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Del Martin


Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

© Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Born :

Del Martin was born Dorothy L. Taliaferro on May 5, 1921. She was married for four years and has a daughter, Kendra Mon.

A love for Life:

Del met Phyllis Lyon in 1950 in Seattle. In 1952, the two became lovers and have been together ever since. In 1953, the two moved to San Francisco.

Lesbian Activist:

In 1955, with Phyllis and several other women, Del Martin formed Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first national organization for lesbians in the United States. DOB was formed because the women felt that their causes were not being dealt with in the male-dominated gay rights groups of the time. DOB created a space for lesbians to meet outside of the bars and work for equality.


With her partner Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin wrote Lesbian/Woman in 1972. The book documents the history of the lesbian movement and calls for equal rights for lesbians. Martin also was active in the feminist movement and wrote Battered Woman about domestic violence.

Active All these years:

In addition to working for lesbian rights, Del Martin has been a leader in feminist and civil rights causes. She was the first out lesbian elected to the National Organization for Women (NOW). She is a founding members of the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club. She is also the founder of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, fighting ageism and homophobia together.

Film of her life:

Lesbian film-maker and photographer, Joan E. Biren (JEB) made a film, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon which premiered in 2003 at gay and lesbian film festivals around the country.

Marriage in SF:

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the first couple to legally marry in the United States on February 12, 2004 in San Francisco, California. They married again in 2008, when California became the second state to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

A Life Well Lived:

Del Martin died August 27, 2008 with her wife Phyllis Lyon at her side. She was 87 years old.

Upon her death, Phyllis said, “Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn’t be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her, and been her partner in all things. I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed.”

Quote from Del Martin:

"It took me a long time to accept myself as a woman. I thought that I was the only one that was different and instinctively knew not to talk about it."
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