21 October 2014
Daughters of Bilitis (1955-1968)
ACCOMMODATE (Daughters of Bilitis)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Edition: 3 (variable)
This woodcut is part of a series of prints based on the shape of a triangle celebrating various organizations that helped move gay rights forward in the U.S. during the later 20th century.
Daughters of Bilitis (also called DOB) was the first lesbian social and political organization in the United States. Founded in 1955 in San Francisco by lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (who were also the first couple to get married in San Francisco once same sex marriage became legal), the DOB began as a social club meant to be an alternative to lesbian bars, which were subject to frequent police raids. This may be hard to imagine today, but in 1955 it was illegal to dance with someone of the same gender in a public place. The original eight members wanted to dance, but they also often discussed the self-hatred many lesbians suffered as a result of internalizing the society's attitudes and their desire to bring social change by providing support and education to lesbians. Within a year, the group had started a newsletter, The Ladder, which was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S., and by 1959 there were DOB chapters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
The Daughters of Bilitis was an assimilationist organization, advocating for women to "adopt a mode of behavior and dress acceptable to society" and urging women not to engage in butch/femme behavior. This may have been appropriate in 1955, a time characterized by police harassment and witch hunts against homosexuals and communists, but by the 1960s there were many lesbians and gays who felt that conformity was not working as a tactic and they began agitating for political activism and visibility. By 1970 the DOB had fallen apart and in 1972 The Ladder folded for lack of funds.
The print I've made to honor the Daughters of Bilitis mimics a traditional quilt pattern called the 'fairy ring.' I lightly blushed three small triangles on the right to suggest a larger triangle that easily disappears and assimilates back into the overall pattern.