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On This Gay Day: 'Lesbian' was said in a film for the first time

In 1966 the social satire film The Group tackled many topics including free love, contraception, abortion, mental illness and same-gender attraction. It goes down in history as the first mainstream film to use the word lesbian.

Directed by Sydney Lumet, and based on the 1963 novel of the same by Mary McCarthy, the film features many well known faces including Candice Bergen (pictured) who starred along Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Jessica Walter, Kathleen Widdoes and Joanna Pettet. Hal Holbrook, Larry Hagman and Richard Mulligan also appear.

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Beginning during the great depression of the 1930s, The film follows eight friends whose lives take different paths when they finish college. Elinor ‘Lakey’ Eastlake, played by Candice Bergen, leaves for Europe.

The friends have different experiences of marriage, family and careers. As war breaks out in Europe in 1939, Lakey returns to the USA, and her friends come to realise that the woman with her is more than a travelling companion, Lakey is a lesbian.

Take a look at the trailer for the film.


Betty Friedan says ‘man hating lesbians’ are trying to take over the USA’s National Organisation for Women

In the 1970s, the feminist movement in the USA centered around passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the US constitution that proponents argued would end legal distinctions between men and women in matters of divorce, property, employment and many other areas of life.

In 1971 author Betty Friedan, who wrote the book The Feminine Mystique was one of the founding members of the National Women’s Political Caucus. The political lobby group was created alongside many prominent feminists including Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Jill Ruckelshaus, Gloria Steinman, Florynce Jebbedy and several others.

In 1973 the organisation passed a resolution saying the fight for lesbian rights was one of their top priorities, just two weeks after making the declaration was announced, Friedan publicly criticised the decision saying that “man-hating” lesbians were trying to take over the organisation. Friedan argued that homosexuality was not what they women’s movement was about.

Over her life Friedan’s attitudes to same-sex couples changed, she said she accepted lesbian sexuality but did not believe sexuality should be politicised. In 1997 she wrote that children should ideally come from a mother and a father, but a few years later said she was “more relaxed about the whole issue now”.

Friedan passed away in of congestive heart failure in 1996, she was 85 years old. In the TV series Mrs. America, which dramatises the long battle for the Equal Rights Amendment, Friedan is portrayed by Tracey Ullman.

OIP Staff


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