‘The Daughters’ Reveals the Lesbians Who Changed History

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10/27/2019

“I hadn’t seen a play or history of my people,” says Patricia Cotter—so she wrote ‘The Daughters’ which evokes a grand sweep of lesbian history, including the Daughters of Bilitis. In the first act of The Daughters, a play premiering at the San Francisco Playhouse, the character Mal is trying to get the guests at the first Daughters of Bilitis meeting interested in politics and the organization’s bylaws rather than dancing and flirting. She exhorts them to think of the future, and when she says, “Lesbians could run for public office. We could get married,” three of the characters burst out laughing at such a crazy idea. The year was 1955. The Daughters of Bilitis (named after a fictional contemporary of Sappho) was the first political and social lesbian society in America, and Mal is loosely based on Del Martin, who with Phyllis Lyon, started the first chapter of the organization. They were the first same-sex couple to be married in San Francisco.

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