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DAQ #5, 1977. Lesbian Hoboes by JR Roberts with illustrations by Roberta Gregory

 DYKE, A Quarterly #5, 1977,  featured this historical essay by JR Roberts, with illustrations by Roberta Gregory. Click images to enlarge.


"While reading the book, Sisters Of The Road: The Autobiography of Box Car Bertha (1937) I came across more than a dozen references to Lesbians during the 1920’s and 1930’s. While this life story of Bertha Thompson, as told to Dr. Ben L. Reitman, presents a negative and stereotypical view of Lesbians, it does provide the only references I have uncovered so far which document the existence of numerous and visible Lesbian hoboes during this period. After peeling away the stereotypes there wasn’t much substance left, so I began an investigation to learn more about their lives as women and as Lesbians during those Depression years. This article is the result of that beginning investigation, an investigation which I now consider an on-going project."

 

DAQ Lesbian Hoboes, JR Roberts, illustrations by Roberta Gregory ©Tomato Publications 1977, DYKE A  Quarterly

 

 

DAQ Lesbian hoboes JR Roberts illustrations Roberta Gregory ©tomato publications Dyke a quarterly 1977 pp 38, 39

 

DAQ Lesbian Hoboes JR Roberts, illustrations Roberta Gregory ©Tomato Publications DYKE A Quarterly 1977 pages 40 and 41

 

DAQ lesbian hoboes jr roberts,illustrations by Roberta Gregory. ©Tomoato Publications Dyke a quarterly 1977 pp 42 43

DAQ lesbian hoboes JR Roberts,illustrations by Roberta Gregor ©Tomoato Publications Dyke a quarterly 1977 pp 44 45

 

DAQ lesbian hoboes JR Roberts, ilustrations by Roberta Gregory ©Tomato Publications Dyke a quarterly 1977 pp 46 47

DAQ lesbian hoboes JR Roberts, illustrations by Roberta Gregory ©Tomato Publications Dyke a quarterly 1977 pp 48 49

 

DAQ lesbian hoboes JR Roberts, illustrations by Roberta Gregory ©Tomaoto publications Dyke a quarterly p 50

 

JR Roberts (aka Barbara Henry) is a Lesbian Librarian who founded The New Alexandria Women's Library in Chicago,within the Lesbian Feminist Center, in 1974. She is also the author of Black Lesbians,  An Annotated Bibliography, Naiad Press 1981. Forward by Barbara Smith. 

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Roberta Gregory lives in Seattle Washington and is responsible for a lot of comics over the years. Best known for "Bitchy Bitch" and "Bitchy Butch" characters and is currently working on Mother Mountain and True Cat Toons. Visit Robertagregory.com and truecattoons.com

She was also a contributing artist to DYKE, A Quarterly. 


61Al6FqRznL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_


Issue #6, Summer 1978. Lesbians & Animals, Editorial

dyke a quarterly. Lesbians & Animals, editorial by Liiza and Penny. Summer 1978

DYKE A Quarterly #6. Lesbians & Animals, editorial. Summer 1978

 

DOMESTICATION

We love animals. We believe that women traditionally have had, and still have, a special relationship with animals. The relationships between women and animas can be satisfying, healthy, consciousness-raising, productive and life sustaining. We are interested in exploring the biological  emotional and behavioral connections between women and other species. 

Between us we have to geldings (castrated male horses) nine castrated male cats, tow spayed female cats, and one spayed bitch. We love our animas and think they are as important as our lovers and friends. We think that relationships with animals are as mutually viable as our involvements with women. Some people, some Lesbians included, feel the domestic animal is, because of domestication, oppressed; they feel that, “human/animal relationships are power relationships with the human having total say over the course and directions of that relationship as well as over the very life of the other creature.”* A comparison is often made between the relationships of animas and people to those between husband and wife or slave and slave-owner. It is said that people use animals a a substitute for human relationships, to fill out their otherwise emotionally empty lives. 

Certainly it is true that some people, women included, abuse animals. However, we think that animal and pet liberationists make no distinction in their arguments between abuse and care or between coercion and cooperation. Many children are abused, too, but the solutions is not tat no one have children. 

The solution to animal abuse is for people to understand and respect animal’s needs and natures. Animal liberationists make too fuzzy a distinction between domestic and wild animals. To be against domestication itself is, at this point, meaningless. From the beginning of human history animal domestication, the interdependence between people and animals, has shaped our cultures, our architecture, our art, in short, the development of our world. 

Whether we approve of it or not, through human history we have been dependent on animal power and animal products. Fields have been cleared for food production by people and animals working together. Horses, camels, elephants, oxen and dogs, among others, have provided overland transportation. Animals have been eaten, and their hair and hides used to make clothing, shelter, tools and musical instruments. 

Until the Industrial Revolutions, animal labor and human labor were among the main sources of energy in the world. For centuries, war technology was based on animals: horses, camels and elephants. Cats protect people from diseases carried by rodents, and protect food from rodents. In the fourteenth century the bubonic plague killed twenty five million people. This plague was possible because men, associating cats with witches and the devil, killed almost the entire cat population of Europe. This the disease, carried by rodents, spread unchecked.

