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.
  • Activist
  • Publisher
  • Journalist
  • Writer
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Notable works
  • When We Were Outlaws
  • The Lesbian Tide
  • Square Peg Magazine
  • Community Yellow Pages
Notable awards
SpouseLynn Harris Ballen

Jeanne Córdova (July 18, 1948 – January 10, 2016) was an American trailblazer of the lesbian and gay rights movement, founder of The Lesbian Tide, and a founder of the West Coast LGBT movement. Córdova was a second-wave feminist lesbian activist and proud butch.[1][2][3][4]

She was a prolific writer, journalist, and businesswoman, and a Lambda Literary, Publishing Triangle and Goldie Award winning author for her 2011 memoir When We Were Outlaws: a Memoir of Love and Revolution.[5][6][7][8][9] In honor of her memory, Lambda Literary Foundation created the "Jeanne Córdova Words Scholarship" in 2016,[10] and the Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction in 2017.[11]

Early years[edit]

Córdova was born in Bremerhaven, Germany in 1948,[12] the second oldest of twelve children born to a Mexican father and Irish-American mother.[12] She attended high school at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, east of Los Angeles and went on to California State University, Los Angeles and 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.[13]

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.[13] She began her lesbian and gay rights career as Los Angeles chapter President of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB).[14] During her DOB presidency she opened the first lesbian center in Los Angeles, in 1971.[15]: 136, 190  Under Córdova the DOB chapter newsletter evolved into The Lesbian Tide (1970–1980),[16] with Córdova serving as editor and publisher of what became "the newspaper of record for the lesbian feminist decade".[17] The publication ranked "highest in the criteria of journalistic excellence".[18]

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[15]: 190 [19] 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[20] (1977), where she was a moving force behind the passage of the lesbian affirmative action resolution.[21] She was Southern California media director of the campaign to defeat the anti-gay ballot Proposition 6 Briggs Initiative (1978),[19] 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 (1978),[21] and president of the Stonewall Democratic Club (1979–1981).[22]

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.[23] She was a founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Press Association (1983) and a founding board member of Los Angeles lesbian community center Connexxus Women's Center/Centro de Mujeres (1984–1988).[24] She also worked as media director for STOP 64, the campaign to defeat the 1986 California Proposition 64 AIDS quarantine measure by Lyndon LaRouche.[25]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Córdova founded and published the Community Yellow Pages (1981–1999),[26] the first, and later the nation's largest, LGBT business directory; the New Age Telephone Book (1987–1992);[27] and Square Peg Magazine (1992–94), covering queer culture and literature.[28] 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 her spouse, Lynn Harris Ballen,[28] co-founded a non-profit organization for economic justice, The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, AC,[29] 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[30] (2009) and created the Lesbian Legacy Wall at ONE Archives[31] (2009). Córdova then organized and chaired the 2010 Butch Voices Los Angeles Conference.[32][33]

Her memoir When We Were Outlaws; A Memoir of Love & Revolution received the 2012 Lambda Literary Award ("Lammy") for best "Lesbian Memoir/Biography",[5] Golden Crown Literary Society Award ("Goldie") for best "Short Story/Essay/Collections (Non-Erotica)".,[8] American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards, 2013 - Honor, and Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Non-fiction, 2012 Publishing Triangle.[34]

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.[35]


  • "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,[28] a feminist radio journalist [36] and the daughter of South African freedom fighter Frederick John Harris. They lived in the Hollywood Hills, California and Todos Santos, BCS Mexico, and created various media projects together - including Square Peg Magazine[37] and history-themed lesbian feminist cultural events, exhibits, and literature.[38]


Jeanne Córdova, aged 67, died on January 10, 2016, from metastatic brain cancer at her home in Los Angeles, California.[39] Prior to death, Córdova wrote A Letter About Dying, to My Lesbian Communities, a farewell missive published in several lesbian-related publications in September 2015, in which she informed the community of her terminal illness;[40][41] and donated a $2 million legacy gift to Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, creating the Jeanne R. Cordova Fund.[42][43] Her obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times [44] and she was remembered on Last Word, BBC Radio 4's weekly obituary programme in January 2016.[45]

