20th Century Lesbian Life in Greenwich Village
November 18, 2021 | 6:30PM
Women in 20th century Greenwich Village pushed the norms of society by living as their authentic selves. Join Project manager Amanda Davis for a virtual presentation exploring the lives of women such as: Eve Adams, operator of the popular gay and lesbian tearoom in Greenwich Village, who was convicted of obscenity and disorderly conduct and deported; Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun, who also wrote under a pseudonym for a lesbian newsletter; photographer Berenice Abbott and her partner, influential art critic Elizabeth McCausland; and groups such as the Radicalesbians and Salsa Soul Sisters.
The second in our three-part series, “From Progressive Reformers to Lesbian Gathering Spots: Explorations of Same-Sex Relationships & Spaces in New York City,” presented with the support of Humanities New York, Con Edison, and NYC & Company Foundation.
1970s Lesbian Activism & Community
October 12, 2021 | 6:30PM
Join Project Manager Amanda Davis and special guests, activists Ellen Broidy and Karla Jay, in an intergenerational conversation with preservationist Emily Kahn. Lesbian rights activists in New York City worked to gain a voice, equal rights, and recognition within the Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation movements. Hear from pioneering activists Ellen Broidy and Karla Jay and learn more about the historic sites — residences, bookshops, restaurants, archives, and other communal women-only spaces — associated with lesbian activism and community in the 1970s.
The first in our three-part series, “From Progressive Reformers to Lesbian Gathering Spots: Explorations of Same-Sex Relationships & Spaces in New York City,” presented with the support of Humanities New York, Con Edison, and NYC & Company Foundation.
Progressive Reformers and Lesbian Lives
December 13, 2021 | 6:30PM
From at least the mid-19th century to the 1920s, the earliest generations of coupled women and their social circles have left an indelible mark on New York City. Often rejecting traditional gender roles, they lived in same-sex relationships and forged careers in politics, social reform, and the arts. Project Co-Director Andrew Dolkart will be joined by special guest Katie Vogel from the Henry Street Settlement, who will discuss the new nomination for founder Lillian Wald’s residence at the Henry Street Settlement to the National Register of Historic Places, acknowledging the significance of Wald’s homosocial world and the influence of lesbians in the settlement house movement.
The third in our three-part series, “From Progressive Reformers to Lesbian Gathering Spots: Explorations of Same-Sex Relationships & Spaces in New York City,” presented with the support of Humanities New York, Con Edison, and NYC & Company Foundation.
Women’s Liberation Center listed to National Register of Historic Places
June 29, 2021
WOMEN’S LIBERATION CENTER
RECOGNIZED AS NATIONALLY-SIGNIFICANT
NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project research and advocacy leads to
listing of site connected to lesbian activism and herstory
on State and National Registers of Historic Places
NEW YORK, NY—Tuesday, June 29, 2021— The site of the Women’s Liberation Center, located at 243 West 20th Street from 1972 to 1987, has been listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. In the early 1970s, the Women’s Liberation Center was founded as an important meeting space for many women’s groups, including those that specifically served the lesbian community.
The Women’s Liberation Center was designated a New York City Individual Landmark in June 2019, following research and key advocacy by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, in collaboration with key allies such as NYC Councilmember Corey Johnson. This latest designation speaks to the significance of the Women’s Liberation Center beyond New York City, to our state and national history.
Emily Kahn, consultant for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project: “Listing the Women’s Liberation Center on the National Register of Historic Places recognizes the strong activism, community building, and empowerment of women and lesbians in New York City. Yet, by being listed under national level significance, the Women’s Liberation Center continues its legacy of championing for the representation of women’s and LGBT history and culture nationwide. Just as new feminist groups formed at the WLC, I hope that additional National Register listings honoring women, especially queer women, will emerge in the aftermath of the WLC’s listing. Special thanks are due to the site’s current tenant, Nontraditional Employment for Women, for their help completing this nomination during the pandemic and ongoing work to empower women!”
Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: “We are proud to have our partners at the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project continue advancing listings on the New York State and National Registers. Their work is extraordinary; benefiting the much-deserved recognition of the history and accomplishments of our state’s LGBT+ communities and significant individuals. The Women’s Liberation Center increased the visibility of lesbians during the 1970s- and 80s-women’s liberation era and this designation pays tribute to the countless women who fought for equality historically and continue the movement today.”
Sarah Carroll, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission: “In 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Women’s Liberation Center for its role in the LGBTQ civil rights movement and listing on the National Register is an important recognition that reinforces the building’s historical and cultural significance.”
243 West 20th Street, the former location of the Women’s Liberation Center in (l) c. 2016. Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project; (r) c. 1980s. Courtesy NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
From the National Register nomination, completed by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project: The Women’s Liberation Center (WLC) is significant under criterion A in the area of social history: LGBT and Women’s Rights as the first permanent advocacy space for women’s and lesbians’ organizations in New York City and as one of the earliest examples of a feminist gathering space nationwide. Founded in 1970 and relocated to 243 West 20th Street in 1972, the WLC served as a meetinghouse and a clearinghouse for grassroots, radical organizations associated with the women’s and lesbian liberation movements. Due to the ability of women of all backgrounds to gather and share ideas in this space, the WLC helped foster an increased acceptance of lesbians within the women’s liberation movement and illustrated the nationwide trend for lesbian organizations to operate out of women’s centers. The inclusion of multiple perspectives from diverse organizations helped to create a more radical version of feminism and affirmed the need for women’s spaces within male-dominated society.
Two prominent lesbian organizations — Lesbian Feminist Liberation and Lesbian Switchboard — developed at the WLC in the early 1970s to advocate for increased rights for and improved visibility of lesbians. In addition to serving as a pioneering women’s space, the WLC also helped to cultivate lesbian activism both within and separate from the general gay liberation movement, which often overlooked lesbian issues. By serving as an alternative to the general movement, the WLC provided women with increased autonomy to advocate for their own rights both inside of and separate from the gay liberation movement. The WLC set a precedent for other LGBT centers and activism spaces, showing how these centers could focus not only on the political but also on the social and cultural needs of LGBT individuals. Finally, the WLC fostered ongoing and increasing partnerships between feminists and lesbians, representing a departure from earlier tensions in the second-wave women’s liberation movement. Although the WLC closed in 1987, activists and organizations associated with the WLC have been influential in instituting women’s and gay rights into the political agenda of the state and the nation since.
The building is exceptionally significant under criterion exception G for its pivotal and sustaining involvement in numerous aspects of the second wave of the women’s liberation movement, for its early support of lesbian activism and gatherings at a time when the latter were shunned by other women’s and gay rights organizations, as the first permanent advocacy space for women’s and lesbians’ organizations in New York, and for its precedent setting advocacy of feminist gathering spaces nationwide. The building continues to serve as a space for women’s activities today. The period of significance captures the most significant and influential years of the group’s existence, beginning with its move into this building in 1972 and concluding when the group disbanded in 1987.
From Washington Square to Stonewall: An LGBT History Walk
September 21, 2021 | 2:00PM
co-presented with Village Preservation and The Village Trip
This is an in-person event. Advance registration required; and meetup location will be provided upon RSVP.
Join the experts at the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project for a walking tour of Greenwich Village. Learn about the LGBT presence in the Bohemian Village and hear about the places and people from the 1890s through the post-Stonewall LGBT civil rights movement and their lasting impact on American culture. Stops will include places connected to groups including the Salsa Soul Sisters, Mattachine Society, the Gay Liberation Front, and STAR (the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), and the individual LGBT activists, artists, and business owners who found refuge in the Village since the late 19th century.
Advance registration via Village Preservation is required.