Life without domestic animals is unthinkable. Nowadays modern technology is dependent on machines and computers. But is this a state to be desired? Agribusiness and centralized food processing has lowered the nutritional value of food in this country and elsewhere. It has also made food into a corporate business, and made small farming untenable. Also, by so extensively removing horses and oxen from the land, we lose one of the best fertilizers that Mother Nature can provide: manure. 

Domestic animals have developed to what they are now because of human intervention. They have been bred by humans to work as animals and companions. These domestic breeds no longer exist in a wild state. Animal liberationists claim that by domesticating animals we are perverting them from their natural, wild state. But there is no wild state of, for example, a Golden Retriever, just as there is not wild, i.e. more true, more natural state of a Yankee farmer. Domestic animals have co-evolved with humans. 

PETS

We think that it is natural and healthy for people to enjoy and want the companionship of animals. It is a further exploration of nature. We know that our lives, and many people’s lives, are enriched by pets. Having close relationships with animals is not an imitation of human relationships. Some people prefer to have relationships with animals instead of people and we consider this an honorable choice. To include animals in one’s daily life can be a mutually gratifying and healthy experience. Recently therapists have been working with domestic animals and mentally disturbed and retarded children with beneficial results for both. 

ABUSE

Cruelty to animals is a worldwide problem. We are going to discuss here the abuse we have seen done by Lesbians. The abuse we have witnessed came not from cruelty, not from neurosis, but from ignorance and irresponsibility. We have seen many Lesbians who are reluctant to discipline and train their dogs. Dog psychology is different from women’s psychology. By not understanding their dog’s nature, some women accord them the same rights they feel women should have: complete freedom of choice, total mobility, not enforced discipline or reproductive freedom. This is s distortion of a dog’s nature. Anthropomorphizing is exactly what Walt Disney does. 

There are too many homeless dogs and cats in the world, and too many animals with hereditary defects, such as diplasia, caused by unthoughtful breeding, so spaying and castrating is a must. 

Unfortunately many women think this is unfair to the animal, which it is not. 

A dog needs to be told what she can and cannot do. In the wild, with wolves for example, one wolf is dominant and in the pack there is a dominance chain. In domestication, the human must be dominant. Women, on the other hand, are not pack animals. Adult women do not need a pack leader. The confusion, and therefor the abuse, stems from women believing that a dog’s needs, and therefore the dog’s rights, should be the same as women’s rights. This is not the case. If a human is not the dog’s leader, then the dog, by her nature, will have to become the leader, a task she is not equipped to handle. Some women feel it is oppressive to discipline their dogs, but cute puppy behavior, if undisciplined, soon becomes obnoxious and destructive dog behavior. 

Is it a dog’s right to chew furniture? Is hist a dog’s right to shit in the house? Is it a dog’s right to run deep and kill sheep? Is it a dog’s right to knock down the neighbor’s garbage and shit on the neighbor’s lawn? Without training, discipline and care, a dog will do all these things and more. The result usually is that the dog will become habituated to obnoxious behavior and will have to be locked up all the time, passed from home to home, or even destroyed. 

Liza and Penny

 

 

End of original article. DAQ.

 

We designed and layed out each issue very carefully. This was before the era of the personal computer, so our production was very very laborious and time consuming. We started with thumbnail sketches, laying out the whole magazine in teensy squares on a grid on paper. Here's the page for Issue #6. You can see the layout for the editorial. 

Dyke A Quarterly thumbnail mockup for issue #6 1978


Lesbian History Exploration, 1975. Part 2

 

Dyke a quarterly,  Blue London and anon woman in photobooth 1950's or early 60's
Blue London and unknown woman. Photo booth photo circa late 1950's. From What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear Slideshow, 1975

 

The Lesbian History Exploration was a small conference, held in the Spring of 1975 at a Jewish camp in Malibu, California. It was organized and produced  by Good Taste Productions, a Lesbian collective in Los Angeles. Among the collective were Alice Bloch, Jan Oxenberg, Evan Paxton, Nancy Poore, Jocelyn Cohen, Jan Aura and Nancy Toder.

I can't remember how Alix Dobkin and I heard about the conference, either it was a personal invitation or we saw a notice about it in one of the dozens of women's publications that circulated around the country in that era. We submitted our proposals, and then spent part of the winter preparing for our presentations, which would take place far from our home in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

DAQ dear exploration anthology collective
Dear Exploration...letter from Liza Cowan 1975

 

The Exploration Collective must have sent out a series of questionnaires, which not only did I anwer quite thoroughtly, but I also managed to keep copies of my letters in my posession until 2001, when I donated some of my papers and collections to The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. 

In September of 2012 I visited the Herstory Archives to retreive the slideshow so I could digitize it, and I did manage to digitize much of it. I also retreived a cache of slides from The Lesbian History Exploration, which I'd also taken, but had no memory of ever having, much less having donated to The Lesbian Herstory Archives. Nonetheless, there they were in a manilla envelope with the letters.   Feeling daunted by the idea of scanning so many slides, I stashed them away for a couple of years, until I recently when I was sorting through part of my office and came across the envelope and peeked in. Et, Voila.

