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Ben (Lisa) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Arrangement
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Custodial History
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Scope and Contents
  • Separated Materials
  • Related Materials

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
    Title: Lisa Ben papers
    creator: Ben, Lisa
    Identifier/Call Number: Coll2015-019
    Physical Description: 15.4 Linear Feet 16 boxes and 1 oversize item.
    Date (inclusive): 1905-2009
    Abstract: The collection comprises manuscripts, sheet music, lyrics, poetry, correspondence, personal papers, photographs, sound recordings, musical instruments, and realia, 1905-2009, from lesbian writer Lisa Ben (anagram for "lesbian"), pseudonym for Edythe Eyde. The materials in the collection document Ben's creative writing; her correspondence with family and friends; her employment as a secretary for Hollywood studios; her genealogy and family relationships; and her hobbies in science fiction fandom, folk music, and cat adoption. Also included are clippings and awards recognizing Ben as a pioneer in LGBT history, most notably for creating the first lesbian magazine Vice Versa in 1947.


    The collection is divided into seven series:
    Series 1. Writings and music
    Series 2. Correspondence
    Series 3. Personal papers
    Series 4. Family papers
    Series 5. Photographs
    Series 6. Sound recordings
    Series 7. Musical instruments and realia

    Biographical / Historical

    Lisa Ben was born Edythe DeVinney Eyde in San Francisco on November 7, 1921, the only child to parents Oscar E. Eyde and Olive Colegrove Eyde. Three years later, the family moved to a fruit ranch in Los Altos, California, where Ben spent her childhood and adolescent years. Ben studied music and attended Palo Alto High School, where she graduated in 1938. Her parents urged her to go on to business school, and she soon after worked in secretarial jobs in Northern California during WWII. Her interests in writing, however, led her to move to Los Angeles in 1945 where she knew young aspiring writers in science fiction fan groups.
    Soon after moving to Los Angeles, she met a group of women at her apartment complex and began a conversation with them. One of the women asked her "Are you gay?" She responded, "I try to be as happy as I can under the circumstances." The conversation led to Ben discovering the topic of lesbianism, which subsequently led to her discovering her own sexuality. She went with the group to a Los Angeles lesbian bar known as the If Club where she met others like herself, and soon found herself a part of the burgeoning post-WWII lesbian community.
    Two years later, Ben began writing a magazine to discuss gay and lesbian life, which she named Vice Versa. At the time, Ben was working as a secretary for an RKO Studio executive who was often away from the office. She was instructed to "look busy" while he was away, so she decided to write a magazine as "a gesture of love-of women loving women, and the whole idea of it. It was an enthusiasm that boiled over into these pages." Vice Versa, first published in June 1947, was a modest publication that was passed from friend to friend. It was a labor of love for Ben who wrote the vast majority of the articles for nine issues, while trying to get others to contribute as well. However, with a new job and an increasingly active social life, she did not have the time to keep up her writing schedule and discontinued publication in 1948.
    By the late 1950s, she joined the Daughters of Bilitis and wrote articles for The Ladder where she adopted the pen name Lisa Ben (an anagram of "lesbian"). It was during this time in the late-1950s and early-1960s when Ben began to write parodies of popular music with gay and lesbian themes (e.g. "I'm Going to Sit Right Down and Write My Butch a Letter.") She would occasionally perform these songs at gay and lesbian clubs in Los Angeles. By the late-1960s, Ben withdrew from gay and lesbian social life and only occasionally attended gay- and lesbian-related events when invited.
    Lisa Ben did not have many romantic relationships with other women, and she chose to stay single most of her life. After working as a secretary for nearly forty years, Ben retired in the 1970s and continued to live at her home in Burbank, California.
    Cain, Paul D. Leading the Parade: Conversations with America's Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2002. Print.
    Marcus, Eric, and Eric Marcus. Making Gay History: The Half-century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.
    Moss, Leland. "An Interview with Lisa Ben." Gaysweek No. 49 (January 23, 1978): 14-16. Print.

    Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the ONE Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Custodial History

    Lisa Ben's estate and personal papers were under the stewardship of Patti Dersheim, Lisa Ben's longtime neighbor. In 2009, Ben's personal papers were transferred to Melissa Lopez-Wang and Tom de Simone. De Simone transferred the Lisa Ben collection to ONE Archives in 2015. Patti Dersheim gifted Lisa Ben's collection on November 13, 2014.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Patti Dersheim, November 13, 2014.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder #, or item name] Lisa Ben Papers, Coll2015-019, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Loni Shibuyama, March 2016.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection comprises manuscripts, sheet music, lyrics, poetry, correspondence, personal papers, photographs, sound recordings, musical instruments, and realia, 1905-2009, from lesbian writer Lisa Ben (anagram for "lesbian"), pseudonym for Edythe Eyde. The Writings and Music Series includes Ben's short stories, poems, song lyrics, sheet music, and other manuscripts. This series also includes correspondence and related material documenting her participation in science fiction fan groups and folk music societies. The Correspondence Series includes letters between Ben and her family members, friends, co-workers, and others, including gay and lesbian activists and historians who wrote about Ben in articles on LGBT history. The Personal Papers Series includes material documenting her education, her participation in gay and lesbian organizations, her employment as a secretary in Hollywood studios, and her passion for adopting cats. The Family Papers Series includes correspondence with her parents, particularly her father Oscar E. Eyde, and papers documenting the Eyde family genealogy. The bulk of the Photographs Series includes photographic prints, slides and negatives of Lisa Ben and her family dating back to her birth in 1921. The Sound Recordings Series includes folk songs recorded by Ben. The Musical Instruments and Realia Series includes Ben's guitar, violin, and mandolin, as well as a variety of keychains, knickknacks, buttons and other realia.

    Separated Materials

    The following have been separated to the ONE Archives library:
    Adelman, Marcy. Long Time Passing: Lives of Older Lesbians. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1986. Print.
    Decarnin, Camilla, Eric Garber, and Lyn Paleo. Worlds Apart: An Anthology of Lesbian and Gay Science Fiction and Fantasy. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1986. Print.
    Stearn, Jess. The Door to the Future. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963. Print.
    The following have been separated to the ONE Archives newsletter collection:
    Old Lesbians Organizing for Change newsletter, 1991-1996.
    San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society newsletter, 1988-1989.
    Web of Crones newsletter, 1985-1987.

    Related Materials

    Jim Kepner Papers, Coll2011-002, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Folk music -- Archival resources
    Lesbian writings
    Science fiction
    Vice Versa
    Ben, Lisa