OLA’s Amazing Year Jan-Sept 2019

OUR AMAZING YEAR SO FAR—2019

by Phebe (Karen) Beiser, Co-Founder & Co-Director

In January Annabelle & Phebe spoke to the monthly PFLAG meeting. We also had an Ohio State University librarian come to see our collection; she was very interested in our three feminist bookstore collections.
February saw two researchers. On February 22nd, Laura flew into town from NYC to research what would become a film starring Cincinnati’s own Michael Chanak.
Great Big Story, an award-winning global media company owned by CNN, eventually released “The Words Matter: One Voice Can Make a Difference.” Michael initiated the struggle for inclusion of sexual orientation in Procter & Gamble’s nondiscrimination policy in 1987. You can view the documentary on YouTube. We congratulate Michael for his dedicated work early on as well as his continuing support for the Archives!
Ken Schenk, author of the book LGBTQ Cleveland, came to research what will become LGBTQ Cincinnati. The book will be released for Pride next June and Ken will come to Cincinnati for a reception.
March and April allowed us to rest and enjoy the beginning of spring …..
In May Phebe recorded a podcast interview (to be aired in the summer) with Chris Fortin of OutCincinnati (Radio Artifact). He and Melissa interviewed her about the Ohio Lesbian Archives history and collection. She also spoke to a CItyBeat reporter which developed into …..
June
….. the lead article in its annual Pride Issue. The Archives had two pages of publicity!
Panels telling the stories of “50 Years of LGBTQ History in Greater Cincinnati” were borrowed by the downtown public library for the first ever display for Pride Month. Second Sunday in Main (OTR) showed the panels during its focus on Pride. The panels were created by Nancy Yerian/Vibrant Kin (with grant money from People’s Liberty) and displayed at Pride 2017, NKU, Mt. Auburn Presbyterial Church, and OutReels 2018.
On June 15th, a contingent of lesbian and gay activists from Dayton traveled to OLA to see our collection. They were beginning the Greater Dayton LGBTQ+ Her/Herstory Project. Jerry Lyndon Mallicoat interviewed and recorded Phebe for StoryCorps’ focus on lgbtq people for the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.
Orie Givens of Spectrum News (Columbus) drove down June 20th to do a video interview on the Archives. Phebe and a young African American lesbian visitor spoke for this newscast.
The Taft Museum invited Vic Ramstetter and Phebe Beiser to do a talk for its monthly Women’s Luncheon on June 26th. Phebe created a PowerPoint showing people and items associated with OLA’s herstory. The event was well-attended and longtime supporters and friends Maggie & Mary treated them to lunch at the Café.
July saw new volunteers Deb Meem and Michelle Gibson, a power couple of PhD retired professors from the University of Cincinnati. Deb was Director of Women’s Studies, Gender, & Sexuality. Wow! Deb was responsible for hanging up most of the artwork in the Archives in preparation for our Open House September 7th.
In August Victoria Ramstetter and Phebe Beiser (founders & directors of the Archives) were interviewed twice – 1) WVXU 91.7 FM, Michael Monks’ “Inside Edition” program on Cincinnati happenings (27th) and 2) an hour+ video interview for Ohio History Connection, part of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. Video done as part of celebrating the 100th anniversary since the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. The organization is focusing on telling the story of over 100 years of women’s activism. It will take the form of an exhibit that will travel the state. Our interview is part of an oral history with current female leaders and activists in Ohio. Vic and Phebe shared their decades of activism.
Saturday, September 7th 6-9:30pm: The 30th Anniversary of the Ohio Lesbian Archives! Since our beginning in 1989 in a 3rd floor room above the Crazy Ladies Bookstore, the Archives has been collecting books, periodicals, music, photographs, posters, and realia focusing on lesbian history. We include GBTQ histories and other materials as well. More than a reference library, OLA is evolving into a museum with trophies, political buttons, statues, a labyris, and gay history card games. We are the only known collection of its kind in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region. Our Celebration is at Clifton United Methodist Church in the meeting room on the lower level. We are proud to have a room in a church of an accepting congregation. This marks our 13th year here.