Title card from What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear slideshow. 1975. dyke finery. ©Liza Cowan


 


Side Trip: The Fifth Street Women's Building Takeover: A Feminist Urban Action, January 1971

By Liza Cowan.

Recently I had the pleasure of watching a new documentary, Left On Pearl, about a women's takeover of a Harvard University building in March of 1971. Seeing the film reminded me that I had written a paper about a similar action that had taken place in New York City just a few months earlier than the action in Boston.

In 1992 I wrote the paper about the Fifth Street Women's Building Takeover for a Sociology course on Urban Social Movements, taught by professor Diane Davis at The Graduate Faculty at The New School For Social Research in NYC.

I had participated somewhat in the 5th Street Women's Building takeover. I was at the original meeting at Washington Square Church, and had popped in and out a few times during the next week. I was a reporter/producer at the WBAI-FM at the time, and it's possible I filed a story. I can't remember. But I did keep in touch with some of the women who were the organizers and was able to interview them for my paper. Thanks again to Reeni Goldin, Fran Goldin and Jane Lurie. 

Here, twenty years after I wrote the paper, and forty years after the action, is my report.

 

 

5the street womens bldg open house flier January 1971
muheres, women. Flier for Open House at the Fifth Street Women's Building. Click to enlarge. From the Reeni Goldin Collections.

 The Fifth Street Women’s Building:

A Feminist Urban Action Jan 1-13th 1971

by Liza Cowan, written in 1992

 

“Our hands

Our feet

Our minds

Our bodies

Are tools for change”

Chant by the women at the Fifth Street Women’s Building [i]

 

Part One – The Takeover

A Feminist/Urban Movement

On January 1st, 1971, two hundred women took over an abandoned building at 330 East Fifth Street in Manhattan. In what had formerly been a school annex and then a welfare office, the women worked to create a women’s center, offering child care, a food co-op, book and clothes exchange and a feminist school. On January 14th, twelve days after the takeover, the building was closed by the police, and twenty four women were arrested. Soon thereafter, the building was torn down to make a parking lot for the 9th Precinct police building across the street.

 Urban social movement theorist Manuel Castells writes that  “When …mobilizations result in the transformation of the urban structure, we call them urban social movements…[a] theory of urban change must account both for the spatial and social effects resulting from the actions of the dominant interest as well as from the grassroots alternatives to this domination.[ii] He states that urban movements

 “seem to share some basic characteristics in spite of the diversity:

1)   They consider themselves urban

2)    They are locally –based and territorially-defined

3)   They tend to mobilize around three major goals…: collective consumption, cultural identity, and political self-management.”[iii]

     The takeover of the building at 330 East Fifth Street Women’s Building (hereafter referred to as The Fifth Street Women’s Building, or Fifth Street) seems to fit the criteria for an urban social movement as defined by Castells. 1) It was urban. 2) It was organized by women who lived either in the neighborhood or close by, and intended for their own use and the use of their peers, i.e. other women. 3) Their goals included collective consumption issues such as child care. They were building cultural networks as women, and coming out as Lesbians. A major goal was political self-management in the form of “control of our own lives.” [iv]

     Other urban movements had been controlled, organized and operated by women, such as the Glasgow, Scotland Rent Strike of 1915[v], the 1902 meat boycotts lead by New York City housewives, [vi] or the 1904 New York City rent strikes, led by young working class women.[vii]  The difference in the Fifth Street Mobilization is that it was led and run only by women, as feminists, specifically for the needs of women, as defined by the participants of the takeover.

     One consequence of this, as will be shown throughout this paper, is that the longer lasting effects of the action on the women who participated, had more specifically to do with their activism about and for women and Lesbians than it had to do with their continued work as neighborhood or community organizers. The focus, at least in the reminiscences of the action, became less on the takeover of the building and the creation of a Women’s Center in and of themselves, and more on their symbolic meaning of empowerment for women. Castells' “rule” number two for urban social movements (that they be territorially defined) became less important, as “territory” became “networks.”

     Although the mobilization itself lasted only twelve days, and although the women’s center they envisioned did not happen for long in that spot or in that form, the goals and ideals that brought the women there, and the ideas and inspiration that came from the activities and discussions during those days, transformed into other feminist and Lesbian projects lasting over the next decade.

 Background, New York City

 John Lindsay was the mayor  of New York in 1971. The federal Model Cities program, begun in 1966 was still in effect. According to Susan and Norman Fainstein, Model Cities

 “required coordinated planning of social services, intensive redevelopment of selected model neighborhoods, and participation of target area residents in policymaking.  As was the case in the Poverty Program, most of the Model Cities agencies did not pursue militant strategies and made little attempt to mobilize their communities.” [viii]

     There were a number of tenants rights groups and oppositionist groups organized around the city, some opposing Urban Renewal plans for razing low income housing, some opposing the proposed construction of highways that would cut through low income neighborhoods. There were squatting actions happening in different neighborhoods.[ix]

     One particularly effective and long lasting group was The Cooper Square Development Committee (Cooper Square), in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 1959 the New York City Slum Clearance Committee had proposed to clear a twelve block area and build 2,900 units of middle income housing. This would have dispossessed “2,400 apartments, 450 furnished room occupants, 4,000 beds used by homeless men and over 500 businesses.”[x]  Cooper Square Development Committee formed to fight this proposal.

