Barbara Gittings



Barbara Gittings (July 31, 1932 – February 18, 2007)- Gittings was born to Elizabeth Brooks and John Sterett Gittings in Vienna, Austria, where her father was serving as a U.S. diplomat. Barbara and her siblings attended Catholic school in Montreal, and was so immersed in Catholicism that at one point in her childhood she considered becoming a nun. Her family returned to the United States at the outbreak of World War 2 and settled in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1956, Gittings went to California on the advice of Donald Webster Cory, to visit the office of the new “ONE,” Inc. an early homophile organization that dedicated itself to providing support to homosexuals in the US. While in California, she met Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who had co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco. In 1958, Martin and Lyon asked Gittings to start a chapter in New York City, which she did when less than a dozen women responded to her notice in the Mattachine Society . Gittings served as the chapter's first president for three years commuting to New York from Philadelphia twice a month.

In 1965, Gittings marched in the first gay picket lines at the White House, the US State Department and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to protest the federal government's policy on discrimination of homosexuals. In November 1967, Gittings and Kameny worked together as co-counsel in hearings held by the Department of Defense to discredit an expert witness named Dr. Charles Socarides who testified that homosexuals could be converted to heterosexuality. Kameny and Gittings dressed conservatively, but wore buttons that said "Gay is Good " and "Pray for Sodomy. Gittings made hundreds of appearances as a speaker in the late 1960s. She carried on her mission to convince heterosexuals and homosexuals alike that homosexuality is not an illness, stating this in a letter in 1967"

In the 1970s, Gittings continued her search for resources in libraries that addressed homosexuality in a positive, supportive way. Gittings found a home in the gay group that formed in 1970 in the American Library Association, the first gay caucus in a professional association, and became its coordinator in 1971. Gittings helped start what was then called the National Gay Task Force, later to be named the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) in 1973. Gittings served on the board of the NGLTF throughout the 1980s. She inspired nurses to form the Gay Nurses Alliance in 1973. Gittings appeared in the documentary films Gay Pioneers, Before Stonewall, After Stonewall, Out of the Past, and Pride Divide.

She died after a long battle with breast cancer at the age of 74.