Veterans Benevolent Association: New York City, 1945-1954
First post-World War II U.S. homosexual membership organization
From 1945 to 1954 in New York City, a group called the Veterans Benevolent Association became the first American homosexual membership organization of the post- World War I1 period. It incorporated in 1948.
Formed by four honorably discharged veterans, it is said to have functioned primarily as a social club for its seventy-five to 100 regular members, and up to four or five hundred guests who sometimes attended its events.
Through its officers and members, homosexual veterans and their friends were aided when in trouble with the law or an employer. Lecturers frequently spoke on some aspect of sex. After several years, conflict developed among members who wanted the group to become more active in social change. Factionalism led to the group's disbanding in 1954.).
The "Certificate of Incorporation of Veterans Benevolent Association, Inc." is dated March 8, 1948, and is fled with the State of N.Y., Dept. of State, Albany. The "purposes" for which the group is formed are listed as:
- To unite socially and fraternally, all veterans and their friends, of good and moral character, over the age of twenty years. To foster, create, promote, and maintain the spirit of social, fraternal, and benevolent feeling among the members and all those connected by any means and ties. To enhance the mutual welfare of its members. To promote and advance good fellowship, mutuality, and friendship, and to promote the best idealism and interests of its members. To advance the social and economic interests of its members; to provide suitable places for meeting of members and the establishment of facilities for social, fraternal, benevolent, and economic activities and functions.
The names of five "Directors" are listed, along with seven witnesses.
- ↑ This information first appeared in Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976), page 635, note 116.
- ↑ Edward Sagarin, Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants; A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, New York University, 1966; photo reprint, N.Y.: Arno, 1975, p. 64-67.Sagarin's brief history of this pioneering group is "based almost entirely on private conversations and interviews with almost all the ex-leaders and many ex-members" of the Association.
- ↑ A photocopy of the Certificate of Incorporation is included in the Papers of Jonathan Ned Katz, New York Public Library. The association is also discussed in Marvin Cutler (pseud.), ed., Homosexuals Today; A Handbook of Organization and Publications (Los Angeles: ONE, Inc., 1956), p. 89-90. Major published sources on the early history of the American homosexual emancipation movement are Sagarin, Cutler, and Foster Gunnison's "The Homophile Movement in America," in The Same Sex: An Appraisal of Homosexuality, ed. Ralph W. Weltge (Phila.: United Church Press, 1969). An op ed piece in the New York Times by historian George Chauncey discusses the Veterans Benevolent Association without naming it. "Last Ban Standing", New York Times (print edition), December 21, 2010, p. A35.