Awards and keynotes[edit]

  • Selected as one of 200 women inscribed in the Place du Panthéon, Paris, 2019. Monumental Feminist Memorial, Les MonumentalEs collective.[46]
  • Honoree, Fueling the Frontlines Awards 2018. Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice[47]
  • Etheridge award – WeHo Dyke March, June 2015[48]
  • Honored in Wells Fargo LGBT history mural, West Hollywood (unveiled June 5, 2014)[49]
  • Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement Award, Christopher Street West (2009)[50]
  • 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 (2006)[51]
  • 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.) Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Graduate Student Conference, University of Southern California (1995)[52]
  • 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.

Works about Jeanne Córdova[edit]

  • Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism (2017, USA). Documentary by Gregorio Davila.[53][54][55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mollow, Anna (August 8, 2013). "Jeanne Córdova's "When We Were Outlaws": Who Says the Second Wave's Not Sexy". Autostraddle.
  2. ^ Toder, Nancy (March 25, 2016). "In Remembrance: Jeanne Cordova". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  3. ^ Wheeler, Jerry L. (January 23, 2012). "A Conversation with Jeanne Cordova". Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  4. ^ Jeanne Cordova [@JeanneCordova] (2011). "activist, butch rabble-rouser, author of 'When We Were Outlaws: a memoir of Love & Revolution'". Twitter. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b "24th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced in New York". Lambda Literary Foundation. June 5, 2012.
  6. ^ Grindley, Lucas (June 5, 2012). "Discover the Winners of the Lambda Literary Awards". The Advocate.
  7. ^ Zonkel, Phillip (June 5, 2012). "Jeanne Cordova among authors winning Lammy Awards celebrating best in LGBT literature". Out in the 562. Long Beach Press-Telegram . Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Award Winners for Short Story / Essay / Collections (Non-Erotica)". Golden Crown Literary Society. 2013. Archived from the original on October 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "The 2012 Goldie Award Winners Announced". Lambda Literary Foundation. June 17, 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Lambda Literary Announces Jeanne Córdova and Bryn Kelly Scholarships". Lambda Literary Foundation. July 19, 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction". Lambda Literary Foundation. December 27, 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  12. ^ a b Stein, Mark (2004). Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 259. ISBN 9780684312613.
  13. ^ a b "One National Gay & Lesbian Archives" (PDF).
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b Lillian Faderman, Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L. A.: A History of Social Vagrants, Hollywood Rejects, And Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465022885.
  16. ^ Potter, Clare (1986). The Lesbian Periodicals Index. Naiad Press. ISBN 9780930044749.
  17. ^ Stein, Marc (2004). Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 259–260. ISBN 9780684312613.
  18. ^ Vida, Ginny (1978). Our right to love: a lesbian resource book. Prentice-Hall/National Gay Task Force. pp. 246–247. ISBN 9780136444015.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "96 IWY Delegates for State Named". Los Angeles Times. July 12, 1977.
  21. ^ a b Streitmatter, Roger (1995). Unspeakable: The Rise of Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Faber & Faber. p. 225. ISBN 9780571198733.
  22. ^ Love, Barbara J., ed. (2006). Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0252031892.
  23. ^ Toce, Sarah (May 16, 2012). "Lesbian writer/activist Jeanne Cordova looks back at her life". Windy City Times. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  24. ^ Love, Barbara J., ed. (2006). Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975 (1st ed.). University of Illinois Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0252031892.
  25. ^ "LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project: Jeanne Cordova, Tape 1 of 1, October 27, 1988". LHA Daughters of Bilitis Video Project.
