Collection 10-080 - LOOT Oral History Project collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

LOOT Oral History Project collection

General material designation

  • Sound recording (electronic)

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Collection

Reference code

CA ON0034 10-080

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area

Date(s)

  • 1988-1990 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

60.9 GB of sound recording (wav)

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1976-1980)

Administrative history

The Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT) was founded in 1976 and was Toronto's first openly lesbian feminist group. LOOT grew out of an October 1976 meeting convened in the C.H.A.T. (Community Homophile Association of Toronto) offices on Church Street. Fiona Rattray, an original member, estimates the meeting was attended by 30-60 lesbians. Members present at this meeting decided to rent part of a house, to develop a multi-use lesbian centre. LOOT was different from other lesbian organizations in many ways; its concept was to be an “umbrella organization open to all lesbians regardless of class, religion, race, political affiliation, degree of openness, or age.” (Ross, Becky, “The House That Jill Built”, p. 76) It was also unique in the fact that it operated in the first lesbian centre in Canada. The collective also included Eve Zaremba, who would later become one of Canada's first notable openly lesbian writers, and Lynne Fernie, a noted documentary filmmaker.

Situated at 342 Jarvis St., The Lesbian Organization of Toronto shared the three-story building with two other compatible organizations; The Other Woman, one of Toronto's longest lasting feminist newsmagazines, and the Three of Cups Women's Coffeehouse. LOOT moved into the house on February 1, 1977. The dream of LOOT members was to provide a space that “would serve to raise the profile of lesbians and lesbian activism, and provide a feminist alternative to the bar scene.” (Ibid, p.76) The organization regularly provided peer support, telephone counselling, dances, social & political activities, a lending library, a newsletter, potluck socials, brunches, concerts and performances by well-known feminist and lesbian musicians like Ferron, Alix Dobkin, Mama Quilla II, and Beverley Glenn Copeland. LOOT participated in several marches, and with its telephone line seems to have helped many women in their struggle of coming out.

In its brief history, it is most remembered for its co-organization of the 1979 Toronto conference A Fine Kettle of Fish: Lesbians and Feminists in the Women’s Movement as well as the 1979 Bi-national Lesbian Conference/Conférence lesbienne bi-nationale in collaboration with the International Women's Day Committee, on the University of Toronto campus. The organization, due to diverging political ideas and failure to be an “umbrella organization” for all lesbians, was forced to disband in 1980 soon after the Bi-national Conference.

Custodial history

The Becki Ross’ Lesbian Organization of Toronto Oral History Project was donated to the Archives and Special Collections as part of the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives collection in 1996.

Scope and content

In 1989, Becki Ross a PH.D student in sociology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto began doing research for her thesis by conducting interviews with former members of the Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT). In her interviews she specifically questioned what the political, social, racial and class structures were at LOOT and the reason for the disbanding of LOOT. She carried her interviews with twenty-eight members from 1988 to 1990.

With these interviews, Becki Ross was able to obtain an oral history of the organization, in which each member tells her point of view on the successes and failures of LOOT. With these and other documentation Becki Ross went on to write an article entitled “The House That Jill Built: Lesbian Feminist Organizing in Toronto, 1976-1980” as well as a book The House That Jill Built: A Lesbian Nation in Formation.

The Becki Ross’ Lesbian Organization of Toronto Oral History Project provides valuable information on the way in which LOOT functioned from its conception to its demise. She recorded interviews on 49 audio cassettes with prominent members of LOOT. The interviews provide candid information on the nature of LOOT and the way in which each member recalls and interprets the events surrounding LOOT and the lesbian community of Toronto. They discuss a variety of subjects such as the internal political and social functions at LOOT and its eventual demise. They also discuss several events in the Toronto area such as the Bi-national Lesbian Conference, Anita Bryant and the Body Politic article “Men Loving Boys Loving Men”.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Canadian Women’s Movement Archives

Arrangement

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Original records were on audio cassette and are maintained at ARCS.

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Any quotations must have written permission from the person identified on the tape. Judith Bennett must be contacted in particular.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Restricted

Finding aids

Associated materials

The CWMA fonds (10-001) contains additional material on the Lesbian Organization of Toronto. See Series 1, File 1482 to 1514.

The Morriset Library contains both the book and the article written by Becki Ross based on these interviews:

“The House That Jill Built: Lesbian Feminist Organizing in Toronto, 1976-1980”, Feminist Review, 35, 1990, pp. 75-91. (HQ 1101. F38)

The House That Jill Built: A Lesbian Nation in Formation, Toronto, Toronto University Press, 1995. (HQ 75. 6C3 R678 1995)

Accruals

General note

Set of 49 cassette tapes that have been digitized into 26 audio files.

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Description record identifier

CA

Institution identifier

ON0034

Rules or conventions

RAD

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Language of description

  • English

Script of description

  • Latin

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