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A 75-Year-Old Lesbian Discovery

A Queer Discovery

Who knew a piece of queer history -- and World War II history -- was hiding in storage?

When The Washington Post launched its "Letters from War" project, the editors probably didn't anticipate discovering a connection to a lesbian pioneer. The project utilized hundreds of letters between four brothers from Illinois -- Frank, Sanford, Ralph, and John Eyde -- that had been found in the back of an abandoned storage unit in Arizona. Three of the men served in the military and the fourth worked at a defense factory back home. Their young cousin, Edythe Eyde, wrote some of the letters to her cousins as World War II raged on.

Many LGBT historians know Eyde for a different reason. The NLGJA even has an award named in her honor (bestowed on The Advocate's own Diane Anderson-Minshall in 2016). In 1948, Eyde, a secretary at RKO Studios, started the first lesbian magazine, Vice Versa, using the pen name Lisa Ben (a clever anagram of the word lesbian). Eyde famously typed the magazine twice through five carbon copies and distributed it in Los Angeles, mainly just to make friends.

The Washingon Post's astute editors made the lesbian connection, too, and even tracked down familial confirmation.

"You've done your homework," said Vicki Venhuizen, Eyde's closest living relative, after The Post contacted her.

Venhuizen was able to confirm that Eyde and Lisa Ben were indeed the same person, and she shared several previously unpublished family photos with Post readers. Eyde passed away in 2015; she was 94 years old. Read more about this fascinating woman here.

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