  26. ^ Johnson, Paul H. "Specialized Directories Business Is Looking Up". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ Citron, Alan (December 7, 1988). "Find Guru of Your Dreams: Phonebook for a New Age". The Bulletin / Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ a b c "Pioneering Lesbian Activist Jeanne Córdova (1948-2016)". ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. University of Southern California. January 11, 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  29. ^ "The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, AC". Palapa Society.
  30. ^ Beebe, Rachel (March 19, 2009). "Getting Playful with Gender". Curve. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009.
  31. ^ Kregloe, Karman. ""Our Lives on the Page" Celebrates 60 Years of Lesbian Publications". After Ellen. Archived from the original on August 15, 2009.
  32. ^ Watson, Julia (October 5, 2010). "BVLA 2010 Chair Jeanne "JR" Cordova Chats with Velvetpark". Velvetpark Media.
  33. ^ Dahl, Elizabeth (August 26, 2010). "Addressing the "Butch" Stigma". West Hollywood Patch.
  34. ^ When we were outlaws : a memoir of love & revolution / Jeanne Córdova. Stonewall National Library & Archives. Spinsters Ink. 2011. ISBN 9781935226512.
  35. ^ Flannery, Maureen Sharon (September 1974). "Book Review: Sexism, It's A Nasty Affair by Jeanne Cordova" (PDF). Sisters. Vol. 5, no. 9. Daughters of Bilitis. pp. 6–7. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  36. ^ "Meet Lynn". Feminist Magazine.
  37. ^ Brownworth, Victoria (January 15, 2016). "In Remembrance: Jeanne Córdova". Lambda Literary. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  38. ^ "Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2010 (page 5)". Velvetpark Media. December 27, 2010.
  39. ^ Ocamb, Karen (January 10, 2016). "Lesbian Pioneer Jeanne Cordova Dies at 67 (Photos)". Frontiers. Archived from the original on February 4, 2016.
  40. ^ Cordova, Jeanne (September 23, 2015). "A Letter About Dying, to My Lesbian Communities". AfterEllen. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015.
  41. ^ Cordova, Jeanne (September 28, 2015). "Jeanne Cordova: A Letter About Dying, to My Lesbian Communities". The Seattle Lesbian.
  42. ^ "In Memoriam of Jeanne Cordova". Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. January 11, 2016. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  43. ^ Ennis, Dawn (January 12, 2016). "Jeanne Cordova Remembered: 'Butch Chicana Lesbian Feminist Outlaw'". The Advocate. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  44. ^ Branson-Potts, Hailey (January 15, 2016). "Jeanne Córdova dies at 67; activist and author chronicled lesbian feminist movement of 1970s". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  45. ^ "Matthew Bannister on Glenn Frey of the Eagles, publisher Lord Weidenfeld, lesbian campaigner Jeanne Cordova, cinematographer Haskell Wexler, amateur conductor Gilbert Kaplan". BBC. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  46. ^ "Place du Panthéon – Les MonumentalEs". Landezine. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  47. ^ "Honor author and activist Jeanne Córdova with us in LA". Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  48. ^ Ocamb, Karen (June 13, 2015). "WeHo Dyke March Honors Lesbian Icon Jeanne Cordova". Frontiers. Archived from the original on 23 July 2016.
  49. ^ Ocamb, Karen (June 6, 2014). "Wells Fargo Celebrates L.A. LGBT Legends". Frontiers. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015.
  50. ^ Christopher Street West/LA Pride. "2009 Christopher Street West Los Angeles LGBT Pride Honorees". Archived from the original on November 14, 2013.
  51. ^ Johnson, Reed (October 13, 2006). "Up Against a Wall". Los Angeles Times.
  52. ^ "Queer Frontiers 1995 & Beyond". University of Southern California Libraries. 1996. Archived from the original on August 24, 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  53. ^ Davila, Gregorio (June 25, 2017). "Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism (Trailer)". Vimeo. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  54. ^ "Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism". Outfest. 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  55. ^ Adler, Zoe (August 10, 2017). "Filmmakers share how their movies reflect their experiences, opinions". Signal Tribune. Retrieved 27 August 2019.

External links[edit]