[Gay Ephemera] [Mattachine Society]

Mattachine Society: Minutes Of Coordinating Council Meeting

N.p. [San Francisco] N.p. 1953

11 pp., typed (rectos only) and mimeographed, three on white paper and eight on yellow. Hole-punched in three places in left margin. White pages browned, the first of the yellow pages (the Treasurer's report) browned at edges.

The Mattachine Society was the offspring of one of the first national Gay Rights organisations in the United States. It started life in 1950 as the Mattachine Foundation, and was based in Los Angeles. It moved to San Francisco and became the Mattachine Society in April, 1953, but wasn't formally chartered until March the following year. These minutes, of a meeting of the Coordinating Council held on 18 December 1953, are an invaluable record of the organisation's early strategy. They also paint a humbling picture of four very brave men who refused to be closeted, and who chose instead to risk imprisonment, and possibly death, doing the right thing.
The minutes were typed on an old typewriter whose 'e' had died: throughout, all lower case e's are typed as o's. (Everything here attests to tiny means, coupled to a giant will). The 'mooting' was called to order at 8.30 p.m. Present were Kon (probably not 'Ken', but Konrad Stevens, one of the organisation's founders), Johnny, Don (possibly Den) and Frank. (Where possible, surnames were not committed to paper). The Treasurer's report shows $379.97 in the bank. Motions for discussion include (e's restored):

'-- To adopt Charter. Adopted.
-- That Chairman be authorized to spend up to $50.00 for Charters. Carried.
-- To buy Wilson-Gay tape recorder [to record meetings] and have it repaired. Carried.
-- That we buy two large roles [sic] of tape. Carried.
-- That Don be authorized through Remington-Rand to purchase a used Typewriter. Carried.'

There then follows a 3-page discussion document about editorial and approval policy for literature disseminated by the Society -- administrative, public and internal -- and how the authors of such literature can be kept safe. Recommendations include (e's restored):

'1. Omit the use of proper names ... pen-names are considered ill-advised, because use of such names creates a question in the minds of others. Such questions as, "Why doesn't the writer use his own name? What is the Society up to if false names must be used?"

2. Omit use of addresses and telephone numbers of individuals ... because these listings destroy anonymity. ...

3. ... double-meaning innuendos and the like, while entertaining and interesting to readers within the Society, really have no valid place in the newsletters of an organisation such as the Mattachine Society. ... A gay remark in a newsletter can kill the good effect of the remainder of its serious content.

4. Reference which associate[s] any Society activity with a public bar (and especially so-called gay bars) should be omitted. ... [A]n event to be held in such a place can be pinpointed with the street address instead of the name, because the street addresses of such places are generally unfamiliar to others.

5. ...Minimize use of words referring to sexual activity, and never imply ... that the Society advocates any sexual activity whatever. There is a great deal of difference between sex activity and sexual freedom as advocated in the preamble to the Constitution.'

A 2-page Public Relations Contact Report follows, giving details of discussions between the Society and John O'Brien of the San Francisco Mental Health Society, who was sympathetic to the cause. The report also discusses affiliation to the American Civil Liberties Union, and how this might be achieved without attracting accusations of Leftism.

The minutes end with a draft charter, to be used when new branches established themselves, and a Table of Organization, showing the Coordinating Council's chain of command.

The ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, based in Los Angeles, holds an extensive archive of the paperwork -- including minutes -- generated by the Mattachine Society, much of it being from the private collection of Harold Call, whose name is one of the few to appear in full here. (He is the signatory to the editorial discussion document). It is likely that a copy of these minutes is to be found there. But we have never seen another copy offered for sale, and, given the Society's need for secrecy, there would have been very few copies printed. It's not fanciful to suggest that this may be the only copy left in public circulation.

A fascinating, moving document, placing the reader at the very birth of the American gay rights movement.

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