Photo by: Tee A. Corrine
INDIVIDUAL | Inducted 1992 [Now Deceased]
Born in 1913, Valerie Taylor is a nationally known author of lesbian-themed novels and poems and one of Chicago gay and lesbian activism’s authentic pioneers. She was an outspoken advocate of lesbian and gay concerns from the 1950s onward and wrote several lesbian-themed novels and poems. She edited the Mattachine Midwest Newsletter while in Chicago and was active in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She retired in Tucson, where she was writing and active in social change until her 1997 death.
Besides the novels and poems that she has had published since the 1950s,Taylor made many public appearances to great effect in Chicago during the 1960s and early 1970s–sometimes identifying herself as founder of the “Lesbian Grandmothers of America” (she is one), and always advocating persuasively for lesbian and gay welfare before media, City Council, and rally audiences.
Not only was Taylor a founder and board member of Mattachine Midwest beginning in 1965, but she was involved in short1lived predecessor attempts to start a Mattachine group in Chicago, and she was involved with an early Daughters of Bilitis group here as well.
For years, she either edited or greatly assisted with publication of the Mattachine Midwest Newsletter, lending her apartment, typewriter, culinary skills, and literary knowledge to the task, and greatly inspiring the other volunteers who worked on it. Besides all this, she was active in the local chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and joined as an open lesbian in its peace efforts during the Vietnam War era. In 1975, she received the Paul R. Goldman Award from ONE of Chicago, an early group that was a branch of Los Angeles’s historic ONE Inc. Taylor eventually retired, first to upstate New York and then to Tucson. Her “legal” name was Velma Tate, but she has used “Valerie Taylor” for professional and activist purposes for decades.
As she once pointed out in a Common Likes/Lesbian Lives interview, Taylor cames from a tradition of women’s activism; one of her great-grandmothers marched in the first suffrage parade in Elgin, Illinois, in 1889.
Taylor also frequently and proudly referred to her Potawatomi ancestry and, having coped successfully for many years with a physical impairment, she was an advocate for the disabled as well. Never a rich woman financially, her wealth of energies and skills have always gone primarily toward social change and the relief of oppression.