Lisa Ben

Last updated
Lisa Ben
Edythe Eyde.jpg
Edythe D. Eyde

(1921-11-07)November 7, 1921 [1]
DiedDecember 22, 2015 (aged 94)
Other namesLisa Ben, Tigrina
Occupation(s)Editor, writer
Known forLesbian rights activist
Publisher, Vice Versa magazine

Edythe D. Eyde (November 7, 1921 [1] December 22, 2015) better known by her pen name Lisa Ben, was an American editor, author, active fantasy-fiction fan and fanzine contributor (often using the name Tigrina in these activities), and songwriter. She created the first known lesbian publication in North America, Vice Versa . Ben produced the magazine for a year and distributed it locally in Los Angeles, California, in the late 1940s. She was also active in lesbian bars as a musician in the years following her involvement with Vice Versa. Eyde has been recognized as a pioneer in the LGBT movement.


Early life

Eyde was born in San Francisco in 1921 and grew up an only child on an apricot ranch in Fremont Township, California. Her father, Oscar E. Eyde (1888–1968) was a Norwegian-born insurance agent and her mother, the former Olive Elizabeth Colegrove (1888–1953), was a housewife. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Her father also served in civilian defense after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. [8]

She studied violin for eight years. [9]

Eyde developed her first crush on another girl when she was in high school, [10] although she did not identify as lesbian until several years later. [11] When her crush broke off the relationship, a devastated Eyde spoke with her mother. Her mother's adverse reaction convinced Eyde not to discuss her personal or romantic life with her parents again. [12] After attending college for two years, Eyde acquiesced to her parents' demands and took a secretarial course in 1942. After three years of saving her money, she defied her parents and moved, first to Palo Alto, [12] and then to Los Angeles in 1945. [9]

Science fiction fandom

She became active in science fiction fandom (where she was often known as "Tigrina", although her real name was no secret) in early 1941, first through contact with Forrest J. Ackerman (with whom she remained friends for decades) and science fiction fanzines, to which she contributed cartoons and letters of comment. She was an early and active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), of which she would eventually become secretary after her move to Los Angeles. During this period she acquired some notoriety within fandom due to her proclamation of an interest in Satanism, which drew comments from Henry Kuttner and Wilson Tucker, among others. [13]

Vice Versa

Eyde first identified as a lesbian in 1946, [9] when she noticed that many of the other women in her apartment building did not spend time talking about boyfriends and breakups. One of the women asked Eyde if she was gay, and Eyde realized that she was. [14] She began frequenting lesbian bars with her new friends and, while she was never directly caught up in one of the frequent police raids on such bars, was on one occasion questioned by police. [15] Eyde began publishing Vice Versa in 1947 as a way of expanding her social circle. "I was by myself, and I wanted to be able to meet others like me. I couldn't go down the street saying 'I'm looking for lesbian friends'...[Vice Versa] gave me a way of reaching out to other gay gals—a way of getting to know other gals....when I had something to hand out and when I tried to talk girls into writing for my magazine, I no longer had any trouble going up to new people." [16]

While working as a secretary at RKO Studios, her boss advised her that there would not be a lot of work for her to do but he wanted her to look busy, so Eyde typed each issue of the magazine twice through with five carbon copies, making a total of 12 copies of each issue (a technique which had been used for science fiction fanzines, with which she had considerable experience). She initially mailed three copies to friends and distributed the rest by hand, particularly at the If Club, one of Los Angeles' first lesbian bars. [17] encouraging her readers to pass their copies along to friends rather than throwing them away. [18] Eyde believes that several dozen people read each copy. Although scrupulous about avoiding material that could be considered "dirty" or risqué, she stopped mailing copies after a friend advised her that she could be arrested for sending obscene material through the mail. Publications addressing homosexuality were automatically deemed obscene under the Comstock Act until 1958. [19]

