12 Facts About Mattachine Society


Mattachine Society, founded in 1950, was an early national gay rights organization in the United States, perhaps preceded only by Chicago's Society for Human Rights.

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At the beginning of gay rights protest, news on Cuban prison work camps for homosexuals inspired Mattachine Society to organize protests at the United Nations and the White House in 1965.

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Mattachine Society planned to call this organization "Bachelors Anonymous" and envisioned it serving a similar function and purpose as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Mattachine Society was originally organized in similar structure to the Communist Party, with cells, oaths of secrecy and five different levels of membership, each of which required greater levels of involvement and commitment.

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Mattachine Society's membership grew slowly at first but received a major boost in February 1952 when founder Jennings was arrested in a Los Angeles park and charged with lewd behavior.

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Mattachine Society was named by Harry Hay at the suggestion of James Gruber, inspired by a French medieval and renaissance masque group he had studied while preparing a course on the history of popular music for a workers' education project.

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Mattachine Society existed as a single national organization headquartered first in Los Angeles and then, beginning around 1956, in San Francisco.

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In particular, Hal Call and others out of San Francisco along with Ken Burns from Los Angeles wanted Mattachine Society to amend its constitution to clarify its opposition to so-called "subversive elements" and to affirm that members were loyal to the United States and its laws.

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Some historians argue that these changes reduced the effectiveness of this newly organized Mattachine Society and led to a precipitous drop in membership and participation.

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Several unaffiliated entities that went under the name Mattachine Society eventually lost support or fell prey to internal division.

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Mattachine Society members are seen leafleting, attending meetings and participating in the Annual Reminder picket in Philadelphia.

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In 2002 Mattachine Society Midwest was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

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