Barbara Grier, Founder of Naiad Press & Les-Librarian Nerdstar, Passes

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Barbara Grier, Founder of Naiad Press & Les-Librarian Nerdstar, Passes

As a nerdy, lesbian, literary person (and former librarian), it is with great sadness that I report the death of Barbara Grier, founder of Naiad Press, lesbian publisher, librarian, archivist, and activist, who passed away yesterday of heart disease, less than a week after her 78th birthday (4 November).

(ca. 1972, by Joan E. Biren)

According to friend Victoria A. Brownworth, “Grier was one of the few out lesbians of the 1940s and 1950s. She was a contributor to and then editor of the pivotal lesbian magazine—the first official such publication in the U.S.—The Ladder [founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon] She wrote under the names Gene Damon, Vern Niven, and Lennox Strong. In 1973 she cofounded Naiad Books with [her wife, Donna] McBride, whom she had met while working for The Ladder.” 

After The Ladder folded in 1973, Grier founded Naiad Books, which later became Naiad Press—the world’s largest lesbian publisher at the time of its closing in 2003. (The Press was sold to Bella Books, a Tallahassee-based lesbian publishing company.)

Katherine Forrest, whose first book, Curious Wine, was published by Naiad, told the AP “[i]t would be hard to imagine a more significant figure in the growth and development of lesbian publishing in the 20th century than Barbara Grier…or a more towering and central figure in lesbian culture.”

McBride, who married Grier in a ceremony in California in 2008, spoke of Grier’s dedication to lesbian literary endeavors and to promoting lesbian writing in general: “It was her belief that through literature she could make lesbians feel good about themselves and find a happy life.”

According to McBride, there will be no funeral service; she plans to scatter Grier’s ashes in the Bahamas, “Grier’s favorite place.”

Let's pause for just one moment to consider this woman's contribution to our culture, especially our literary culture and history.