Eyde published nine issues of Vice Versa, from June 1947 through February 1948. She ceased publication after RKO was sold, forcing her to change jobs. Her new assignment left her no free time at work to type the magazine. She had also accomplished her goal of increasing her circle of friends, and she wanted to spend more time enjoying her new lifestyle rather than writing about it. [20] Despite the short run of the magazine, Eyde is credited with "set[ting] the agenda that has dominated lesbian and gay journalism for fifty years [by] introduc[ing] many of the characteristics that would define the myriad publications that would follow". [9]

In the 1950s, Eyde began writing for The Ladder , the first nationally-distributed lesbian magazine. The Ladder was published by early lesbian group the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), of which she was a member. It was in writing for The Ladder that she began writing under the pseudonym "Lisa Ben", an anagram of "lesbian", when her first choice, "Ima Spinster", was rejected. [21] The Ladder also reprinted material from Vice Versa.


Eyde resumed her earlier interest in music and began writing and performing gay-themed parodies of popular songs at a local gay club called The Flamingo. For example, "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" became "I'm gonna sit right down and write my butch a letter". [22] She was inspired to write her songs out of a determination to create gay entertainment that was neither profane nor demeaning to gay people, particularly after being discouraged by the self-deprecating jokes and songs made by performers in gay clubs. [23] [24] The Daughters of Bilitis released a single of Eyde, as "Lisa Ben", as a fundraiser. The record included her own composition, "Cruisin' Down the Boulevard" with a queer version of "Frankie and Johnny" on the flip side. DOB billed Eyde as "the first gay folk singer". [25] Her music has appeared on the soundtracks of several documentary films.

Later life

At age 36, Eyde entered into her first and only long-term relationship. They lived together for three years until her partner lost all of their money gambling. Since then she dated casually but was not interested in pursuing another serious relationship. [26] In 1972, Eyde as "Lisa Ben" was honored by ONE, Inc. as "the father [sic] of the homophile movement" for her creation of Vice Versa. [27] She appeared in the 1984 documentary Before Stonewall , discussing her life and work and performing several of her parody songs. Eyde continued to work in a variety of secretarial positions until retiring. Eyde was honored in 1997 as a founder of the Los Angeles LGBT community. [26] In 2010 the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association inducted Eyde into its Hall of Fame. [28]

Eyde lived in Burbank, California. [29] Although her real name is known, Eyde preferred to be known under her pseudonym, saying that she feared being discovered by people who would "not understand". [4] Eyde died on December 22, 2015, at the age of 94. At the time, her death went unnoticed and no obituaries were published. [30]


Despite the short run of her magazine Vice Versa, Eyde is credited with "set[ting] the agenda that has dominated lesbian and gay journalism for fifty years [by] introduc[ing] many of the characteristics that would define the myriad publications that would follow". [9] While few copies of her magazine survive, a complete set can be found at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles.

The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives acquired Eyde’s personal collection of papers and photographs in 2015. [31]

Season 1, episode 3 of the podcast Making Gay History is about her, [32] and a bonus episode of that podcast features her songs. [33]

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Lisa Ben Award for Achievement in Features Coverage is "designed to honor a journalist whose body of work is distinguished by insight and impact through engaging features on LGBTQ individuals, the LGBTQ community or LGBTQ issues." [34]