     In 1960 Cooper  Square recruited a professional planner to come up with an alternative plan. Eleven years later, in 1971, they had proved successful in stopping the city from redevelopment, but only a small portion of the Cooper Square plan had actually gone through. They were successful, however, in community organizing.

 “(Cooper Square) followed a coalition strategy and obtained the support of the diverse groups inhabiting the area. It avoided any identification with any single element in the community. It served as a local source of information concerning tenants rights and eligibility requirements for welfare and medical benefits and it became involved in rent strikes and demonstrations for park and recreational facilities.” [xi]

     Cooper Square was also involved in squatting actions. As we shall see, several members of Cooper Square were among the organizers of the Fifth Street Women’s Building takeover.

 The Action and The Days That Followed.

     Late in 1970, several women were at The Women’s Center in Manhattan talking about their interest in housing issues and squatting.  They “started talking about doing an action in a city-owned building for a women’s center, because the Lower East Side needed a Women’s Center.”[xii]  They talked to friends, and a group of five women formed to plan the action. Reeni Goldin, one of the original organizers of the Fifth Street action, had been working at Cooper Square, and had participated in a number of squatting actions. Her mother, Fran Goldin, had been one of the founders of Cooper Square and was still active there and at The Metropolitan Council on Housing. She was also involved in the Fifth Street takeover, but not as one of the organizers.

     Another organizer, Susan Sherman, was also somewhat involved in Cooper Square, as was Kady Van Duers, who was peripherally involved in the Fifth Street Action.  The other organizers were June Arnold, a writer, Sarah Davidson, and Buffy Yasmin. Jane Lurie, a filmmaker, joined them a day or so before the action, after reading in the underground newspaper, Rat, about an organizing meeting.[xiii]

     The organizers were mainly young, in their early twenties, except June Arnold who was in her mid forties.  Some of the women were Jewish.  All were all white, except for Buffy Yasin, who was Native American but not claiming it at the time as she had not been raised as such.  The women were from a mixture of class backgrounds. Some were college educated, some were not.[xiv]

     For Reeni Goldin, the action was important because, “it brought together so many different issues – vacant buildings going for no use, the waste of city buildings when people needed housing.”  These concerns were joined with issues specifically about women and women’s needs, and the city’s responsibilities in providing for those needs.

     “The city was totally ignoring women’s needs. Health care sucked. The majority of people on Welfare were women. The city wasn’t doing its job educating women, providing jobs, providing health care and providing daycare so that women could work. The housing situation was awful. There wasn’t affordable housing for women in trouble. Well, here we could bring all that together. We could get a building to use that the city was using for nothing and fulfill those needs of the women. We’d also be pointing out that the city doesn’t! It was a great organizing tool and a great way to bring women together and do something for all of us and for other women…The housing thing was just a tool at that point to talk about women’s stuff.”[xv]

     The group got a list of vacant buildings owned by the city, and rode around on bicycles looking at them. They decided on the building on Fifth Street, which was right down the street from the Cooper Square office. “It was a half a block deep, five tenements wide and four storeys high.”[xvi] A week or so before the proposed night of the takeover the organizers began to prepare the building.

     “We’d gotten into the building, and winos and junkies were living in there. We told them that they really ought to leave because we were locking the buildings up. Then we locked and chained all the doors and gates. We had brought padlocks. The building was trashed. It had no plumbing, no electricity and no fixtures. The junkies and winos had taken all the fixtures because they were copper. It was freezing. We brought in rolls of plastic and staple guns and covered all the windows so there was some kind of warmth. And we had that huge heater. A kerosene heater in the shape of a bullet, it sat on the floor and was a yellow cylinder. It was called ‘Mister Heater.’ We painted over the ‘M’ with and ‘S’ and it became ‘Sister Heater.’ Different women of the group brought in stuff that we knew we’d need, like plastic and staple guns, extension cords and light bulbs.”

5the street womens bldg flier January 1971...women have been working on a planEarly flier from the 5th St. Women's Building. The Plan. Flier from Reeni Goldin collections.

     To gather women for the take over, “we put out leaflets and just sort of advertised around that there was going to be a women’s action at the church and to bring your sleeping bags and canteens, but they didn’t know why.” On New Year’s Eve a group of women gathered at the Washington Square Church, a church that was regularly used for many types of political events. Reeni Goldin remembers that there were close to two hundred women there. A report from The Village Voice states that there were “more than 75.”[xvii] The New York Times reported 20. [xviii]

     When they arrived the women were given leaflets telling the goals of the action and ways to behave during it.

