Jeanne Córdova

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Jeanne Córdova
Jeanne Cordova Lammy.jpg
Born(1948-07-18)July 18, 1948
Bremerhaven, Germany
DiedJanuary 10, 2016(2016-01-10) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupationwriter / activist
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Notable worksWhen We Were Outlaws
Notable awardsLambda Literary 'Lammy Award', Publishing Triangle, Golden Crown

Jeanne Córdova (July 18, 1948 – January 10, 2016) was an American pioneer lesbian and gay rights activist, a founder of the West Coast LGBTQ movement, and a journalist and Lammy award-winning [1][2] author for her memoir When We Were Outlaws: a Memoir of Love and Revolution.[3][4]

Early years[edit]

Córdova was born in Bremerhaven, Germany in 1948,[5] the second oldest of twelve children born to a Mexican father and Irish American mother.[5] She attended high school at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, east of Los Angeles and went on to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Social Welfare. She interned in the African-American and Latino communities of Watts & East Los Angeles and earned a master's degree in Social Work at UCLA in 1972.[6]

Life and career[edit]

Córdova entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent after high school in 1966, but left in 1968 and completed her social work degree while becoming a community organizer/activist and later a journalist.[6] She began her lesbian and gay rights career as Los Angeles chapter President of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB).[7] During her DOB presidency she opened the first lesbian center in Los Angeles, in 1971.[8]:136, 190 Under Córdova the DOB chapter newsletter evolved into The Lesbian Tide[9] with Córdova serving as editor and publisher of what became "the newspaper of record for the lesbian feminist decade"[10] (1970–1980), ranked "highest in the criteria of journalistic excellence",[11] and notable as the first American magazine to use the word "lesbian" in its title.[12]

In the 1970s Córdova was a key organizer of four lesbian conferences, among them the first West Coast Lesbian Conference at Metropolitan Community Church (1971) and the first National Lesbian Conference[8]:190[13] at the University of California, Los Angeles (1973). She also sat on the Board of the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center and became the Human Rights Editor of the progressive weekly, the Los Angeles Free Press (1973–1976).

Córdova was elected as a delegate to the first National Women's Conference for International Women's Year in Houston[14] (1977), where she was a moving force behind the passage of the lesbian affirmative action resolution.[15] She was Southern California media director of the ballot campaign to defeat the anti-gay Proposition 6 Briggs Initiative[13] 1978), which sought to purge lesbian and gay teachers from California's public schools. She went on to be the founder of the National Lesbian Feminist Organization's first convention[15] (1978), and president of the Stonewall Democratic Club (1979–1981).

In the 1980s Córdova helped found the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Democratic Party and served as one of thirty openly lesbian delegates to the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City.[16] She was a founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Press Association (1983) and a founding board member of the Connexxus Women's Center/Centro de Mujeres (1984–1988). She also worked as media director for STOP 64, a campaign that defeated the statewide California Proposition 64 (1986) La Rouche AIDS quarantine measure.[17]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Córdova published the Community Yellow Pages,[18] which became the first, and later the nation's largest LGBT business directory (1981–1999). She also published the New Age Telephone Book[19] (1987–1992) and a queer cultural magazine, Square Peg Magazine (1992–94). In 1995 she was elected Board President of ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, and co-founded the Lesbian Legacy Collection at the ONE Archives with Yolanda Retter.

In 1999, Córdova sold the Community Yellow Pages and went to live for eight years in Todos Santos, BCS Mexico. She and Lynn Harris Ballen co-founded a non-profit organization for economic justice, The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, AC[20] and Córdova served as its first president until 2007.

Returning to Los Angeles, Córdova and Ballen co-founded LEX – The Lesbian Exploratorium which sponsored the art and history exhibit Genderplay in Lesbian Culture [21] (2009) and created the Lesbian Legacy Wall at ONE Archives[22] (2009). Córdova then organized and chaired the west coast Butch Voices Los Angeles 2010 Conference.[23][24]

Writing and journalism[edit]


  • When We Were Outlaws; A Memoir of Love & Revolution (2011) Spinsters Ink Books. ISBN 9781935226512
  • Kicking the Habit: A Lesbian Nun Story (1990) Multiple Dimensions. ISBN 9780962508004
  • Sexism: It's A Nasty Affair (1974) New Way Books.


