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Nancy Walker shares her experience with the Gay Rights Movement

Making Gay History

10:47 min | 2 years ago

Nancy Walker shares her experience with the Gay Rights Movement

"I'm Eric Marcus and this is making a history. Nancy Walker had a type she liked the brainy ones in nineteen sixty two. When Nancy was in her late twenties she met Penny Penny was smart? It is a whip wise beyond her eighteen years and she read James Joyce Nancy was impressed. The two fell in love and became life partners by the time. Nancy and Penny got involved in the gay rights movement in the Early Nineteen Seventy S. They were living in Toronto Canada where he was attending graduate school. That's where they joined the first gay organization in the Mid Seventy S. They moved back to the US to Boston. Massachusetts and Nancy soon volunteer to work at a weekly newspaper called Gay Community News. As you know from our previous episodes the Post stonewall years saw an explosion of new gay rights organizations and along with the new organizations organizations came scores of new publications the Gay Community News or CNN was among the more prominent and influential Gay Liberation Paper with the national readership readership. Nancy was in her forties when she joined she was an outspoken New Yorker and a moderate pragmatist. It's no surprise that Nancy and the younger more radical staff didn't always see eye to eye. So here's the scene. He's the winter of Nineteen eighty-nine and I've just is travel to the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston where Nancy and Penny share a classic Victorian House complete with a turret and peeling paint. They've been a couple for a long time and it shows all Nancy night. Talk Pennies on hand to offer tea chime in and help Nancy when her memory fails her. Nancy is sitting in a comfortable upholstered chair. She's dressing dark slacks and a light colored blouse which is where I clicked my microphone. I press record interview with Nancy Walker Sunday December tenth. Nineteen eighty-nine at the home of Nancy Walker in Jamaica Plains and Massachusetts interviewers. Eric Marcus tape one side one. I had gotten fed up with pretending to be straight. We'd been together nine years and we had no gay gay friends. So that's when we first went to New York and then we went back to Canada. We would just on vacation in New York went back. That must've Vince. Seventy one or seventy two. I'm not sure took us. Even though we thought we were big shots took us a long time. They get the guts to go. Remember kept finding excuses uses not to go. It's always something wrong. Finally we went and we looked around the room and so people like our grandmothers. I said what the Hell is this what we were afraid of. And that was the beginning and then we went to Canada and so I notice a little newspaper that talked about home files what they call the home of Fire Organization should. Hey let's call and see what it's about and we did. That was seventy two. We first got involved. Well he belonged to the community home. Five Association Toronto better known as Chat and what was the group's reason for being. Oh I think it was An umbrella group for everything for for counseling for social purposes. They even I suppose. Did some legal work the law had changed. The law was universally changed to a consenting adult law in Canada so they had legal advantages that we didn't have that they didn't have the socialist. Matt it's it was it. It was still terribly condemned. People were very conservative there. I remember in Canada trying so hard to get any gay gay publications to find out what was going on in the world and there was one little sleazy bookstore that carried gay papers. They had things like that but be willing to go into what was labeled and known to the public as a filthy bookstore and when we moved here there was a little note. You you know little convenience store across the street from the apartment we lived in and I walked in there and LO and behold his gay newspaper the Gay Community News. It was a quarter order so I bought this thing and I said hey look. It's out in the open. It's okay we don't have to do sleazy things to be gay and didn't know at at the time I was GONNA wind up making the newspaper and not having to pay for it. I think the reason I worked there was. I didn't want water for the news did you. Nineteen seventy six in May nineteen seventy six. What was unlikely that? What was the operation like physical kinds of people? It was unbelievable up wrong sleep flight of stairs into a big open space. That was a mess they had to. It worked very hard to get. What little materials they could? They had no money never had any money. And there were some scruffy looking people very radical people any kind of dress you can imagine. They wore a lot of the people. I knew there are now gone because of AIDS was suicide I mean the voice had long hair every kind of hair. Every kind of everything was a real mixed bag was not a luxurious place. But it was home it meant a great deal to all of us. Every view was gone. Maybe what I'm trying to say because that's how I really I felt. was that somebody else in the rest of the world not fully honest that you could be yourself and we. We didn't get along with each other at all. Even the people who had the same political persuasions didn't get along but still we knew we were among our own you know. It's like a Jewish family. You may not get along but you know this is your place in the rest of it out there is the diaspora. It's not your place. So That's how oh I felt. I don't know how other people felt about. I just know they loved it terribly. Paper had to go on no matter what and it went through hell. It went through fire. They burn the place astound once and we just moved over to a place in Cambridge. That let us use their space and we never missed a week. That paper has been continuously we published since it started in two weeks during the year. They have vacations. It's quite a remarkable achievement. It was either the end of the seventies of the beginning of the eighties and it was devastating blow. Yes it was awesome right. I guess they figured they couldn't get us any other way they were going to do. They couldn't get us that way either. What was what was the purpose of purpose? Yeah I think I think the purpose was to get out of the gate National Gay newspaper. It was the only gate national weekly. It's gone on to something. I consider me three. We need contact with each other. You know there was still gay. People who didn't know there was anybody else in the world. It's hard coming from a place like New York. Imagine that but there there are people in Kentucky and Louisiana and places like that. That didn't know there were any of the gay people. I didn't know there were gay. Men I had no idea I was so delighted the first time I met an openly gay male. I can't tell you it's a brother somebody I can love. You know there were no. I don't think about I mean I didn't I grew up in my own. Little head issue. Weiji Museum in DC N. existence. It started before I got this only three years old with a mission that she was there. A awed yes. Oh if anything was holy was G. C. N. it was a tremendous sense of mission and we loved it and protected What it meant to me was finally all my life? I said I've got this great ideas and I would like somebody to know about them so finally I got a place where I could write and other people could read it. Let's go back to the beginning of interview with you beginning questions. What were you born? Nineteen thirty five. I was born on Saint Patrick's Day and I think he's just terrific because I wound up in a city where just in the city of Boston it a holiday day on where we one flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York. My mother was born there in thirty. One Yeah you see. I could've been your mother. That's where would you been in one thousand nine hundred five hundred. BJ have any recollection of that on the day itself. I know I wasn't Merrick. That's lived and I was terrified throughout the war because I had a warped perception. Maybe not so walked what was going on with Jews but they were being put an ovens and all I could think about was being put into an oven so I was quite nervous wreck until the war was. She thought they might come to me. I'm sure if we lost the war I was going to get cooked. So that's part of the reason. I love this this country so much that whenever my my my ex colleagues would not the country I think eight roster I am a Jew. There's no way I'm going anywhere and when I met Jewish people in Canada they said you know you are so aggressively Jewish. There's there's nowhere else in the world. But in America Fed Jews are open about being Jewish and proud of it. She said he keeps you mouth shots. I want an awful way to lose his goddamn closets all over the world. I've been closeted about being Jewish. I got enough trouble so I was always all my life of conscious of being Jewish and being thankful that I was here and and being a lesbian also. I'm still thankful I'm here with all due respect to my I walked progressive friends. This country isn't the enemy. UH system works. It may be the newest country in the civilized world. But it's the greatest one in my opinion so you're right place. I can hear how you could be significant odds with your comrades-in-arms because they hadn't lived through the war. Aw they didn't have the really intense feeling that if I hadn't been in this country I probably wouldn't exist at. Aw

James Joyce Nancy Canada Nancy Walker Gay Community News New York Eric Marcus Boston Massachusetts Penny Penny Toronto United States CNN Jamaica Plain Aids Vince Fire Organization Victorian House America