 “Women have been working on a plan to take over a building on the lower east side for women.  Women not only need housing      we need space to work together.    We can use space for a health project    feminist art and media project   child care    feminist school     etc.”[xix]

     The women were cautioned not to bring non-prescription drugs, to know the names of other women in their small affinity groups and not to resist arrest. The police were referred to as “pigs,” which was common among many activists in those days. “Don’t talk to the pigs in the street, for personal and political security specific women have been designated to deal with the pigs.” In the same flier the participants were cautioned not to call the police “pigs.” And to clean up the church before they left. [xx]

     They counted off into groups of ten and went through the snowy streets till they reached the site. Jane Lurie had brought her Bolex camera and was prepared to film the event but was discouraged by a woman from her consciousness raising group who cautioned her that it would be a bad idea to film an illegal event.  She later regretted missing the beautiful scene of “perfect snow falling on women carrying lit candles.”[xxi] The women marched until they reached the site. They went around the back way to avoid having to walk directly in front of the precinct house.

     “We climbed in, stepping gingerly over a layer of broken glass while our eyes adjusted to the dimness…In the huge second floor room, painted in institutional drab and surrounded on three sides by banks of windows with gaping holes once filled with glass, bare overhead bulbs dangled on long wires….Collecting their equipment into neat mounds, the women set to work. Some grabbed brooms, sweeping up the glass and debris. Others stapled large sheets of plastic over the windows to keep out the drafts and to hold back the snow.”[xxii]

     Fran Goldin, whose job that night was to “look like a lady and look out for the cops,”[xxiii] had a conversation at the precinct house with Police Captain Howe, who warned the women against hurting themselves. “You have a gas heater there. Do the women know how to use it? ‘Yeah’ (Fran Goldin) answered…and we have a nurse on the premises.”[xxiv]

     The New York Times reported that “Ira Duchan head of the city’s Real Estate Department said…that he had not yet decided what to do about the women, who refused to give their names. He said their ‘cold bold trespass’ was secondary to the danger of fire involved.”[xxv] No arrests were made that night

     Over the next twelve days women worked to create the Women’s Center. “During the first couple of nights there were maybe 200 women there. Then after a week there were maybe twenty during the day, but at night there tended to be more. Women would come home from work and join us.” Minda Bickman reported in The Village Voice:

     “When I returned the next afternoon, several dozen women were on the second floor, and as the afternoon wore on the would be joined by dozens more. They were sitting cross legged in a circle, discussing their plans.”[xxvi]

     The plans included using the building for a health clinic, a food co-op, a child care center, an inter-arts center, a clothing and book exchange and a temporary halfway house for homeless women.

      The building was in operation as soon as it was taken over. “We saw the building as a school. A feminist school. Everything that had to be done there was a learning experience. How does a boiler work? What is a fuse? How many amps do we have? What about holes in the floor?”[xxvii]

      Reeni Goldin remembered, “I got my friend David to teach us all plumbing on the furnace, which was a functional furnace, it just didn’t  have any pipes coming from it. By looking at it he could show us what was going on and how it worked and everything and estimate how much it would take to get the thing functional.

5the street womens bldg flier we have taken this building for all of us. January 1971Mujeres/Women. We have taken over this building. 1971. Flier from Reeni Goldin collections.

      “There were karate classes. We had a book exchange and a food co-op. Women used to go to Hunts Point and to a health food wholesaler to buy food in bulk.”[xxviii] There was a children’s theater workshop. Space for childcare was being made ready.[xxix]

     The women entered into negotiations with the city to keep the building. At first the city sent Ronnie Eldridge, a woman who was special assistant to the Mayor. The Fifth Street women did not like working with Eldridge. “I don’t know why Ronnie Eldridge stopped talking to us, but we really couldn’t stand her,” said Reeni Goldin. “Then they send Jeffrey Stokes from the Mayor’s East Side Urban Task Force. He was much hipper.”[xxx]

     The city proposed that the building be partially used as a temporary shelter for welfare women with no place to live. “In the course of negotiations we realized that we would be turned into the welfare cops. They wanted us to monitor the welfare women. Like, how many pairs of socks they had. We said we wouldn’t do it. A day or two later they busted us.

     “There weren’t very many women there when the cops came. I wasn’t there. I was at Cooper Square, which was right down the block. Someone came and got me and I made some telephone calls to get other women there. They locked the place so women couldn’t get in or out and then they ushered women out except for three who refused to leave.

     “Within fifteen minutes there were around seventy five women there. It got to be a melee and women started fighting with the cops. The cops were blown away. They couldn’t believe that the women were fighting with them. There were women there who had grown up on the Lower East Side and were kind of tough. One woman who was experienced in self defense had five cops holding her down.