  • "Anita Bryant's Anti-Gay Crusade" in The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism, ed. Adrian Brooks, Cleis Press (2015) ISBN 9781627781237
  • "Marriage Throws A Monkey Wrench" in Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity, ed. Carter Sickels, Ooligan Press (2015) ISBN 1932010750
  • "The New Politics of Butch" in Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, ed. Ivan Coyote & Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press (2011)- Lammy finalist. ISBN 9781551523972
  • "A Tale of Two Hangouts: Gay & Lesbian Civil Wars in the '70s" in Love, West Hollywood, ed. Chris Freeman & James J. Berg, Alyson Books (2008) – Lammy finalist. ISBN 9781593500559
  • "Cheap Gold: a seduction" in Hot & Bothered 2, ed. Karen Tulchinsky. Arsenal Pulp Press (1999) ISBN 978-1551520681
  • "Camp Fires" in On My Honor, Lesbian Girl Scouts, ed. Nancy Manahan. Madwoman Press (San Francisco) (1997) ISBN 978-1886231023
  • "A Tale of Two Brothers" in Tomboys!:Tales of Dyke Derring-Do, ed. Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher. Alyson Publications (1995) ISBN 9781555832858
  • "The Mantra of Orgasm" in Sexy & Spiritual/Viva Arts Quarterly- A journal of Latino(a) gay and lesbian writers. (1994)
  • "Conversation With A Gentleman Butch" in Dagger: On Butch Women, ed. Lily Burana & Roxxie. Cleis Press (1994) ISBN 978-0939416820
  • "Butches, Lies & Feminism." In Persistent Desire: A Femme Butch Reader, ed. Joan Nestle. Alyson Publications. (1992) – Lammy Award winner. ISBN 978-1555831905
  • "The Intimate is Transformational" in Common Lives/Lesbian Lives, a lesbian quarterly. (1990)
  • "My Immaculate Heart" in Lesbian Nuns: Breaking the Silence, ed. Nancy Manahan & Rosemary Curb. Naiad Press, reprinted by Warner Books. (1985) – Lammy Award winner. ISBN 978-1935226635
  • "Trauma in the Heterosexual Zone" in The Lesbian Path. Edited by Peg Cruikshank. Naiad Press. (1980) ISBN 978-0912516967
  • "How To Come Out Without Being Thrown Out" and "What's A Dyke To Do?" in After You're Out, ed. Karla Jay & Allen Young. Pyramid Books. (1975) ISBN 978-0515042634


  • American Herald newspaper, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, (2000–2002)
  • ICON newspaper, San Francisco. (1995–1998)
  • Los Angeles Village View, 1995
  • The Advocate (1974–1976)
  • Los Angeles Free Press, Columnist and Human Rights Editor (1973–1976).
  • Lesbian Tide, News Editor, Editor in Chief, 1971–1980

News and feature stories[edit]

News and feature stories by Córdova been published in:The Guardian,The Nation, The Edge, Frontiers in LA, OUT! (New York City), the Washington Blade (D.C.), Orange County Blade, Philadelphia Gay News, The Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco), Seattle Gay News, The Body Politic (Boston), The Lesbian News (L.A.), Ten Percent Magazine (San Francisco), The Los Angeles Free Press, The Advocate, The Los Angeles Village View, ICON, and The Lesbian Tide.

Personal life[edit]

Córdova's life partner was Lynn Harris Ballen, a feminist radio journalist[25] and the daughter of South African freedom fighter Frederick John Harris. They lived, wrote, and created history-themed lesbian feminist cultural events, exhibits and literature in the Hollywood Hills, California.[26]

Córdova died of metastatic colon cancer on January 10, 2016, at the age of 67.[27]

Awards and keynotes[edit]

  • Etheridge award – WeHo Dyke March, June 2015 [28]
  • Honored in Wells Fargo LGBT history mural, West Hollywood (unveiled June 5, 2014) [29]
  • Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement Award,[30] Christopher Street West Los Angeles LGBT Pride (2009)
  • Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2010
  • Speaker, Mexico City Book Fair/Feria del Libro del Zocalo de la Ciudad de Mexico[31] (2006)
  • Cultural Hero Visibility Award, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives (2003)
  • Rainbow Key Award for lifetime community service, City of West Hollywood (2002)
  • Recognition Award "for pioneering work on behalf of gay and lesbian rights". Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (1998)
  • Pioneer of the Movement award (for role in co-founding the gay civil rights movement on the West Coast in the 1970s.) Queer Frontiers Conference, University of Southern California. )[32] (1995)
  • Uncommon Women: selected as a notable woman, compiled by the Legacy Foundation NY. (1994)
  • Community Recognition Award, Southern California Women for Understanding for founding and publishing Community Yellow Pages, an LA community institution (1983)
  • Community Service Award, Gay Academic Union (1981)
  • First open lesbian to appear in Who's Who in America (1978–79)
  • Keynote address Butch Voices conference 2009
  • Keynote address Stonewall Book Awards 2012