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An Elder in the LGBT Community

As most of you know, June is Pride Month. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, the beginning of the gay movement (original name).

At the age of 69, I am now an elder in the Greater Cincinnati community. Young people want to know what it was like to be lesbian in the 1970s. I came out at 21 over Christmas vacation. I followed Jean, a “known lesbian,” home to Ann Arbor. We both knew she would bring me out. But I knew I was a lesbian much earlier, in my teens (It may have begun as a crush on my babysitter!), but I was also aware that I couldn’t speak of it. The word then was homosexual. I have no idea how I knew not to go blabbing about this. When you don’t see images of gay people on tv, film, newspapers or magazines, you’re pretty much invisible.

Luckily in high school I had a friend named Barbara. She must have had early gaydar because she began sharing about her crush on the gym teacher. I had a terrible crush on my journalism teacher. We were sisters of the heart.

I call these times the Era of B.E.–Before Ellen (DeGeneres, that is).

I guess by the end of June I’ll be famous on a small scale anyway. With this upcoming 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, some people working on the Pride Committee are making a video documentary of sorts. They wish to speak with those who were around Back in the Day. So I’ll do a thirty minute talk then they’ll edit it down to a few minutes. After this, I’ll be interviewed by Chris Fortin of Out Cincinnati on Radio Artifact. Finally, Victoria Ramstetter and I, co-directors of OLA, will speak on the Archives late June at the Taft Museum Women’s Club luncheon.

By July I will just relax on my backyard deck. Happy Pride, everyone!

~ Phebe (Karen) Beiser

Enthusiastic visitors

On Monday, Annabelle and Nancy and I met Nina and two friends at the Ohio Lesbian Archives. Nina went wild listening to audio cassettes–yes, you read that right–audiocassettes of women’s, i.e., lesbian, music from earlier decades.

One friend was enthralled about the different sizes and shapes of books. They are creations, after all, and the ’70s and ’80s in particular had several grassroots women’s presses and publishers who were quite creative.

The mantra was Enthusiasm.

It was gratifying to have visitors–3 in all–yet their appreciation shown through their youthful enthusiasm was quite wonderful. Visits keep us going. Indeed, the Archives just sits there waiting to be used. Whether research for a school paper or curiosity and wonder, we are happy to open the door. Because we are a handful of volunteers, you do need to make an appointment first. [Contact us through our website OLArchives@gmail.com, this blog, or leaving VM @ 513-256-7695 (phebe’s cellphone)].

When will we meet you?

Phebe (Karen) Beiser, for the Archives

Upcoming Event: Mary MacMillan, Lesbian Poet

Join the Ohio Lesbian Archives December 11 to hear about the life of Mary MacMillan, a Lesbian poet who lived in the Cincinnati area in the early 20th century.

Black and white photograph of Mary MacMillan, facing left of frame, wearing hat, loose suit jacket, and a long necklave which she is holding in her right hand.

Mary MacMillan, 1928

Urban historian Anne Delano Steinert will present her ongoing research on local lesbian poet Mary MacMillan. Born in Ross Ohio in 1870, MacMillan studied at Wells College and Bryn Mawr before returning to Cincinnati around the turn of the century. Here she completed a number of historical essays, published poems in six national magazines, compiled her own book of verse entitled The Little Golden Fountain, worked for women’s right to vote, and held influential roles in several local organizations including the MacDowell Society and the Ohio Valley Poetry Society. As president of the Ohio Valley Poetry Society, MacMillan corresponded with many authors of national acclaim including Edna St. Vincent Millay who ultimately visited MacMillan here at her home on Telford Avenue in Clifton in 1927.

As her poems detail, the love of MacMillan’s life was University of Cincinnati Dean of Women, Loueen Pattee, who died suddenly at age 46 in 1922 after only four years in Cincinnati with MacMillan. Before coming to Cincinnati, Pattee had run a girls’ school in Munich, staying on to work at a Red Cross hospital at the outbreak of World War I. Pattee is listed as MacMillan’s “partner” in the 1920 census taken of their Telford Avenue address. This talk will be a presentation of work in progress followed by a discussion of the research presented and feedback on ways to move forward with the work.