     “ One woman who was middle aged, middle class, white and married saw a cop fighting with a woman, and she smashed the cop on the back of his head with her fist. He stumbled forward and his hat fell off. He looked back and saw this demure lady with frosted hair. He arrested her. In court he claimed that she hit him with a soda bottle. She said, ‘Your Honor, would I really have picked up a soda bottle off the street to strike this officer?’ Like, she had gloves on and her husband was there. And the cop said, “It must have been her pocketbook.’ She said, ‘What could I possibly have in my pocketbook that would have made this officer fall down and lose his hat?’ They let her go because they couldn’t believe she would have done that. She had been arrested not only for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct but for assaulting a policeman.”[xxxi]

     In all, twenty four women were arrested. They were taken to the precinct, across the street, to have their photographs taken so they could later be identified in court. They had learned that they had to be photographed, but did not have to face front, so they all turned their backs to the camera. Subsequently, during the trial, ten women were dismissed because they couldn’t be identified. [xxxii]

     The sentences ranged from small fines to suspended sentences. A few days later there was a large demonstration to protest the eviction. Soon thereafter the Fifth Street Building was torn down to make a parking lot for the 9th Precinct House.

 Part Two: Examining The Evidence

 Solidarity with the People

    When the women took over the building, they produced a series of  fliers and press releases. These told of their intentions and their progress. With the exception of the first flier, the one that was handed out the night of the takeover, all the fliers were written both in Spanish and in English. The fact that Spanish was used in the fliers indicates an awareness that English was not the only language spoken by women in the building and the community they were trying to reach. Although all five of the original organizers were white and English speaking, several Latina women became prominent during the occupation of the building. Reeni Goldin specifically remembers Anna Sanches, Marizel Rios and one woman she remembers by first name only, Raquel. [xxxiii]

     Two earlier fliers use almost identical text. One, announcing an open house on Sunday at 4 PM for women, has the text enclosed in a drawing of a house. The open house announcement is written in the path leading to the house. The house, with its sloping roof, and path to the door, looks more like a barn than any urban building. The opening paragraphs of the fliers make it clear that the building is for women only.

 

“WOMEN

This building has been taken over by women for the use of women. We are now in the process of setting up a health clinic, food co-op, child care center and arts workshops. This building will stay open 24 hours a day to serve the needs of women.

 SISTERS

THE BUILDING IS OURS

IT BELONGS TO ALL OF US

USE IT!”

 

     The fliers produced during the actions and just after the arrest emphasize the solidarity of the women’s movement with women in other – not specifically feminist – urban movements.

“With this actions the women’s movement joins in solidarity with our sisters who are squatting throughout the city in their attempts to get decent housing. This building will serve the needs of the immediate community as well as the needs of the community of women as a whole.”[xxxiv]

After the shut-down of the building and the arrest of the women, the fliers and press releases emphasize not only that the building was being made over by and for women but also the criminal nature of the government of the City Of New York towards women. In a flier addressed to “Women,” to announce a demonstration on January 16th, Mayor John Lindsay was accused of sending “his pigs to arrest and brutalize the women working in The Center.” The gesture of solidarity towards squatters shown in the earlier flier shifts from “women squatters” to “people” engaged in an urban struggle.

“We have been arrested and harassed for making a safety hazard into useful space. We know that the City of New York is the criminal. City government is not providing for the needs of the people and when the people try to provide for themselves they are arrested and beaten. This is not an isolated instance. We express solidarity with all people who are squatting throughout the City in an attempt to provide basic human necessities for themselves and their families.”[xxxv]

5the street womens bldg women our community center has been taken from us demonstrate jan 16th 1971

Press Release. Our community Center has been stolen 1971. Reeni Goldin collections.

     A somewhat modified version of this paragraph was included in a press release sent just after the shut down. “…and when people try to provide for themselves thy are sometimes brutally beaten.” (note the addition of “sometimes.”) It also accused the city of “attempted murder against women and children of the community.”

      The press release emphasized the work that the women had done to improve the conditions of the building “that the city had vandalized” including having had “professional electricians, plumbers and oil burner technicians” to make repairs, cleaning up lead paint chips, and closing the empty elevator air shaft. All of this work ensured that the building no longer posed the health and safety hazard to the community that it had posed before the women took over.

     The police and Department of Real Estate had used the issue of the building’s hazardous condition to remove the women and shut down the building. The New York Times stated that , “a spokesman  of the city’s Department of Real Estate said the building’s lack of heat, electricity and sanitary constituted a health hazard to the occupants."[xxxvi] At the initial occupation, the police chief had even been skeptical that the women knew how to use the kerosene heater they had brought in. It is doubtful that the police and other city official would have been as “concerned” about these issues had a group of men, or a group including men, taken over the building. They would have used other reasons to evict them.

     In fact, the building trades skills that women had traditionally been denied access to were considered the primary curriculum of the new feminist school. As a feminist identified group, they understood that “…the men of the Department of Real Estate”[xxxvii] were dealing with them in a gendered way. It was women’s presumed lack of building, electrical, plumbing and related skills that was used to evict them. The city stepped in, as male, to “protect” them, as female, i.e. helpless and unskilled. A male voice echoes through the sound track of the Fifth Street Women’s Building film. Taped during the demonstration, a man from the police or the Department of Real Estate says over and over, “We’re your friends, we’re here to help you,” as Marizel Rios, who had the tape recorder slung around her neck at the time, “was being tossed around.”[xxxviii]

 

Feminist Identity

     While the documents produced during the takeover and arrest manifested an awareness of both urban and feminist movements, The Fifth Street Women’s Building Film, which came out later that year, emphasized a feminist/women's movement.

