|DOB members socializing|
Kelly's Alamo Club seems to be memorialized for a single raid that took place on September 21, 1956. This is what OutHistory says about it:
Police in San Francisco raid the Alamo Club, a popular lesbian bar, and arrest 36 women on charges of frequenting a house of ill repute. Most of the women arrested pleaded guilty. The police action and the women’s response led the year-old Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights organization in San Francisco, to prepare a guide, “What To Do in Case of Arrest,” to help lesbians caught up in bar raids.
The incident is recorded in a variety of standard gay history texts, but nobody seems to report anything else about Kelly's Alamo Club. For example, here is what John D'Emilio says in Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities:
|First issue of The Ladder|
Thirty-six women went to jail on a single night in September 1956, when police descended on the Alamo Club, a lesbian bar in San Francisco. One resident reported a "paralyzing fear," with "lesbians seeking cover once again."
And Lillian Faderman in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers:
At a 1956 raid at the San Francisco bar Kelly's Alamo Club, thirty-six women were hauled into the city jail and booked on the charge of "frequenting a house of ill-repute."
And this in a piece by Lisbeth Lipari:
As part of its public advocacy role and education role, the DOB [i.e. Daughters of Bilitis] and the Ladder also organized and promoted impromptu actions in response to oppressive public actions against lesbians. For instance, the second issue included an article on a San Francisco police raid of the Alamo club, a lesbian bar, which resulted in the arrest of thirty-six women. The article focused on the question of civil rights and advocated public education for lesbian civil rights: "At the hearing the following Monday we understood that only four of those arrested pleaded not guilty. We feel this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those so pleading but to an appalling lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case." The article concluded with an announcement of a DOB-sponsored public meeting with a San Francisco attorney who would discuss "The Lesbian and the Law."
Marcia M. Gallo in Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis elaborates a little bit more on the DOB response to the raid:
|DOB founders Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon|
Weeks before The Ladder's debut, a new crisis had hit Bay Area lesbians. On Friday, September 21, 1956, police raided the Alamo Club (popularly known as Kelly's) in San Francisco. As reported in the second issue, "[h]auled into the city jail and booked on the charge of frequenting a house of ill repute were a reported 36 women. At the hearing the following Monday we understand only four of those arrested pleaded not guilty. We feel that this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those so pleading but to an appalling lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case." The Daughters announced that a local attorney, Benjamin M. Davis, had volunteered to speak. "He will discuss 'The Lesbian and the Law' with special emphasis on a citizen's rights in case of arrest." They also announced they would be printing a guide, "What to Do in Case of Arrest," which appeared in the next issue. "'Never Plead Guilty'" is more than the title of [San Francisco Defense Attorney] Jake Ehrlich's book; it is advise to be remembered," they added as a postscript to The Ladder's coverage of the raid.
The raid is also mentioned in passing by Gary David Comstock in Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men.
Unfortunately, while the history of DOB has been thoroughly documented with photos and interviews, Kelly's Alamo Club has become little more than background scenery to the raid. I haven't seen an address, a photo, or even an explanation as to who Kelly is. Sad.