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SSI2-117: Coming Out! The Gay Liberation Movement: Analyzing Primary Sources

Evaluating Primary Sources

Primary sources are the raw materials of research - original, uninterpreted information or evidence of the topic you are investigating. A primary source on its own is likely only a snippet or snapshot of the full picture; thus it is often difficult to interpret without additional context.

The following activity will give you an opportunity to (1) practice analyzing a primary source document and (2) contextualize it using tertiary source research.

Photo of a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Lavender Menace, 1970.


Working with a partner, read your assigned document and respond to the following questions, keeping in mind the goals and themes of this course. As you read, take notes on our class Google Doc.

  1. Whose perspective is represented in your group's document? Who created it? What can you surmise about the author's/group's identity, political aims, or societal positioning? 
  2. Who is the audience for this document? What is at stake for the author(s) of this text and what are their goals?
  3. What evidence do these documents give you regarding lesbian activists' relationship to the women's movement? What issues or conflicts with NOW’s leadership are raised? What evidence is absent? What additional sources would you seek out? Note any questions you have and identify unfamiliar concepts, people, events, or terms for further research.
  4. How do these documents help us understand lesbian activists' tactics and how they influenced the women's movement?‚Äč


"Ida," a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Lavender Menace, 1970. Photograph by Diana Davies. NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Diana Davies Papers. Copyright Diana Davies. Digital ID: 1582182

Analyzing Sources: The Lavender Menace

Source 1


Source 2


Source 3


Source 4


Source 5


Source 6


Source 7


Source 8


Source 9


Source 10

Finding Context

After you have spent some time independently analyzing your primary document, use any 2 of the following tertiary sources to seek out additional background information and reflect on the following questions:

  1. Does the topic or term you searched for have its own entry, or is discussion of it embedded within a larger topic?  In other words, how is it categorized?
  2. How does your subject encyclopedia article inform or alter the interpretation of your group's primary source?
  3. What additional sources does the subject encyclopedia point you to?