There's more...click below to continue with the saga. 

Continue reading "Side Trip: The Fifth Street Women's Building Takeover: A Feminist Urban Action, January 1971" »


DYKE A Quarterly, No 3, 1976, Back Cover

Dyke No3 p 52
DYKE A Quarterly, Issue #3, 1976,  Back Cover Drawing by Liza Cowan

Text from issue

DYKE, a quarterly magazine of Lesbian Culture and analysis, is searching for an original poster design by a Lesbian. We will select a poster design which we will print and distribute as our first anniversary issue. Winter 1976-1977

Influence of Aspen Magazine

220px-Aspen3 It had always been our intention to vary the format of DYKE, A Quarterly. We were influenced by Aspen Magazine, founded in 1965 by Phyllis Johnson, a former editor of Women's Wear Daily and Advertising Age. In 1965 we were still Juniors in high school, but someone in one of our familes or a frend's family had a subsciription, which we'd gleefulley read.

"Each issue came in a customized box filled with booklets, phonograph recordings, posters, postcards - one issue even included a spool of Super-8 movie film.

"While wintering in Aspen, Colorado, she got the idea for a multi media magazine, designed by artists, that would showcase 'culture along with play.' So in the winter of  1965 she published her first issue. 'We wanted to get away from the bound magazine format, which is really quite restrictive,' said Johnson

"Each issue had a new designer and editor. 'Aspen,' Johnson said, should be a time capsule of a certain period, point of view, or person.' " Aspen stopped publishing in 1971.  SOURCE

Aspen Vol 1 #3 1966, Andy Warhol and David Dalton

 

The DYKE Poster

We decided that our first foray into a different format would be a poster. We both loved the poster format. There were Lesbians working as poster designers at the time, notably The Chicago Women's Graphics Collective whose work we admired greatly.

Lipstick
Poster by The Chicago Women's Graphics Collective

Rather than commissioning a poster from the Graphics Collective, we decided to open it up to our readers as a competition. We advertised with a flier, sent around the country to individuals and Lesbian venues, as well as the back page of Issue No. 4.

 

The graphic on both is by Liza Cowan, using an resist technique of poster paint and India Ink. And yes, it was supposed to look somewhat like a WANTED poster.

 

Dyke poster design
Flier for DYKE A Quarterly Poster Issue. 1976, design and drawing by Liza Cowan.

 

 


DYKE, A Quarterly. No. 1: California Diary

DYKE A QUARTERLY-No 1pg 70

 

DYKE A QUARTERLY-No1 pg 71 California Diary. Illustration, Amy and Phranc at Alix's Concert, drawing by Liza Cowan

 

Dyke A Quarterly-No1 pg 72

DYKE A QUARTERLY NO 1 P 73 California Diary. Illustration by LIza Cowan

 

DYKE A QUARTERLY NO 1 P California Diary. Illustration, Syreeta's Car, Berkeley, by LIza Cowan

 

Excerpted Text below in grey. For full text see above. Click to enlarge and make them more readable.

 

April 26, 1975

Penny flies to San Francisco to see Janet who is there working on a film…

 

May 1, 1975

Liza and Alix fly to Los Angeles. Met at airport by Norma NY…

 

May 2, Friday

Penny and Janet drive to LA with Deborah Hoffman and Joan Bobkoff. We all meet at the Lesbian History Exploration…we settle into our bunk…which we share with other New Yorkers, Moregan Zale, Majoie Canton, Joan Bobkoff, Deborah Hoffman, Karen and Jan Oxenberg.

 

We have dinner and a meeting with all 150 women who have come for the weekend. The Exploration collective tells us that we are to break into small groups to CR about  Lesbian history. Penny objects to this attempt to structure our experience but everyone looks daggers at her, so she shuts up….

 

 May 3, Saturday

…Alix sings songs arranged chronologically to show the development of her Lesbian consciousness. Then we listen to Judy Grahn read her poetry, She is fabulous. Lunch. Liza and Alix go to a workshop where a woman presents a Marxist analysis of Lesbian oppression. They argue with her….Alix talks music with Margie Adam. Liza meets another of her pen pals Chocolate. Dinner. Liza gets dressed up in her beautiful green velour suit that Moregan Zale had just finished making. Liza presents her slide show, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear.’” An historical examination of Lesbian clothing from 1900 to the present. Margie Canton does a comedy routine. Then we see a part of Jan Oxenberg's very funny movie, A Comedy In Six Unnatural Acts. We go indoors and listen to two women tell us about the bar scene and the Army in the 1950’s.

