Cover image for City of sisterly and brotherly loves : lesbian and gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972
City of sisterly and brotherly loves : lesbian and gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972
Stein, Marc.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 457 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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HQ76.3.U52 P57 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this pathbreaking history, Marc Stein takes an in-depth look at Philadelphia from the 1940s to the 1970s. What he finds is a city of vibrant gay and lesbian households, neighborhoods, commercial establishments, public cultures, and political groups. In doing so, Stein shatters the myth that lesbian and gay history began with the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City and challenges the notion that only New York and San Francisco featured major lesbian and gay communities in the pre-Stonewall era.

Stein takes us on a tour through Philadelphia's bars, restaurants, bookstores, bathhouses, movie theaters, parks, and parades where lesbian and gay cultures thrived.

We learn about the scientific experts, religious leaders, public officials, and journalists who attacked and ignored same-sex sexualities. And we read about the courageous people who fought back with strategies of everyday resistance and organized political activism.

Stein argues against the idea that a conspiracy of silence surrounded gays and lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s. He shows that same-sex sexualities were regularly discussed in controversies concerning the tennis player Big Bill Tilden, the Walt Whitman Bridge, sex murders and crimes, and police raids. Philadelphians became national leaders in the gay and lesbian movement. They conducted sit-ins at Dewey's restaurant, organized pickets at Independence Hall, edited the movement's most widely circulated publications the Ladder and Drum, and pursued court cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Beautifully crafted and exceptionally well-written, Stein's book not only provides a new starting place for thinking about lesbian and gay history but also challenges readers to rethink twentieth-century urban history.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Until now, historians have ignored Philadelphia's gay history, focusing instead on that of New York or San Francisco. An assistant professor of history at Toronto's York University, Stein argues that Philly's history is equally colorful and unique. Drawing on extensive interviews with people involved in the city's gay community over the last 60 years, local gay and mainstream publications and minutes from the meetings of both the city government and homosexual groups, Stein charts the growth of a vibrant pre-Stonewall gay and lesbian community, its subsequent political struggles and grassroots efforts and its emergence in the radical gay movement of the 1970s. He is at his best when describing the relationship between gay men and lesbians amid the city's complex network of neighborhoods and their successes and difficulties in working on political and social projects together. And when he turns his focus to smaller details--such as the Catholic Church's campaign against naming a new bridge after Walt Whitman or the impact on national politics of Drum, a 1960s Philly-based gay magazine--the result can be engaging and informative. In the end, however, this well-intentioned book too often reads like a doctoral thesis, with insights that are often obvious or academic. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The history of sexual minorities has advanced to the point where historians can focus on tight studies of local conditions. Stein's detailed study of lesbian and gay Philadelphia from 1945 to 1972 will set the pattern for future studies of its kind. Theoretically sophisticated yet accessible, it is important beyond the bounds of concern of gays, lesbians, or Philadelphia. Stein (history, York Univ., Toronto) weaves a dense, richly documented narrative of the interactions of men and women and their political growing pains as they wage a human-rights struggle during tumultuous times and against an oppressive city government. He also portrays the development of a nascent and diverse subculture. Those who find historical writing too obscure for the average reader will appreciate Stein's evocative, insightful prose. By demonstrating how groups of various sexual and political orientations can work together, he amends the adage "the personal is political," adding that the local reveals the nation. Highly recommended.--David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Stein (history, York Univ., Ontario) has written an encyclopedic treatment of gay and lesbian Philadelphia: leaders, organizations, commercial sites, public spaces and events, police attention, and newspaper coverage. First detailing four city districts where lesbians and gays lived and played, he next considers public attitudes before examining the emergence of "homophile" political groups in the '60s. Twin revolutions, the Gay Liberation Front and Radicalesbian Feminism, focus the book's last part. Ironically, whereas Stein's time frame exaggerates political gains, he equivocates about progress. Not only race and class, but sex and gender divided lesbian and gay Philadelphia. Stein finds conventional social and cultural values of sex and gender largely unyielding among most lesbian and gay activists. Radicalesbian Feminism and the (male) Gay Liberation Front, though influential, were short lived. With a weak "queer alternative," conservative definitions that one sex had of the other remained largely unchallenged, and even strengthened. When similar books are written about other cities, one will know whether Philadelphia was particularly conservative. Stein's strength is description; his chief sources are interviews, memoirs, and movement publications. The book lacks a bibliography, but has extensive endnotes. General or academic readership at any level. P. K. Cline; Earlham College

Table of Contents

Contents List of Figures Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction
Part One Everyday Geographies, 1945-1972
1 Your Place or Mine?: Residential Zones in the "City of Neighborhoods"
2 "No-Man's Land": Commercial Districts in the "Quaker City"
3 The Death and Life of Public Space in the "Private City"
Part Two Public Cultures, 1945-1960
4 "The Most Fabulous Faggot in the Land"
5 The "Objectionable" Walt Whitman Bridge
6 Rizzo's Raiders and Beaten Beats
Part Three Political Movements, 1960-1969
7 "Come Out! Come Out! Wherever You Are!" 1960
8 "Earnestly Seeking Respectability," 1960-1963
9 "News for 'Queers' and Fiction for 'Perverts,'" 1963-1967
10 "The Masculine-Feminine Mystique," 1967-1969
Part Four Twin Revolutions? 1969-1972
11 "Turning Points," 1969-1970
12 Gay Liberation in the "Birthplace of the Nation," 1970-1971
13 Radicalesbian Feminism in "Fillydykia," 1971-1972
Conclusion Sexual Pride
Sexual Conservatism Notes