The talk will take place 4pm, December 11 in the upstairs parlor room of Clifton United Methodist Church on the corner of Clifton Ave and Senator Place (3416 Clifton Ave). Parking is available in the lot behind the church on Senator Place. Donations to the Ohio Lesbian Archives greatly appreciated.

View the Facebook event.

What have we done in a year?

We realize it’s been a full year since our last blog post – yikes! It’s not because the Archives has been inactive. In fact, we’ve been neglecting the blog precisely because we’ve had so much going on this year and we’ve been too busy to write about it. Here are a few of the things we’ve been working on

  • Nancy and Phebe seated at a table with an assortment of archival materials laid out.

    Our table at the GLSEN Youth Summit

    October 2015: Workshop at GLSEN Youth Summit. Every year, GLSEN Greater Cincinnati holds an amazing summit to give LGBTQ youth an opportunity to meet each other and learn about their community. In 2014 we hosted a table to let attendees know about the archives. This year, we decided to take it a step further and hosted a workshop for youth about the OLA and local LGBTQ history. Between 15 – 20 teens attended and got a taste of queer history. We even brought a box of duplicate books for them to take home – those certainly didn’t last long!

    Three copies of a newsletter on lavender and purple paper with "Golden Threads" in large type.

    Golden Threads newsletter

  • February 2016: Golden Threads Showing with Senior Action Group. All year long, we’ve been working hard on creating an inventory of the Lesbian Periodicals collection (scroll down for more updates). In the process of going through this collection, we’ve discovered so many fascinating publications, both local and national. One that really caught our eye was Golden Threads, a correspondence newsletter designed specifically to connect lesbians 50 years and older. A little research showed us that there was a documentary about the publication and its creator. The Archives decided this was the perfect opportunity to partner with Cincinnati’s LGBT Senior Action Group, and we hosted a showing of the film in February. About 30 women joined us for this beautiful exploration of aging and community.
  • March 2016: Workshop encore for GLSEN Youth Group. GLSEN asked us to hold an encore of our October workshop for their weekly Youth Group. Phebe and Annabelle joined about 20 young people at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church for another discussion of the Archives, which even generated interest in some youth potentially volunteering with us!
  • July 2016: Visit from UC History Class. In early July, we hosted a summer class from UC exploring local history and different archives in the area. The five students in “Local History Research Methods” got a taste of our collections, what it is like to do research here, and what it takes to maintain an archive. Their local history work will culminate in each of them writing text for an Ohio Historic Marker.
  • Phebe and Anthony stand next to each other leaning against the shelves

    Phebe and Anthony in the archives

    July 2016: Visit from Gay Ohio History Initiative. Anthony Gibbs, from the Gay Ohio History Initiative and the Ohio History Connection paid us a visit to talk about “GOHI” and statewide efforts to preserve Ohio’s LGBTQ history. Anthony brought resources with him and we showed him the archives and discussed ways we might be able to collaborate.

  • August 2016: Completed Lesbian Periodicals Inventory!!!! We have been working for over a year on creating an inventory of the Archives’ Lesbian Periodicals collection. The goal is to document exactly what the Archive has both for our own records and to make the information available to the public and to researchers. In early August, we finally made it to the end of the alphabet and documented all of the various lesbian newspapers, newsletters, and magazines – 3 full filing cabinets’ worth of materials. Now all we have left is to edit the document and we will be able to make it available at the archives and through this website for people interested in researching in our collection. We plan to have it edited and available for browsing online this fall.
  • August 20, 2016: Ohio History Connection LGBTQ Community Day with GOHI. Our last hurrah of the summer was to travel up to Columbus for LGBTQ Community Day at the Ohio History Center. Phebe and I gave a talk on the archives and we saw two other presentations: a talk on LGBTQ history projects by Stonewall Columbus and a living history interpreter speaking as Natalie Barney, “that Wild Girl from Cincinnati.” It was great to be able to share our work and connect with others around the state.