Martha Shelley Interview

Excerpt from an interview with Martha Shelley about her early activism:

MS Uh and I had already been on numerous anti war marches in Washington demonstrations in New York and by the time of the Stonewall Riot I was very well politicized in terms of race stuff, the women’s movement, all of that and of course gay stuff because I had become the spokesperson for Daughters of Bilitis. While I was at Barnard this one woman who was basically running the show at D.O.B. asked if I would be willing to do public speaking. I said sure, I mean what was I? I was a dinky secretary at the time. I didn’t have a career that was worth losing. I could always find some other clerical job and I was young and willing to do stuff like that and I think if I had been older I would have been more timid.



CG And so…


MS Oh 


CG No, Ok finish your thought


MS …one day I had done a radio program- I went to colleges I went to abnormal psych classes and explained to people why we weren’t abnormal just different, and that went fine, and I was asked to do this radio program. It was on WOR radio and was called the sexual revolution. So I went in and did the interview with this guy who I thought was a real jerk, and I went home with a headache from talking to him. The next morning I go into work and my boss says, “Guess what! WOR radio was here last night and he interviewed the students at the new co-ed dormitory. I just must stay up to listen to that program.”  And I thought, “Oh shit, I’m going to be on that program.”




MS She will hear my dulcet tones talking about Daughters of Bilitis. End of the day I went up to Ms. Palmer and said, “I have something to tell you. I’m going to be on that program.” And she said, “Well, hurry up dear, I have to go to the opera.”




MS And I told her I’m going to be on the program and she says, “oh what for?”  And I said I’m representing the Daughters of Bilitis. And she says, “What’s that?  And I gritted my teeth and said, “A civil rights organization… for lesbians.” And then she gave me a big wink and said, “That’s wonderful dear. I’m so glad you young people are fighting for all these causes. Now help me on with my coat.”




MS That’s how I figured out she was gay.

Martha Shelley Interview