Born Dorothy L. Martin, 5 May 1921, San Francisco, California
Daughter of Richard R. and Mary Corn Martin; married James F.Martin (divorced); children: Kendra
A feminist and lesbian activist since the 1950s, Del Martin studied journalism at the University of California at Berkeley from 1938 to 1939 and San Francisco State College (now University) from 1939 to 1941. She credits her interest in journalism to a 1934 junior high class and her interest in politics to President Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chats. She was awarded a doctor of arts from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco in 1987. Martin served as a reporter for Pacific Builder from 1948 to 1949 and editor of Daily Construction Reports from 1949 to 1951. She married, had one daughter, and divorced before meeting Phyllis Lyon, her partner since 1953.
Martin's pioneering activities in the gay and feminist movements are numerous. In 1955, with Lyon and a few friends, Martin founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), one of the first international lesbian organizations, and its publication, The Ladder. Martin became associated with various church groups in an educational capacity. She cofounded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in 1964 and served Bishop James A. Pike's Diocesan Commission on Homosexuality from 1965 to 1966. She served on a similar committee for Bishop C. Kilmer Myer from 1972 to 1973. Martin is also a cofounder of numerous other social action organizations, including Citizens Alert (1964), San Francisco Women's Centers (1970), Lesbian Mothers and Friends (1971), Bay Area Women's Coalition (1974), and the California Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1978). She was secretary of one of the first chapters of the National Organization for Women (NOW), served on the national board of directors, and was coordinator of NOW's National Task Force on Battered Women/Household Violence from 1975 to 1977.
Martin's first two books, Lesbian/Woman (1972) and Lesbian Love and Liberation (1973), were both written with Phyllis Lyon. They were among the first nonfiction books about lesbianism written by lesbians. Lesbian/Woman demonstrates the special problems, myths, and realities of lesbians by presenting cases and lifestyles. The topics include lesbian mothers, growing up gay, lesbian sexuality, the interrelationship between lesbianism and feminism, and the negative effect of religion and mental health establishments upon lesbian self-images. The book is unself-conscious, straightforward, and sensitive in style. It is not well documented, but the authors clearly intended it to be a subjective work and to encourage consciousness-raising. It was written mainly for educators and to help professionals and parents of gays, and an updated version was released in 1991.
Martin's Battered Wives (1977, revised edition in 1981) was the first book published on this subject in the U.S. and was very influential in initiating what became the battered women movement. It is a source book, presenting a historical discussion of societal attitudes promoting domestic violence, which Martin believes are exaggerations of traditional sex roles. Several shocking case histories are presented, demonstrating the failure of "helping" and legal institutions to cope with the problem. Martin presents practical suggestions for reform in this area, including institutional changes, a guide to the establishment of community refuges, and suggestions for individual action. The interrelation of domestic violence with other feminist issues is discussed. The book, however, was criticized for giving only a sociological viewpoint and avoiding the idea that intrapersonal interactions may be influencing factors.
Martin's next book was also on the topic of domestic violence. The Male Batterer: A Treatment Approach (1985), with Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker, was volume 4 of the Springer Series' Focus on Men. She has published articles in numerous periodicals, including Journal of Homosexuality, Vector, Trends, Ms., Open Hands, and the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review. Many of these were cowritten by Lyon. The two have also contributed chapters to many books on lesbian issues and domestic violence (see Other Works section).
Martin has spoken on lesbian and feminist topics at universities, medical and law schools, mental health organizations, community workshops, and local women's groups. Her writings and lectures are a direct extension of her social activism; one of her primary objectives is to expose problems and educate about women's issues. She hopes that, through consciousness-raising, research will be stimulated and redirected along lines more in accordance with real life.
Contributor to: Is Gay Good? A Symposium on Homosexuality, Theology and Ethics (with P. Lyon, 1971); Sexual Latitude: For and Against (with P. Lyon, 1971); Love Today: A New Exploration (with P. Mariah, 1972); We'll Do It Ourselves: Combating Sexism in Education (with S. M. Gearhart, 1974); The Victimization of Women (1978); Positively Gay (with P. Lyon, 1979, updated 1992); Stopping Wife Abuse (foreword, 1979); The Lesbian Path (with P. Lyon, 1980, revised 1985); Women's Sexual Experience: Exploration of the Dark Continent (1981); Women and Mental Health Policy (with P. Lyon, 1984); On OurBacks (1990); Dyke Life (with P. Lyon, 1995); The New Our Right to Love, a Lesbian Resource Book (with P. Lyon, 1996); Caring for Ourselves: The Lesbian Health Book (with P. Lyon, 1997); Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse (foreword, 1997).
Association of Humanistic Psychology Newsletter (Jan. 1973). LJ (Aug. 1972). Off Our Backs (Sept. 1972). Psychiatric News (4 Mar. 1977). Psychology of Women Quarterly (Spring 1978). San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle (10 Sept. 1972). SIECUS Report (May 1973). Social Casework (Mar. 1977). Society (Sept. 1977).
—PATRICIA E. PENN,
UPDATED BY LEAH J. SPARKS
AND NELSON RHODES