February 3, 2014

Re-posted from the USC Libraries’ Libwire

Thanks to a grant from the GRAMMY Foundation, the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries have digitized a number of early recordings of LGBTQ activists from the 1950s and 1960s. Many are now available via the USC Digital Library.

Dr Blanche Baker at ONE, Inc.
Dr. Blanche Baker (in wheelchair) with her husband in ONE Incorporated’s offices, c. 1959. ONE Incorporated Records. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries

In this recording, for example, pioneering psychiatrist Blanche Baker speaks at the ONE Inc. Midwinter Institute in 1955. Baker broke with her colleagues in American Psychiatry Association who considered homosexuality to be a mental illness until 1973.

As ONE Archivist Kyle Morgan explains:

In the 1950s and 1960s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental illness that could be cured or managed by psychotherapy treatments. While many therapists quietly dismissed this in practice, Dr. Blanche Baker put her career on the line by publically challenging the designation. Dr. Baker spoke at ONE Inc.’s first Midwinter Institute in 1955, the first forum in North America put on by homosexuals, for homosexuals, regarding the scientific, philosophical, legal, and social questions pertaining to homosexuality. This recount of her talk was taken from issue 21 of ONE Institute Quarterly: Homophile Studies:

Those who heard Blanche M. Baker, M.D., Ph.D. give the address, “A Psychiatric Evaluation of Homosexuality; Causative Factors and Therapeutic Suggestions,” January 1955, are not likely to forget the impact of her fearless frankness in handling such a topic. So unhackneyed were the views she expressed that, by contrast with much psychiatric thinking of the time, they sounded startling or to some, perhaps alarming. In the extended question and answer period which followed Dr. Baker patiently and wittily so disarmed the skeptical and silenced the critical that at the conclusion the entire audience rose to its feet to give her an ovation lasting several minutes. Such a response, rare as it must have been for any psychiatrist to receive, gives some indication of how remarkable a person she was.

Find more information about Baker here. And keep checking Libwire and the new ONE Archives website for updates about the GRAMMY Foundation-supported audio preservation project. For more information about the GRAMMY Foundation’s grant programs, visit the organization’s website.


Image: (Top) Dr. Blanche Baker at ONE Incorporated’s offices, c. 1959. ONE Incorporated Records. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries