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.

Cataloging DINAH

A couple weeks ago, we finished cataloging Dinah.

Photograph of eight piles of a multi-colored newsletter sitting on a table, each with an index card indicating a date range between 1975 and 1997.

Dinah organized by date and ready to be cataloged.

I like to think of Dinah as one of the crown jewels of the Archives’ collection. The local lesbian newsletter ran from 1975 to 1997, an impressive feat considering nearly every issue had a call for help. Writing, compiling, publishing, printing, and distributing a work like Dinah was incredibly difficult on a shoestring budget with a volunteer staff who never had enough time. Dinah’s pages constantly asked readers for donations to afford paper to print the next issue, or repair the broken mimeograph machine or printer, or even contributions of the time and energy necessary to get copies in the mail.

But somehow, for over twenty years and 100 issues, Dinah survived. Cincinnati women wrote articles, short stories, poetry, and letters. They discussed the meanings of womanhood, lesbianism, race, family, sex, music, and literature. They planned events, meetings, and potlucks. They organized against discrimination and domestic violence, empowering each other on local and global political issues. They won the city league softball championship. They created community, and they recorded it all in the pages of Dinah.

Dinah is a unique and invaluable resource for researchers and community members interested in Cincinnati history, lesbian herstory, community-making, and feminist history. Because of the richness of the stories this newsletter tells, the OLA is committed to preserving it for future generations. The online catalog we are creating — figuring out exactly what we have and writing it all down so you know too — is part of this. Another step is making sure all materials are stored properly to slow down deterioration. For Dinah, that means putting the newsletter into acid-free, lignin-free, high-quality archival folders.

Photograph of metal file cabinet drawer pulled out to reveal 2.5 feet of a multi-colored newsletter placed neatly in manila folders.

Dinah replaced in her drawer in non-archival folders for temporary storage.

If you would like to volunteer your time to help us complete the catalog, or donate money for materials, you can contact us at OLArchives@gmail.com. You can help us make sure Dinah survives for many years to come!

June activity!

Maybe it’s because June is Pride Month but whatever the reason, the Archives had an out of town visitor and I have a panel discussion coming up.

Last Thursday, I met Sharon Deevey, from greater Columbus, Ohio. We had met a few times in the past–at the Ohio Lesbian Festival and at Miami University when there was a panel on the 1970’s. She just loves research and had had it on her list to come visit OLA. As serendipity would have it, her eyes landed on an issue of The Furies, a radical feminist newspaper from 1970’s. We had nine issues and one was quite rare! She excitedly called her good friend, former comrade, and ex JEB (Joan E. Biren of photography fame). Joan was in the process of donating her works to her alma mater. (She had been a member of The Furies and recently noticed the missing issue in going through her collection).

Sharon and I had a great time chatting about the 70’s over lunch. By the time we had returned to the Archives, I urged her to take the missing issue (and the entire stack of issues). As a former librarian, I knew in the importance of complete collections. The Ohio Lesbian Archives will be credited as the source for this rare issue. Vic and I realize we can’t be all things to all lesbians; our space in the Clifton United Methodist Church basement is filled enough without maintaining Everything Lesbian. Sharon vows she will return to view more of our collection. She was a great contact and we had a fulfilling visit all the way around.

Tonight I will be one of several speakers at the local N.O.W. meeting. I have 5-10 minutes to inform the audience about OLA. Ten minutes isn’t much so it’s even more crucial to be concise. My personal mission is to entice a few women to make a visit. I fear someone will ask how many books and magazines we have in the collection. Sharon did and I admitted our inventory was too dated to be accurate. WE NEED AN INTERN!  Any student out there who wants to get some independent study credit during the summer? I’d open the Archives once a week for you. Remember to stay proud of who you are!

~ Phebe Beiser