Friends and activists remember Barbara Love at LGBT Center

Donna Smith, Barbara Love's wife, speaks during the memorial at the LGBT Community Center.
Donna Smith, Barbara Love’s wife, speaks during the memorial at the LGBT Community Center.
Gabrielle Johnson

More than 100 people gathered at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan on Sept. 10 for a memorial service honoring the life of Barbara Love, a lesbian feminist who passed away last November at the age of 85.

Love, who was honored with a Gay City News Impact Award last year, spent decades in the fight for women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, particularly lesbian rights, and was involved with the Second Wave feminists in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

After she was outed at a press conference in 1970, Love dove into community work and went on to carve out key leadership roles, including spending a decade on the board of what is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force and serving as a co-founder of Identity House, which is a New York-based non-profit providing peer-to-peer support for LGBTQ people. Love was also critical in the establishment of PFLAG.

Love wrote multiple books over the course of many decades, including a memoir, “There at the Dawning: Memories of a Lesbian Feminist,” which was published in 2021. Her writing work dates back to the ‘70s when she co-authored “Sappho Was a Right-On Woman” (1972), an early non-fiction book about the transition from feeling guilt to feeling pride in being a lesbian. Love also worked as an editor for trade publications and edited the encyclopedic book “Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975.”

Many people who worked with Love over the years were in attendance at the memorial, which had an estimated 150 people, according to the Task Force. The memorial featured videos of Love, including footage from when she was interviewed on television in the 1970s.

Margie Adam, a feminist singer-songwriter and composer, was also in attendance.
Margie Adam, a feminist singer-songwriter and composer, was also in attendance.Gabrielle Johnson

“Barbara had strategic vision, she was practical, persistent, and inclusive,” Charlotte Bunch, who previously served on the board of the Task Force, said at the memorial. “She was always pushing the boundaries while bringing others along and was well connected beyond the movement. She turned the tide and helped younger radicals to see a wider angle, and to reach beyond our impatience.”

Linda Clarke, whose friendship with Love dated back to the ’60s, recalled her late friend as “one of our first lesbian feminists, and perhaps the most persistent and bravest of us all.”

“Her greatest achievement was uniting the women’s movement with gay liberation,” Clarke added.

Love is survived by her wife, Donna Smith; her sister, Ella Mae Cobb; her brother, Anthony Love; and nieces and nephews.