Nancy Tucker (2009)

Nancy Tucker is a native Washingtonian.

Photo © Kathy Buckalew

I’m interested in the creative process.  I want to create, I want to expand.  My underlying theme for the three groups that I have founded... has always been ‘the truth will set you free’.  If you put information in the hands of people who need it, they will be able to improve their lives.”

Nancy Tucker starts things, especially organizations. She is by nature a creator, giving birth and structure to new projects, then hands them over to others. 

Nancy Tucker created the Gay Blade in the fall of 1969 Having seen the need for a gay community newsletter in Washington, DC, the Mattachine Society of Washingtonasked Nancy Tucker and Bart Wenger (known by the pseudonym Art Stone) to co-edit the planned periodical.  Nancy, then 23, had been a member of Mattachine from 1967 but was inactive in the group.  Working for a local trade newsletter publisher, she was seen as having more professional journalistic expertise than anyone else in the organization.

At the initial meeting in September 1969, a crowd of around 15 people planned the first issue (distributed on October 5, 1969).  As Nancy recalls, "I remember that the biggest disagreement among people was whether the horizontal rule separating the articles in the first issue of the Gay Blade would go from edge to edge or just be a horizontal line that did not touch the edge of the vertical lines."  The Washington area’s new periodical was to give a sense of focus to a community emerging from the closet.

By 1973, Nancy was running the Gay Blade alone and out of her own funds and energy.  She had been thinking of closing down the Blade but one reader’s horror at the idea led to a Blade notice calling a September 1973 meeting :

"I was astounded when people responded and wanted to be involved in the production of the Blade.  I held two meetings in Frank’s basement [Frank Kameny, where Nancy was then living] and what I tried to do is teach people how to do the Blade -- the mechanics of doing the Blade and  what I was involved in -- give them the contacts and then tell them what I knew of the gay community and its organizations at that point.  I taught them everything I knew and then I just let go of it."

That autumn, editorship of the paper passed to Pat Price (aka Pat Kolar, on the Gay Blade masthead).

During the early 70s, Nancy had been a member of the Gay Liberation Front/DC and was in fact its last female member, leaving the group with a scathing denunciation of the patriarchal attitudes of GLF’s male membership during a meeting at St. James Church on Capitol Hill.  It was at GLF, however, that she formed lasting relationships with other GLF members, such as the late Cade Ware.

Nancy had participated in Gay Women's Alternative (GWA) events during the early 80s and in 1985 joined the board of directors,   taking charge of programs,  She later was chosen president.  Both attendance and income were falling.  Nancy turned GWA programming towards "sex and shrinks", as she puts it, and as a result membership and revenues turned around.  The most popular event was an evening discussion and showing of lesbian pornography.  The program at the Washington Ethical Society was mobbed.  Organizers had to lock the doors to keep latecomers out because of safety concerns due to overcrowding but even so, women tried sneaking in through basement doors and peering through windows.

When she gave up the Gay Blade in 1974, Nancy was already embarked on a career at Army Times Publishing Company that lasted 29 years, most of it out of the closet.  She left Washington, DC for San Francisco in 1992 after starting two other organizations: the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Alcoholism Professionals (in 1979, with Cade Ware), and the International Advisory Council on homosexuals and alcoholism, in 1980. True to form, she worked alone on the projects and then turned them over to others to run. 

In 2004, first Nancy and then her partner Lynne Menefee retired to Albuquerque, NM, where Nancy has since created a new organization for the state’s collectors of vintage postcards.