  1. 1 2 3 4 "California Birth Index, 1905–1995 for Edythe D. Eyde [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. 2005. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  2. "Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930) [database on-line], Fremont Township, Santa Clara County, California, Enumeration District: 43-11, Page: 11A, Lines: 2–5, household of Oscar E. Eyde". United States: The Generations Network. 1930-04-22. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  3. "Sixteenth Census of the United States (1940) [database on-line], Fremont Township, Santa Clara County, California, Enumeration District: 43-14, Page: 21B, Lines: 44–46, household of Oscar E. Eyde". United States: The Generations Network. 1940-04-01. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  4. 1 2 Bullough, p. 63
  5. "Social Security Death Index for Oscar E. Eyde [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  6. "California Death Index, 1940–1997 for Oscar E. Eyde [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  7. "California Death Index, 1940–1997 for Olive Elizabeth Eyde [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  8. Lamothe, Dan. "The lost World War II letters of Edythe Eyde, who started America's first lesbian publication". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Streitmatter, p. 2
  10. Marcus, p. 5
  11. Marcus, p. 6
  12. 1 2 Bullough, p. 64
  13. Hansen, Rob. "Tigrina", in "LASFS" section of Then science fiction fandom archive; n.d.
  14. Marcus, pp.6–7
  15. Marcus, p. 8
  16. quoted in Streitmatter, pp. 2–3
  17. Faderman, Lillian. "Ben, Lisa." Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History in America . Ed. Marc Stein. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004. 130-131. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.
  18. Brandt, p. 133
  19. Murdoch and Price, p. 47
  20. Gallo, p. xxxiv
  21. Hogan and Hudson, p. 79
  22. quoted in Marcus, p. 13
  23. Aldrich and Wotherspoon, p. 34
  24. Brandt, p. 137
  25. Fletcher, p. 105
  26. 1 2 Bullough, p. 65
  27. Humphreys, p. 49
  28. "Lisa Ben". NLGJA. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  29. Aldrich and Wotherspoon, p. 35
  30. "Episode 03 — Edythe Eyde". Making Gay History. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  31. "2015 ONE Archives Annual Report" (PDF). 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  32. "Season One". Making Gay History. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  33. "Bonus Episodes". Making Gay History. 2018-06-22. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  34. "Lisa Ben Award for Achievement in Features Coverage". NLGJA. Retrieved 2019-06-03.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mattachine Society</span> American gay male advocacy group

The Mattachine Society, founded in 1950, was an early national gay rights organization in the United States, preceded by several covert and open organizations, such as Chicago's Society for Human Rights. Communist and labor activist Harry Hay formed the group with a collection of male friends in Los Angeles to protect and improve the rights of gay men. Branches formed in other cities, and by 1961 the Society had splintered into regional groups.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon</span> American feminists and gay-rights activists

Dorothy Louise Taliaferro "Del" Martin and Phyllis Ann Lyon were an American lesbian couple based in San Francisco who were known as feminist and gay-rights activists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daughters of Bilitis</span> First American lesbian civil rights group

The Daughters of Bilitis, also called the DOB or the Daughters, was the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. The organization, formed in San Francisco in 1955, was initially conceived as a secret social club, an alternative to lesbian bars, which were subject to raids and police harassment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Homophile movement</span> Collective term for the LGBT organisations of the 1950-60s

The homophile movement is a collective term for the main organisations and publications supporting and representing sexual minorities in the 1950s to 1960s around the world. The name comes from the term homophile, which was commonly used by these organisations. At least some of these organisations are considered to have been more cautious than both earlier and later LGBT organisations; in the U.S., the nationwide coalition of homophile groups disbanded after older members clashed with younger members who had become more radical after the Stonewall riots of 1969.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ONE, Inc.</span> American gay rights organization

One, Inc., or One Incorporated, was one of the first gay rights organizations in the United States, founded in 1952.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Troy Perry</span> American activist and clergy

Troy Deroy Perry Jr is an American cleric and the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, with a ministry with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, in Los Angeles on October 6, 1968.

<i>The Ladder</i> (magazine) First nationally distributed lesbian publication in the US (1956–1972)

The Ladder was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the United States. Published from 1956 to 1972, The Ladder was the primary monthly publication and method of communication for the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian organization in the US. It was supported by ONE, Inc. and the Mattachine Society, with whom the DOB retained friendly relations. The name of the magazine was derived from the artwork on its first cover, simple line drawings showing figures moving towards a ladder that disappeared into the clouds.

