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Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberrys 1957 Letters to The Ladder
Unformatted Document Text:  Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 10 province of the Union to evaluate the validity of laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals.” 31 The DOB was, however, aware of and even apologetic about its largely middle class constituency. In the fourth issue of the Ladder, the editors described the DOB membership as “college students, saleswomen, dental technicians, photographers, stenographers, teachers, traffic management people. Some are home-owners, some are saving for a home, some are just living... We aren’t ‘bar- hoppers’ but people with steady jobs, most of them good positions… At the moment we are all what might be termed “white-collar” workers, but we want all kinds – those who want help and those who wish to help.” 32 Despite the editors’ recognition of class and the ostensible desire to include lesbians from the working and upper classes, the concomitant remark distancing DOB members from “bar- hoppers” should be understood in its class and racial context. According to contemporary work in lesbian history, the 1950s lesbian bar culture was an important public arena for the creation of lesbian community. In their oral history of lesbians in Buffalo, New York in the 1950s, Davis and Kennedy argue that “this public bar community was a formative predecessor to the modern gay liberation movement. These bars not only were essential meeting places with distinctive cultures and mores, but they were also the central arena for the lesbian confrontation with a hostile world. Participants in bar life were engaged in a constant, often violent, struggle for public space. Their dress code announced them as lesbians to their neighbors, to strangers, on the streets, and of course to all who entered the bars.” 33 31 “The ACLU Takes a Stand on Homosexuality,” The Ladder, March 1957, 8. As mentioned above, however, DOB did take some moderately progressive political positions. For example, in the June 1957 issue The Ladder published an editorial supporting One’s Supreme Court case defending its right to publish, and DOB encouraged readers to contribute as much money as possible to the suit. 32 Del Griffin, “President’s Message,” The Ladder, January 1957, 9. 33 Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, “Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian Community: Buffalo, New York, 1940-1960, in Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past ed. Martin Bauml Duberman et al (New York: New American Library, 1989), 427.

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 10
province of the Union to evaluate the validity of laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of
homosexuals.”
31
The DOB was, however, aware of and even apologetic about its largely middle class
constituency. In the fourth issue of the Ladder, the editors described the DOB membership as “college
students, saleswomen, dental technicians, photographers, stenographers, teachers, traffic management
people. Some are home-owners, some are saving for a home, some are just living... We aren’t ‘bar-
hoppers’ but people with steady jobs, most of them good positions… At the moment we are all what
might be termed “white-collar” workers, but we want all kinds – those who want help and those who
wish to help.”
32
Despite the editors’ recognition of class and the ostensible desire to include lesbians
from the working and upper classes, the concomitant remark distancing DOB members from “bar-
hoppers” should be understood in its class and racial context. According to contemporary work in lesbian
history, the 1950s lesbian bar culture was an important public arena for the creation of lesbian
community. In their oral history of lesbians in Buffalo, New York in the 1950s, Davis and Kennedy argue
that “this public bar community was a formative predecessor to the modern gay liberation movement.
These bars not only were essential meeting places with distinctive cultures and mores, but they were also
the central arena for the lesbian confrontation with a hostile world. Participants in bar life were engaged
in a constant, often violent, struggle for public space. Their dress code announced them as lesbians to
their neighbors, to strangers, on the streets, and of course to all who entered the bars.”
33
31
“The ACLU Takes a Stand on Homosexuality,” The Ladder, March 1957, 8. As mentioned above, however, DOB
did take some moderately progressive political positions. For example, in the June 1957 issue The Ladder published
an editorial supporting One’s Supreme Court case defending its right to publish, and DOB encouraged readers to
contribute as much money as possible to the suit.
32
Del Griffin, “President’s Message,” The Ladder, January 1957, 9.
33
Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, “Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian
Community: Buffalo, New York, 1940-1960, in Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past ed.
Martin Bauml Duberman et al (New York: New American Library, 1989), 427.


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