JEANNE CÓRDOVA was born on this date (d: 2016) Cordova was a pioneer Lesbian and Gay Rights activist, a founder of the West Coast LGBTQ movement, and a journalist and Lammy-award winning author. Córdova was born in Bremerhaven, Germany, the second-oldest of twelve children born to a Mexican father and Irish-American mother.
After high-school, Cordova chose to join the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an order of nuns that embraced the radical changes of Vatican II, protested the Vietnam War and sent their young nuns out into the inner cities. She embraced these social justice ideals and left the convent to become a community organizer – her first career. By the time she earned her MSW at twenty-two, she was a young activist for Lesbian & Gay rights who wrote her dissertation on Community Organizing in the Lesbian Community (despite her thesis adviser’s denial that no such community existed.) Feminism, and particularly Lesbian-feminism, was the next wave that she caught.
Transitioning from the softball fields of Pico Rivera to the presidency of the Los Angeles chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, she saw the need for a publication to give voice to the new generation of Lesbian feminists, and she began The Lesbian Tide, which became a national news magazine and the voice of a generation of Lesbians. This second career in journalism led to a job as Human Rights Editor of the L.A. Free Press, during the heyday of progressive newspapers. In the 1970’s her columns represented the voices of her various identities – “three-for-one” as a lesbian, a Chicana and a woman.
During the ‘70s she was at the forefront of many “firsts” – first national Lesbian conference, fighting the first California anti-Gay initiative and more. And as the Gay & Lesbian movement became more politically mainstream, she transitioned into the presidency the Stonewall Democratic Club and led the California state wide campaign to elect eighty-eight openly Gay delegates to the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Jeanne Córdova’s literary work includes founding and editing The Lesbian Tide – recognized as “the national news magazine of record” for the Lesbian feminist decade (1971-1980).
Her memoir When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution (Spinsters Ink, 2011) was a Lambda Literary Award winner for Lesbian Memoir/BIography, and was also honored with the Publishing Triangle: Judy Grahn Lesbian non-fiction award, Golden Crown Literary Award, the Stonewall Book Award: Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award Honor Book, and 2013 Rainbow List: GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association. Córdova’s books include Kicking the Habit: a Lesbian Nun Story, and Sexism: It’s a Nasty Affair. Her extensive journalism and essays appear in many anthologies including the Lambda Literary Award winning Persistent Desire; a Femme-Butch Reader, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking the Silence, and the trail–blazing, Dagger: on Butch Women.
She spoke about LGBTQ history and culture on campuses, and at community conferences and organizations. and was co-founder of LEX – The Lesbian Experienece – a cultural guerilla group. LEX created the 2009 L.A. history and culture exhibit, “Gender Play in Lesbian Culture” and co-sponsored the ButchVoicesLA conference in 2010.
Cordova died of brain cancer in Los Angeles in January 2016. She is survived by her life partner Lynn Harris Ballen, a feminist radio journalist and the daughter of South African freedom fighter Frederick John Harris.