Janet “Janny” MacHarg was a political songwriter, cabaret performer, writer, and feminist activist, known as the “Tallulah
Bankhead of San Francisco.” Contents include photographs, sheet music, writings, publications, correspondence, drawings, notes,
audio cassette tapes, costumes, and other ephemera.
Janet “Janny” MacHarg was born on April 7, 1923, in New York. Her interest in songwriting and performance developed as a child
when she wrote music and played piano for her mother. After losing her father and sister at a young age, she moved to San
Francisco and began working as a bookseller at the City of Paris department store. While there, she was drawn to left-wing
literature and began writing political satire songs with the San Francisco Labor Theatre. MacHarg met her lifelong partner,
Evie Turner at the Labor Theatre in the beginning years of the second Red Scare. She was offered a job as secretary of the
Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee where she raised money for the organization by putting on talent shows. Eventually, MacHarg
was forced to leave the communist party due to her relationship with Turner, which caused her to develop a drinking habit.
After many years in hiatus from writing and performing, MacHarg began visiting the Women’s Building and Women’s Bookstore
in San Francisco. Through a connection she made there, she received support for her alcoholism and became sober. Eventually,
she joined the organization, Options for Women Over 40 where she began writing songs relating to the old lesbian movement.
Her songwriting flourished during this time, covering topics around the women’s movement, peace movement, gay rights, alcoholism,
and aging. MacHarg wrote songs and performed with theatre groups such as Theatre Rhinoceros and Mothertongue Feminist Theatre
Collective. She also performed in solo cabaret shows where she sang and played the piano at venues such as Artemis, Mama Bears,
the Metropolitan Church, and Valencia Rose. In addition to her songwriting, MacHarg was a prolific writer and wrote short
stories, often autobiographical, about her experience as an aging lesbian. She was involved with organizations such as Old
Lesbians Organizing for Change and Gay and Lesbian Outreach to Elders (GLOE). Despite MacHarg’s battle with cancer, she continued
to write and perform late into her life. She died on November 4, 2003.
2.5 linear feet (1 carton, 1 oversize box)
Copyright to all unpublished material has been transferred to the GLBT Historical Society. All requests for reproductions
and/or permission to publish or quote from material must be submitted in writing to the GLBT Historical Society Archivist.
Credit must be given to Janny MacHarg on any published material.
Collection is open for research. Mailing lists and other records holding the names, addresses, and/or phone numbers of individuals
will be restricted for 20 years from the latest date on the material. Funding for processing this collection was provided
by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).