May 4, Sunday

At the end of the Exploration we all gather around in a circle to sing songs but nobody knows what to sing. Alix finally leads us in “Beware Young Ladies”.  Snip

 

May 5th

…we drive to Lee’s office, where she works as a professional feminist, then to Sisterhood Bookstore. A man comes in and starts to look at books. Liza and Penny decide to make him feel unwelcome. He is looking at books on a revolving rack. Liza and Penny surround him, and Liza spins the rack around fast. He pretends nothing is happening. Eventually we force him to leave. The woman in charge of the store calls us fascists and we leave. Later we meet Simone of Sisterhood books, who is more in agreement with our politics. W go to The Feminist Wicca and meet Z Budapest, who tells us a few stories about her recent arrest. Nancy Toder and Alice Bloch, who had been on the planning collective for the Lesbian History Exploration meet us at The Wicca. They take us to their house for dinner. We all get along so well that they invite us to stay with them starting the next night.

 

Tuesday, May 6

…We drive to Hollywood and all around Beverly Hills. Penny buys two maps of the stars homes. …Liza and Alix go to Jan Oxenberg’s for dinner and then on to KPFK to do a live radio show, Lesbian Sisters, with Jan.

 

May 8

We go to the Santa Monica Women’s Center. Jan Aura, Amy, Phranc (who had just cut her hair short) Judy Dlugacz and others come by. We have a discussion about separatism and women’s music. Janet joins us and we drive to visit Liza’s brother and sister –in-law.

 

May 9

..Alice and Nancy drive Alix and Liza to the train station to take the train to San Diego for Alix’s concert. …snip…after the concert we go to Las Hermanas, the women’s coffeehouse; we are impressed by the décor; mural of women, big wooden bookcases and pillows on the floor. It is very friendly and casual…

 

May 10, Saturday

Train back to LA…rest up for Alix’s concert. Janet comes back from here sister’s and we all get dressed up.

 

Amy and Phranc, LA 1975, drawing be Liza Cowan The concert is at Metropolitan Church, a Gay church in downtown LA. It looks like a converted movie palace, with red plush all over the seats and stage. The walls are gold speckled stucco. The concert, produced by Marion for Macaroon Productions, is fabulous. The sound engineered by Margot McFedries is rich and clear. Everyone is dressed to the teeth, and six women have had their hair cropped short since The Exploration. Alix gives a wonderful  performance and many women say they are thrilled to hear such overt Lesbian music

 

After the concert there is a party upstairs with dancing and punch. Alix leaves with Meg Christian, Margie Adam, Cris Williamson and Ginny Berson. They go back to Olivia records house to play music. Janet, Liza, Penny, Nancy and Alice go home.

 

May 11, Sunday

…Liza, Alix and Penny are flying to San Francisco…snip…On the airplane the stewardesses are wearing orange hotpants and high heels. We ask them if they wouldn’t be more comfortable in pants? They say no and seem offended.

 

At the San Francisco airport we are met by Ellen Broidy and Ilsa Perse, who, along with Natalie Landou, are producing all of Alix’s Bay Area performances….snip…They tell us about the controversy at the Full Moon, a woman’s coffee house where a large part of the collective have quit for political reasons, and a debate is raging. Alix has two dates to perform there. We go out to dinner  and then to the Baccanaal, a women’s bar in Berkeley, where Alix is playing. The show is great and we have a good time. The sound, by Joan Bobkoff, is excellent, and the women are tough looking and gorgeous.

 

….at noon we go to KPFA to be interviewed by Karen. Meet Ellen, then we go to ICI A Woman’s  Place Bookstore, and see an old school chum of Liza and Penny’s who is working at the bookstore and is a Lesbian.

Wendy cadden,. photot by Willyce kim We visit the Women’s Press Collective which shares space with the bookstore, and we talk to Wendy Cadden and Judy Grahan. Wendy explains how she is learning color separation and shows us a project, a cover for a 45 record. ..snip…in the evening Liza shows her slide, “What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear” at The Women’s Skills Center.

 

Wendy Cadden at the press. Photo by Willyce Kim

 

 

May 13th, Tuesday

….we go to The Full Moon where Alix is playing. The Free Box Collective (the women who quit The Full Moon) is handing out copies of its statement. We stop to talk with them. Inside, The Full Moon is packed with Bay Area women, but we hear many women won’t come because of the controversy We like The Full Moon, and we think it is attractive.

 

May 15th, Thursday

Red wing boot, drawing by LIza Cowan In the morning Laurie from Seattle interviews us for the Lesbian Feminist Radio Collective.  Afterward we drive to Oakland where Penny buys a pair of Red Wing hiking boots. Then out to a house in the Berekely Hills where we meet Syreeta and Linda. We have a wonderful fresh salmon for dinner. We are late so we have a mad drive through the hills of Berkely, Penny and Liza in Syreeta’s 1959 Mercedes Benz; Alix, Ellen, Ilsa and Linda following in Ilsa’s car. Alix sings at Bishops, a people’s coffee house in Oakland given over to women for the evening. Joan Bobkoff engineered the sound, as she had for all the performances.

Red Wing Boot, drawing by LIza Cowan 1975

May, 16th, Friday

We fly home to New York. Janet meets us at the airport with flowers.