Archival sources[edit]

Detailed records of Córdova's activist accomplishments – including records of The Lesbian Tide – are preserved in the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California. The collection, including an extensive photo collection, is fully processed and available for use by researchers. The Online Archive of California (a project of the California Digital Library) offers the complete finding aid.


  1. ^ Lambda Literary Foundation. "24th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced in New York".
  2. ^ Grindley, Lucas. "The Next Great LGBT Writers: Lambda Announces This Year's Winners". The Advocate.
  3. ^ The Publishing Triangle. "Winners Announced for 2011's Best Lesbian and Gay Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Debut Fiction".
  4. ^ Golden Crown Literary Society. "Award Winners for Short Story / Essay / Collections".
  5. ^ a b Stein, Mark (2004). Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 259. ISBN 9780684312613.
  6. ^ a b "One National Gay & Lesbian Archives" (PDF).
  7. ^ Gallo, Marcia M. (2007). Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. Seal Press. pp. 136, 171. ISBN 9781580052528.
  8. ^ a b Lillian Faderman, Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L. A.: A History of Social Vagrants, Hollywood Rejects, And Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465022885.
  9. ^ Potter, Clare (1986). The Lesbian Periodicals Index. Naiad Press. ISBN 9780930044749.
  10. ^ Stein, Marc (2004). Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 259–260. ISBN 9780684312613.
  11. ^ Vida, Ginny (1978). Our right to love: a lesbian resource book. Prentice-Hall/National Gay Task Force. pp. 246–247. ISBN 9780136444015.
  12. ^ Miller, By Meredith. Historical Dictionary of Lesbian Literature.
  13. ^ a b Dudley Clendinen,, Adam Nagourney (2001). Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. Simon and Schuster. pp. 164–167, 368. ISBN 9780684867434.
  14. ^ "96 IWY Delegates for State Named". Los Angeles Times. July 12, 1977.
  15. ^ a b Streitmatter, Roger (1995). Unspeakable: The Rise of Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Faber & Faber. p. 225. ISBN 9780571198733.
  16. ^ Handel, By Linda. Now that You're Out of the Closet: What about the Rest of the House?.
  17. ^ "LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project: Jeanne Cordova, Tape 1 of 1, October 27, 1988". LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project.
  18. ^ Johnson, Paul H. "Specialized Directories Business Is Looking Up". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Citron, Alan (Dec 7, 1988). "Find Guru of Your Dreams: Phonebook for a New Age". The Bulletin / Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ "The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, AC". Palapa Society.
  21. ^ Beebe, Rachel. "Getting Playful With Gender".
  22. ^ Kregloe, Karman. ""Our Lives on the Page" Celebrates 60 Years of Lesbian Publications". After Ellen. Archived from the original on 2009-08-15.
  23. ^ Watson, Julia. "BVLA 2010 Chair Jeanne "JR" Cordova Chats with Velvetpark". Velvetpark Media.
  24. ^ Dahl, Elizabeth. "Addressing the "Butch" Stigma". West Hollywood Patch.
  25. ^ "Feminist Magazine KPFK".
  26. ^ "Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2010 (page 5)". Velvetpark Media.
  27. ^ "Lesbian Pioneer Jeanne Cordova Dies at 67". Archived from the original on 2016-02-04.
  28. ^ Archived from the original on 2016-07-23. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ Ocamb, Karen. "Wells Fargo Celebrates L.A. LGBT Legends". Frontiers Newsmagazine.
  30. ^ Christopher Street West/LA Pride. "2009 Christopher Street West Los Angeles LGBT Pride Honorees". Archived from the original on 2013-11-14.
  31. ^ Johnson, Reed. "Up Against a Wall". Los Angeles Times.
  32. ^ "Queer Frontiers Conference".

External links[edit]