July 25, 2013 Library of Congress Acquires Papers of Gay-Rights Pioneer Lilli Vincenz
Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Gay civil-rights pioneer Lilli Vincenz has donated to the Library of Congress her collection of papers, photographs, 16-mm films and memorabilia, collected over a period of 50 years in the gay and lesbian civil-rights movement.
Vincenz was one of the first lesbian members of the original Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., a gay-rights organization, and the first editor of its newsletter, “The Homosexual Citizen.” She marched in the historic picket of the White House on April 17, 1965, participated in annual July 4th gay-rights demonstrations in Philadelphia, and was part of the delegation that met with U.S. Civil Service Commission officials in 1965 to discuss the continued federal ban on hiring homosexuals. Vincenz was also an early member of the Daughters of Bilitis, a national lesbian-rights organization, wrote a biweekly column for the New York-based Gay magazine, and was interviewed often by the media with other lesbian leaders.
The collection of some 10,000 items documents both her personal biography and the larger gay rights movement. Included are diaries, photographs, family papers, correspondence, academic and research files, printed matter and organizational records. The collection will be available for research use once the materials are organized and a finding aid is prepared.
Of special note are two iconic 16-mm films made by Vincenz of several early gay-rights events. These are “The Second Largest Minority” (7 min.), which documents the “Reminder Day Picket” at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4, 1968; and “Gay and Proud,” (11.5 min.), of the first Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade held in New York City, June 28, 1970, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a watershed in the history of gay rights in America. Excerpts from Vincenz’s films are included in a number of documentaries including “Stonewall Uprising” (American Experience, 2011).
Born in 1937 in Hamburg, Germany, Vincenz immigrated to the United States, attended college, and received an M.A. in English from Columbia University before serving in the United States Army in 1963. She received a general discharge under honorable conditions because of her homosexuality. Following her discharge, Vincenz contacted pioneer gay-rights activist Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., and began editing and writing articles for the society under the pseudonym Lily Hansen. In 1971, Vincenz helped launch the Kameny for Congress Campaign, thought to be the first time a publicly acknowledged gay person ran for office in the United States. Her collection includes original materials from the campaign.
Vincenz earned a master’s degree in psychology from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in human development and psychology from the University of Maryland. In 1976, she started a psychotherapy practice, working with lesbian and bisexual women and, later, gay men during the height of the AIDS crisis. From 1971 to 1977, she ran a Gay Women’s Open House in her home every Wednesday evening to provide lesbian and bisexual women a nonthreatening place to meet and discuss common concerns, and in 1976 she served on the National Organization for Women’s Sexuality Task Force.
She and her spouse, Nancy Ruth Davis, were married in Key West, Fla., in 1986. Together, they founded the Empowerment Group for People Living with AIDS, in Arlington, Va., in the mid-1980s and the Community for Creative Self-Development in 1998. The latter organization holds forums, conferences, workshops, classes and special events.
The Vincenz papers will join the Manuscript Division’s holdings of more than 63 million items, including more than 11,500 collections that document the course of American history from its colonial origins to the present and encompass all aspects of American life such as politics, civic reform, war, diplomacy, national security, exploration, science and literature.
The donation was made through Vincenz’s agent, Charles Francis, co-founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which donated the papers of gay civil-rights pioneer Franklin E. Kameny to the Library of Congress in 2006.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.