The Society for Human Rights was an American gay-rights organization established in Chicago in 1924. Society founder Henry Gerber was inspired to create it by the work of German doctor Magnus Hirschfeld and the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and by the organisation Bund für Menschenrecht by Friedrich Radszuweit and Karl Schulz in Berlin. It was the first recognized gay rights organization in the United States, having received a charter from the state of Illinois, and produced the first American publication for homosexuals, Friendship and Freedom. A few months after being chartered, the group ceased to exist in the wake of the arrest of several of the Society's members. Despite its short existence and small size, the Society has been recognized as a precursor to the modern gay liberation movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barbara Gittings</span> Librarian, LGBT rights activist (1932–2007)

Barbara Gittings was a prominent American activist for LGBT equality. She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) from 1958 to 1963, edited the national DOB magazine The Ladder from 1963 to 1966, and worked closely with Frank Kameny in the 1960s on the first picket lines that brought attention to the ban on employment of gay people by the largest employer in the US at that time: the United States government. Her early experiences with trying to learn more about lesbianism fueled her lifetime work with libraries. In the 1970s, Gittings was most involved in the American Library Association, especially its gay caucus, the first such in a professional organization, in order to promote positive literature about homosexuality in libraries. She was a part of the movement to get the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality as a mental illness in 1972. Her self-described life mission was to tear away the "shroud of invisibility" related to homosexuality, which had theretofore been associated with crime and mental illness.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Diane Anderson-Minshall</span> American journalist (born 1968)

Diane Anderson-Minshall is an American journalist and author best known for writing about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender subjects. She is the first female CEO of Pride Media. She is also the editorial director of The Advocate and Chill magazines, the editor-in-chief of HIV Plus magazine, while still contributing editor to OutTraveler. Diane co-authored the 2014 memoir Queerly Beloved about her relationship with her husband Jacob Anderson-Minshall throughout his gender transition.

This is a list of notable events in the history of LGBT rights that took place worldwide in the 1950s.

<i>Vice Versa</i> (magazine) American lesbian magazine (1947–1948)

Vice Versa (1947–1948), subtitled "America's Gayest Magazine", is the earliest known U.S. periodical published especially for lesbians. Its mission was to express lesbian emotion within the bounds of good taste.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jeanne Córdova</span> German writer

Jeanne Córdova was an American trailblazer of the lesbian and gay rights movement, founder of The Lesbian Tide, and a founder of the West Coast LGBT movement. Córdova was a second-wave feminist lesbian activist and proud butch.

<i>Lesbian Tide</i> Periodical

The Lesbian Tide (1971–1980) was a lesbian periodical published in the United States by the Los Angeles chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. It was the first lesbian periodical in the US to reach a national audience and the first US magazine to use the word "lesbian" in the title.

The following is a timeline of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) journalism history.

Helen Jane "Sandy" Sandoz, also known by her pseudonym Helen Sanders, was an American lesbian rights activist and writer. She was involved in the Daughters of Bilitis and its official publication, The Ladder, from 1956 to 1970.

Stella Rush, also known by her pen name Sten Russell, was an American journalist and LGBT rights activist. She was a regular reporter for the gay rights magazine ONE (1954–1961) and the lesbian rights magazine The Ladder (1957–1968).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mildred J. Berryman</span> LGBT researcher in early 1900s Utah

Mildred Jessie Berryman, who went by "Berry", was an early 20th century American pioneering researcher of lesbian and gay community in post-WWI Utah. She was also a photographer, a mineral merchant, and a manufacturing business co-owner with her girlfriend of over three decades.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shirley Willer</span> American feminist and activist

Shirley Willer was an American feminist and activist. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Willer joined the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in the 1950s and became the president of the organization a few years after. Because of her energy and dedication, she helped to revolutionize the homophile movement in the 1960s and helped pave the way for future civil rights advancements for the gay community.

<i>Making Gay History</i> LGBT history podcast

Making Gay History is an oral history podcast on the subject of LGBT history, featuring trailblazers, activists, and allies. Most episodes draw on the three-decade-old audio archive of rare interviews conducted by the podcast's founder and host Eric Marcus in the late 1980s and 1990s.