Eva Freund (2007)


Eva Freund (right) arrived in Washington, DC in 1961; with partner Elke Martin (left). 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

"The [DC Sexuality Task Force] started off with about four or five people because that's all that were willing to come out of the closet ... .  It led to I think more openness, more awareness ...  That was also a time in the women's movement where women were feeling free to experiment with their own sexuality."

“You do what you need to do and I'll do what I need to do.” Eva Freund's tireless work in support of Washington, DC's 1973 human rights act established key civil rights for women and gay Washingtonians in the 1970s.  She then carried the quest for civil rights protections to Fairfax County.

From the outset Freund resisted oppression in all forms, beginning with police intimidation in lesbian clubs in the early 1960s.  By the mid-1960s, Freund was involved with the Mattachine Society of Washington, participating in several of Mattachine's public pickets.  She co-edited Mattachine's newsletter The Insider in the late 1960s and pushed its distribution in local bars to get Mattachine's news and views out to the homosexual public.  In 1971, she became an active member of the National Organization of Women's DC chapter, co-chairing its Sexuality Task Force.  In response to the controversy surrounding the issue of lesbians in NOW, she formed Capitol Hill NOW.

Freund learned to use other people's rules to achieve civil rights goals.  Her experience with the feminist movement and the gay civil rights movement served her well in building the Title 34 coalition that created Washington, DC's first human rights ordinances.  Freund recalls, “... I worked on [that] when I was with NOW and there was a strong coalition between the gay community and NOW, and I think it's because of all the guys that I knew.”Title 34 established the wide range of District of Columbia civil rights protections for women and for sexual orientation that now seem a natural right.  Freund remembers “I really understood the need for the legislation.  Because with the legislation in place you can force other things ... It meant that now with the legislation, the Human Rights Office had to deal with gay rights and discrimination.”Her work ensured women's access to basic housing and economic rights formerly denied them, as well as basic civil rights for the gay community.

In the late 1970s, Freund worked hard for passage of a gay-tolerant human rights law in Fairfax County.  She is a longtime member of Congregation Bet Mishpachah, DC's gay synagogue and was recently recognized by the synagogue for her many years of activism.

Eva Freund has donated materials to the Rainbow History Project; researchers should check the Eva Freund Papers.