanta Committee on Latin America.

 

ALFA members concern forenvironmental justice is well documented in the Periodicals Collection. Manywomen from ALFA took part in the feminist peace encampments at the SavannahRiver Plant in Barnwell, South Carolina, one of the two U.S. facilitiesproducing plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons in the early and mid-1980s.While extensive materials documenting this work are available in the ALFAArchives, the Periodicals Collection includes the 1980s run of GeorgiansAgainst Nuclear Energy and selected issues of The Peace Option, thenewsletter of the Atlanta Freeze, affiliated with the national NuclearFreeze/Jobs With Peace Campaign (later SANE/FREEZE).

 

One other noteworthynewspaper is a 1978 issue of Supporters of Silkwood, a publicationdedicated to continuing the work of Karen Silkwood, the chemical technician ata Kerr-McGhee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma who died in a suspiciousone-car crash in 1974. Her death took place after she left a meeting of theOil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union to meet with a New York Timesreporter, in order to deliver evidence she had gathered to support her claimthat Kerr-McGhee negligently allowed workers to be exposed to plutonium. The Supportersof Silkwood issue includes updates from the legal cases brought by herestate against Kerr-McGhee, a chronology of events of her life and the falloutfrom her fatal car crash, lyrics of a song by feminist folksinger Fred Smallabout her, and news of a Bonnie Raitt concert held to publicize the case.

 

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

 

Researchers looking toexplore how lesbians and gay men have struggled to find welcoming and affirmingspiritual homes will find the ALFA Periodicals Collection a boon. Particularlywell-documented are the labors of lesbians and gay men in Atlanta andthroughout the Southeast to create their own religious institutions andcommunities. The Collection includes the newsletter runs from Atlantas twocongregations affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church, aninternational Protestant fellowship founded in Los Angeles in 1968 by andprimarily for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons. The run ofnewsletters from First MCC of Atlanta spans 1979-1994, while the All Saints MCCnewsletters cover 1989-1992.

 

Scholars will also finduseful materials uncovering how lesbians and gay men worked to incorporatetheir feminist and sexual politics into traditional religious institutions. ThePeriodicals Collection includes several newsletters along these lines, such as DignityAtlanta and Integrity Atlanta (lesbian/gay Catholic and Episcopalgroups, respectively), along with the Norfolk Unitarian Universalist GayCommunitys Our Own. Also represented are a 1978-1985 run of the EvangelicalOutreach Ministries Newsletter (later re-titled Bridges), anAtlanta-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 menfounded in 1985 in order to live openly within their Jewish heritage. With itsnotices of social events and volunteer opportunities with Jewish FamilyServices, Chanukah stories and accounts of hamantaschen bake-offs, thecongregations newsletter is as valuable for researchers studying regional andreligious identity as it is for scholars in sexuality and gender studies.

 

More generally, thenewsletters and magazines of the ALFA Periodicals Collection offer incomparableevidence of the evolution and vast diversity of the women and men involved inthe lesbian/gay and feminist movements. They range from the typewrittennewsletters of the Charlotte Womens Center to the early issues of BLK,a glossy magazine published for African-American gay men and lesbians whichbegan publishing in 1988. They are as politically divergent as the Gay ActivistAlliances Gay Activist (scattered 1973-1979 issues) and Gay Clone(scattered 1977-1978 issues). Both published in New York, GAA lobbied formainstream acceptance and looked unfavorably upon feminist and gay liberationpolitics, while gay anarchists published Gay Clone.

 

The Personal Is Political

 

Even beyond communitynewspapers and organizational publications, the ALFA Periodicals Collectionoffers incomparable evidence demonstrating how lesbian, gay, and feministactivists interpreted the widely shared principle that the personal ispolitical. One such example is the near-complete run of Moms Apple Piefrom 1975 through 1994, published by the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund. MomsApple Pie covers the diverse ways lesbian mothers negotiated the vast arrayof legal, social, and cultural challenges they faced in a society premised uponwomen and men raising children together. Golden Threads served areadership of lesbians who passed the half-century mark. Extensive holdings of FightingWoman News (1975-1989) cover the feminist martial arts movement, as womenclaimed their physical and psychological rights to self-defense in atraditionally male arena.

 

While some periodicals inthis collection are notable for their extensive holdings, other titles areremarkable for their rarity. The one issue of Montana Womens Resource(summer 1976) offers articles on women leaving the state in order to haveabortions, herbal treatments for yeast infections, information on birth controlpills and IUDs, a Barbara Ehrenreich essay on women healers and male doctorsthrough history, the Equal Rights Amendment and other feminist concerns for theupcoming presidential election, women and science fiction, and a review ofUrsula LeGuins The Dispossessed, a novel about an anarchist utopia.Other such rare holdings include one issue of Asian Lesbians of the EastCoast; one of Gay Comix, edited by Howard Cruse, a pioneer in gayand lesbian cartoon art; two very early issues of Girljock, aboutlesbians and sports, before the publication evolved into a widely circulatedglossy magazine; a single mailing from Sissies in Struggle, offeringpoetry and a resource list for men who rejected traditional definitions ofmasculinity. Five issues (1975-1977) of the Susan Saxe Defense CommitteeNewsletter, published in support of the lesbian whose arrest on chargesrelated to her involvement in anti-imperialist revolutionary movements,prompted heated controversy among feminist activists in the mid-1970s.

 

Over the last third ofthe twentieth century, the United States and the international communitywitnessed epochal transformations in the politics and culture of gender andsexuality. Those shifts are as fundamental as silicon to the networks that tieus together in a global knowledge economy, but their histories can be ephemeralas the elections that run through the fiber-optics cables crisscrossing theplanet. The microfilm edition of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist AlliancePeriodicals Collection documents the extraordinary intellectual and materiallabor that generated these revolutions, and preserves an essential record forscholars writing these histories for generations to come.

 

Ian Lekus
Duke University

 

 

EDITORIAL NOTE

 

Documents from the AtlantaLesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, ca. 1972-1994,from the holdings of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Libraryat Duke University, is published in four parts. This collection guide containsa detailed description of Part IV, The Periodicals Collection, as well as afull introduction to it.

 

Format

 

This guide lists serialsgathered by the membership of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance during theperiod of its existence.

 

Selection Process

 

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

 

Information Provided

 

Titles are sorted roughlyin alphabetical order, with volume, issues, and date information recorded,where available. The date on which the individual issues arrived at theheadquarters of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance was recorded as wellunder Date Recd, allowing for some form of dating where none may have beenprovided by the individual issue. Part IV, The Periodicals Collection isfurther subdivided into five units.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

The project would nothave been possible without assistance from many individuals. Primary SourceMedia, an imprint of Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, wishes to thank AmyLeigh, Assistant Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Womens Studies atDuke University, for her commitment to making these historical resources widelyavailable and for overseeing the preparation of materials by student aides for filming;Linda McCurdy, Director of Research Services at the Rare Book, Manuscript, andSpecial Collections Library at Duke, for her assistance in supervising thescanning of the collection; Ian Lekus, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University whoprovided insight into the collection for the staff of Primary Source Media,wrote the introductions to the collection, and updated the ALFA timeline; thehost of student aides at Duke for their diligent preparation of materials forscanning; the staff of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special CollectionsLibrary at Duke for their assistance and cooperation, which made examination ofthe materials go smoothly.