Gittings, Barbara and Kay Tobin Lahusen Papers

Span Dates: 1962-2007
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 3 cartons (1.1 linear feet)


News clippings, journal articles, pamphlets, flyers, printed materials from activist organizations, a videocassette and a DVD relating to the pioneering activism. Includes folder on Council on Religion and the Homosexual; on Dignity; on Minnesota Council for the Church and the Homophile; and a subject folder on religion.

Hist/Bio Note

Barbara Gittings was born on July 31, 1932, in Vienna, Austria, where her father was stationed as a United States diplomat. Returning to the U.S., the family eventually settled in Wilmington, Delaware. She entered Northwestern University and soon came out as a lesbian. She left Northwestern after her freshman year, settled in Philadelphia and supported herself with clerical jobs. In 1958 she began her long career as a gay rights advocate when she founded the first East Coast chapter of Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) and later edited its national lesbian magazine, The Ladder,from 1963 – 1966. It was around this time when Gittings met Kay Tobin Lahusen who would be her partner for 46 years. In the mid-1960s, Gittings marched in the first gay demonstrations at the White House, Pentagon and Independence Hall. During the 1970s, Gittings became a charter member of the boards of directors for both the National Gay Task Force (1973) and the Gay Rights National Lobby (1976). At this time, she was also active in the American Psychiatric Association, running gay exhibits at APA conferences and working with prominent gay rights activist Dr. Frank Kameny to persuade the Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Though she is not a librarian, Gittings became involved in the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association, the first gay caucus in a professional association. From 1971 to 1986, she headed the group and campaigned to get positive gay and lesbian materials into libraries and out to users and to end discrimination against gay library workers and patrons. Kay Tobin Lahusen is a photojournalist, writer and activist who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1932. She later moved to Boston, where she worked in the reference library of the Christian Science Monitor. Her life as a gay rights activist began in 1961 when she joined the Daughters of Bilitis, where she met the woman who would become her life partner, Barbara Gittings. Soon after, she moved to Philadelphia to live with Gittings. During the mid-1960s, Lahusen marched in the earliest picket lines for gay rights, and in 1970, she became one of the founding members of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York. She also worked in the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, wrote for the newspaper, Gay, and was active in the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association. In 1972, she co-authored a book of biographies of gay activists, The Gay Crusaders. Throughout their lives, Gittings and Lahusen continued to advocate for gay rights causes. Their 46-year partnership ended on February 18, 2007 when Gittings died of breast cancer at the age of 74 at their home in Pennsylvania.

Finding Aid

A finding aid is available online.


The collection is located at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles.


Gittings, Barbara | Lahusen, Kay Tobin | Council on Religion and the Homosexual | Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) | Dignity | Author/editor | Gay Liberation Movement | Pennsylvania | Philadelphia