top of page

Further Reading and Listening

Phyllis Lyon

Phyllis Ann Lyon was born November 10, 1924, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised primarily in Northern California. She graduated from Sacramento Senior High School in 1943 and went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1946. She later (1976) earned a Doctor of Education in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS).

Lyon served as a police-beat reporter in Fresno and as a reporter at the Chico Enterprise-Record during the 1940s. In the 1950s she served on the editorial staff at two building trades magazines in Seattle. After returning to San Francisco in 1953, Lyon worked at Glide Memorial Church with Reverend Cecil Williams until 1987. She served as a professor at IASHS from 1976-1987. She also co-founded the National Sex Forum and served as associate director and then co-director for 19 years.


Lyon and Martin met in Seattle in 1950 and the two became lovers in 1952. The couple relocated to San Francisco and moved into a flat on Castro Street together on Valentine’s Day 1953. They bought their lifelong home in Noe Valley in 1955. 


In 1964, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual launched with 15 national religious leaders and 15 lesbians and gay men, including Lyon and Martin. Their mission was to persuade churches to open their congregations to lesbians and gay men and to end police harassment of gays and lesbians and overturn the laws that criminalized homosexual behavior.  


Lesbian/Woman, Martin and Lyons’ landmark book that described lesbian lives in a positive way—virtually unknown at the time—was published in 1972, and updated and expanded in 1983 and 1991. 

The Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the first lesbian/gay political club in the United States, started in 1971, and Martin and Lyon were among the organizers. 


Lyon and Martin were among the first out lesbians to join the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1967, insisting on the couple's membership rate. They helped lead efforts at the 1971 and 1973 NOW conventions to adopt resolutions that linked the oppression of lesbians with feminist issues. 


San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed Lyon to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) in 1976, and she served as Chair in 1982-1983. 


Lyon and Martin were elected as California delegates to the National Women’s Conference, held in Houston in Nov. 1977. There they fought passionately for the passage of a resolution on lesbian rights.

Among the many awards Martin and Lyon received was the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s highest honor, the Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award, which they received in 1990. 

In 1994, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society in San Francisco acquired the extensive papers of Lyon and Martin, including the complete records of the Daughters of Bilitis, and The Ladder.

In 1995, then Congresswoman, now Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi appointed Lyon as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, where she and Martin strongly advocated for LGBTQ elders. 


As part of their 50th anniversary celebration in 2003, Martin and Lyon attended the premiere of the award-winning documentary film, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Where you can find No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon:

Frameline: purchase DVD for home or educational use. [With links to Amazon Prime and Vimeo.]

In 2006, Phyllis and Del were featured in the book Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Birth of the Lesbian Rights Movement by Marcia M Gallo.

bottom of page