NYPL Remembers Activist Kay Lahusen

By NYPL Staff
May 26, 2021

Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen. Philadelphia, PA. NYPL Digital Collections.

The New York Public Library is saddened to hear about the passing of Katherine "Kay" Lahusen, whose activism, photography, and writing helped to bring LGBTQ+ rights to the forefront of society, shining a light on the vibrant and fulfilling lives of lesbians and highlighting queer subcultures. Lahusen's groundbreaking work and papers are held in our collection, and were foundational to our 2019 exhibition, Love and Resistance: Stonewall 50.

Together with Barbara Gittings, her longtime partner in life and activist, Kay Lahusen was an active member of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national organization for lesbians in the United States. As arts editor of The Ladder, the international journal of the Daughters of Bilitis, she transformed the visual identity of the publication, featuring bold images of lesbians leading happy and fulfilling lives. After the Stonewall Riots, she became a photojournalist for the gay press, amassing an archive of almost a thousand photographs that are now in The New York Public Library’s collection. Her documentation of LGBTQ+ activism, including transgender activists like Sylvia Rivera and leather and fetish activists, offers a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ liberation movements. We are privileged to steward her collections and remember her legacy.

Lige Clarke, Barbara Gittings, Kay Tobin Lahusen, and Jack Nichols, NYPL Digital Collections.