4 min

Timeline of lesbian milestones in BC

Remember the New Morning lesbian feminist collective?

In response to the timeline of pivotal, community-shaping moments that Xtra published in its 500th edition, the Quirk-e art and writing group submitted a timeline of specifically lesbian milestones that it wants to honour and share.

“We have quickly put together a list of people and events that begins to give a sense of how active lesbians in BC have been in shaping and strengthening the queer movement,” the Quirk-e members say. “This list is not comprehensive and we apologize to all the people and events that have been unintentionally omitted.”

Here is an excerpt from Quirk-e’s timeline.

1964 Jane Rule publishes her novel Desert of the Heart and speaks publicly about lesbian issues.

1965 Phyllis Webb publishes Naked Poems.

1960s-early 1970s Champagne Charlie’s, at the southwest corner of Davie and Seymour streets, is a popular lesbian and gay bar that draws a particularly lesbian crowd. Located down a flight of inside stairs, the bar is run by Charlie, a tough, butch woman with slicked-back hair and boots. Upstairs, several gay and lesbian establishments come and go over the years, including Sisters restaurant, which opens in late 1983.

1971 New Morning lesbian feminist collective sets up in Vancouver and organizes a lesbian feminist workshop at the Indochinese Women’s Conference, an international conference that draws approximately 1,000 feminists and peace activists from across North America to Vancouver and Toronto to meet their Asian counterparts during the Vietnam War.

1971 New Morning collective members and other women’s liberationists occupy the Georgia Straight to protest its coverage of the Indochinese Women’s Conference. They then publish their own issue, which includes “The Woman-Identified Woman,” by the Radicalesbians, the first line of which reads, “What is a lesbian? Lesbianism is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion.”

1972 The Lesbian Centre for delegates to the Indochinese Women’s Conference meets at the site of the soon-to-be-launched Lesbian Resource Centre, located on the top floor of A Woman’s Place, on Broadway near Burrard

1973 Women’s consciousness groups morph into lesbian coming-out groups at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

1974 Press Gang becomes a feminist publishing and printing collective, with a distinctly lesbian sensibility.

1974 Vancouver MS on 4th Avenue becomes the first licensed lesbian club owned and operated by lesbians.

1974 The Kitsilano Mental Health Team introduces lesbian support and coming-out groups, at the urging of Robin Rennie.

1975 Lesbian folksinger Ferron makes her professional debut at a Press Gang benefit at Simon Fraser University.

1975 The rights-of-lesbians subcommittee of the British Columbia Federation of Women forms.

1976 The first Stepping Out of Line Workshop is held on lesbianism and feminism.

1976 Vancouver’s Lesbian Information Line launches.

1976-1977 The Lower Mainland Women’s Cultural Exchange holds lesbian art shows.

1977 The BC Federation of Women formally adopts a policy promoting lesbian rights.

1979 The Lesbian Herstory Dinner is held in the gym at First United Church.

1979 Anne Cameron publishes Dreamspeaker.

1984 Five women start the Vancouver Lesbian Connection to create a political, service and social organization for lesbian and bisexual women. A year later, the group opens the Vancouver Lesbian Centre at 876 Commercial Dr.

1985 Press Gang publishes Still Sane by Persimmon Blackbridge and Sheila Gilhooly. Based on the art show of the same name, the book offers a searing examination of the psychiatric abuse of lesbians and their resistance.

1986 The Sitka Lesbian Housing Cooperative is built off Commercial Drive.

1986 The first annual International Lesbian Week is launched and remains hugely popular during the 1980s and early 1990s.

1988 Daphne Marlatt and Betsy Warland publish their collaborative lesbian long poem Double Negative (Gynergy Press). Marlatt also publishes her historical/coming-out novel Ana Historic.

1990 The Kiss & Tell Collective exhibits its interactive photography show about lesbian sexual politics, Drawing the Line, at the Western Front. In 1991, Press Gang publishes the show as a book of postcards.

1990 Pat Hogan’s production company Sounds & Furies debuts before a women-only audience at the WISE Hall during the Gay Games in 1990.

1992 Pat Hogan launches a lesbian Sappho Witchcamp at Loon Lake, in Maple Ridge. The same year, following a 1990 boycott of the popular lesbian hangout Joe’s Café on Commercial Drive, Hogan opens Josephine’s Cappuccino Bar and Wimmin’s Crafts off the Drive at 1716 Charles St.

2001 Libby Davies becomes Canada’s first openly lesbian MP when she comes out in Parliament. Davies divulged her same-sex relationship when she rose in the House to speak in support of fellow NDP MP Svend Robinson’s bill on same-sex marriage.

2002 Ellen Woodsworth becomes Vancouver’s first openly lesbian city councillor when she’s elected municipally with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE).

2004 Janine Fuller is awarded an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University for her decades-long battle to defend freedom of expression, after Canada Customs seized countless shipments of gay and lesbian books bound for Little Sister’s Bookstore, which Fuller manages.

2005 Pat Hogan creates BOLDFest, an annual conference for older lesbians and dykes.

2008 In a by-election, Jenn McGinn becomes the first out lesbian elected to the BC legislature when she wins her seat in Vancouver-Fairview.

2009 Voters in the Vancouver-Kensington riding elect BC’s first lesbian MLA of colour, Mable Elmore, to sit in the provincial legislature.

Thanks to the members of the Quirk-e art and writing group for all their hard work on the timeline: Marsha Ablowitz, Douglas Bacon, Gwyneth Bowen, Janie Cawley, Bridget Coll, Margo Dunn, Fatos Erguven, Judy Fletcher, Farren, Frank Gillespie, River Glen, Stephen Hardy, Pat Hogan, Greta Hurst, Val Innes, Chris Morrissey, Bill Morrow, Sandra Mudd, Huei Jen Pan, Gayle Roberts, Maggie Shore, Paddy St Loe, Nancy Strider, Paula Stromberg, Harris Taylor, Christine Waymark, Ellen Woodsworth, Claire Robson and Kelsey Blair.