Lesbian Herstory Archives AudioVisual Collections

LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project: Martha Shelley, 1989


LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project: Martha Shelley, 1989


Born Martha Altman in 1943, Martha Shelley was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Shelley graduated from City College in 1965, worked as a clerk and a typesetter until the mid-1980s, and is now a writer and medical/legal researcher for disability cases. After becoming involved in the Anti-Vietnam War Movement in the 1960s, she began attending meetings of the Daughters of Bilitis; she later became president of the New York City chapter. Because of FBI surveillance, members of the DOB were encouraged to take aliases; Altman took Shelley as a surname.

Inspired by the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, of which she was a witness, Shelley proposed and participated in a protest march cosponsored by DOB. She was also an early and influential member of the Gay Liberation Front, Radicalesbians, and RAT newspaper. Shelley produced the radio show Lesbian nation on New York's WBAI radio station. After moving to Oakland, California in 1974, she was involved with the Women's Press Collective where she worked with Judy Grahn to produce Crossing the DMZ, In other words, Lesbians speak out and other books. Her poetry has appeared in Ms. magazine, 'Sunbury, The bright Medusa, We become new and other periodicals.

Collection Items

  • martha_shelley.jpg

    Martha Shelley is interviewed in New York in 1989. She talks about being a lesbian in New York from the 1960s, the negative views of lesbians portrayed by psychologists, the bar scene, roles and her use of a pseudonym. She talks about finding DOB, the meetings and discussions that took place, and her contributions to the Ladder. She talks about Jean Powers and other members of DOB and describes the members as mixed race, working class, couples and singles. She also talks about her political activism in terms of DOB, peace, civil rights and the Stonewall Riots, including the marches she was involved in and the speeches she made.

Collection Tree