A Personal Summary of How LASC Came to Be
Summer of 2006, JJ Wilson, feminist. retired Sonoma State University English Professor, told me that someone in the SSU History Department was planning an oral history of the Sonoma County women’s movement. JJ suggested I volunteer to be sure lesbians were included.
Well. They weren’t.
A year later, six or eight of us local lesbians attended a well catered luncheon to celebrate the History students’ research and to examine their time line of women’s activities in Sonoma County. We found, to our disappointment and surprise, that absolutely no lesbian groups were mentioned: No Women’s Voices newspaper, no Lesbian Voters Action Caucus, no Women’s Studies department, no Pride Day parades. Nada.
A student’s justification was that the oral history of Sonoma County women was only a small part of the syllabus – the focus was on a history of feminism beginning with the American Revolution. She also pointed out that only the Press Democrat, a NY Times owned newspaper, was their research source. No one knew the existence of twenty-year old Women’s Voices Newspaper.
While their oversight made us invisible, we set out to make ourselves visible by creating an archive which describes the role that lesbians played in Sonoma County activism – and which made things better for all women.
My friend, Ruth Mahaney, feminist, lesbian and former chair of Sonoma State Women’s Studies, drove me home. We sat in my parking lot a long time, simmering down, seeking ways to change the situation.
“Hey. We can’t let this happen. We have to do something about it.”
“We need to organize the lesbian community”, I responded.
“I know. Let’s give a party. We’ll invite every lesbian we can think of.”
“Let’s make it a re-union.”
“Let’s have it out on my place on the Russian River”, said Ruth.
“And a pot luck, of course,” I replied.
We garnered enough names from our address books so that over thirty long time lesbians arrived, food in hand, for the first party. We recorded both video and audio memories and stories. About twenty people came to the second reunion, fifteen or so to the third, and at the last reunion six showed up: Nancy Moorhead, Mary Kowatch, Tina Dungan, Ann Neel, Ruth and me. We gave ourselves a name and formed the steering committee—Lesbian Archives of Sonoma County—LASC. Our purpose: to archive 30 years of lesbian activity from 1965 to l995 on video tape and with ephemera –to build an archive for future researchers and writers with knowledge about Sonoma County lesbian activists in the latter part of the 20th century.
In the past five years, we researched and listed sixty different local organizations and businesses started by lesbians. We have videotaped five individual community leaders and eighteen community action groups (ranging from Moonrise Café to Women’s Voices; from the Gang Band to Women’s Studies to Lesbian Voters and more.) And have more individual and group interviews scheduled for this year and next year.
We sponsored an historical afternoon with long time lesbian leaders, Sally Gearheart and Phyllis Lyons that attracted an audience from the entire Bay Area. With a grant, we purchased video and editing equipment. Our Steering committee has expanded from six to nine with the addition of Nancy Kelley, Tia Watts and Lynn Adler.
…a pretty good record for a handful of lesbians with a dream.