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Barbara Grier

The Barbara Grier and Donna McBride Collection was an early acquisition by the Hormel Center. The bulk of the collection was accessioned in 1992, with additions made for several years following. Grier, a lifelong lesbian bibliographer, activist, publisher, and reviewer, is outspoken about her many contributions to the development and promotion of lesbian literature.

Barbara Grier, circa 1972
JEB (Joan E. Biren)
Barbara Grier, c.1972
Gelatin silver print
Barbara Grier was born in 1933 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and realized that she was a lesbian at the age of twelve. Reportedly, she researched the topic at the library before announcing her conclusion to her mother. At the age of eighteen she fell in love with Helen Bennett, a librarian from Kansas City, Missouri, with whom she lived for twenty years, in what she referred to as a marriage. A collector of lesbian writings, Grier subscribed to the Ladder, the magazine of the Daughters of Bilitis. She began writing brief book notes for the magazine under the pen name Gene Damon. Soon, Grier was contributing articles, short stories, and full-length book reviews under various pseudonyms including Gladys Casey, Vern Niven, and HB (in honor of Helen Bennett). Some issues of the Ladder are comprised almost entirely of her writings. Grier also wrote for ONE, Mattachine Review, and other homophile publications. Grier worked as the Ladder’s poetry and fiction editor from 1966 to 1968, when she assumed the general editorship. As editor, she wanted to take the journal in a more activist direction, and, in what is still considered a controversial coup, she announced that the Ladder was no longer associated with the Daughters of Bilitis. The Ladder did not prove financially viable, and ceased publication in 1972.

Inspired by Jeannette H. Foster’s 1956 study, Sex Variant Women in Literature, Grier and Lee Stuart published The Lesbian in Literature in 1967 - a bibliography that listed "all known books in the English language, in the general field of literature, concerned with Lesbianism, or having Lesbian characters." Grier compiled two subsequent editions of the publication in 1975 and 1981.

Cover of
Claire Morgan (Patricia Highsmith)
The Price of Salt
New York: Bantam Books, 1952
When Anyda Marchant approached her with the idea of publishing her first novel, The Latecomer, Grier was able to take advantage of her connections with the lesbian and feminist community to establish Naiad Press. Naiad Press was conceived of as a movement press—by lesbians, about lesbians, and for lesbians—and with the further distinction that for every financially successful title published, there would be at least one important or scholarly work that would not break even financially. In addition to the many mysteries, romances, and science fiction novels it launched, Naiad has reprinted classics such as Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt and Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker series, as well as such nonfiction titles as the controversial Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, was edited by Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan.