Oral history interview with Barbara Lewis, 1948-

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Oral history interview with Barbara Lewis, 1948-

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Barbara Lewis arrived in Washington, DC in 1966 to attend George Washington University. When she graduated in the summer of 1970, she travelled across the country with her boyfriend—finishing the trip on the West Coast. While in California, Lewis experienced a health issue that required her to visit the Women’s Health Collective in Berkeley. This experience introduced her to feminism and women’s health, changing the course of her life. <br /><br />Lewis returned to Washington, DC in 1971 and became involved with the Washington Free Clinic then located in the basement of the Georgetown Lutheran Church. Made up entirely of volunteers, the clinic was the first facility on the East Coast to offer free healthcare, especially those offered for women. Lewis trained new volunteers and contributed to the management collective at the clinic. <br /><br />In May of 1972, Lewis came out as a lesbian after attending a women’s dance organized by a group of lesbians active in DC. This occasion was the first time Lewis had interacted with the LGBT community on a large scale. Determined to connect more with the lesbian community, Lewis joined a softball league called the PJMs (named after Peggy Jane Mogley) and sponsored by Lamma’s, a women’s craft and jewelry shop owned by Judy Winsett and Leslie Reeves—later Mary Farmer. She also began guitar lessons with lesbian folk singer Meg Christian in 1972, facilitating her entrance into the DC music scene. <br /><br />Between the 1970s and 1990s, Lewis was involved with three different women’s bands—however her claim to fame was not on guitar, but as one of the only female drummers in DC. The first band she was involved with was inspired by a performance given by New Haven’s Women’s Liberation Rock and Roll Band at American University in February of 1975. Known as Hysteria, Lewis performed with Terri Clark, Diane Gosler, Phyllis Tellfaire, and Hellen Horton. Hysteria played at a variety of women’s events and dances, including sets at Club Madame and the Women’s Festival of Champaign-Urbana, IL in 1975. In 1984, Lewis began playing with Toshi Reagon and the Agitones. From 1987-1992, she played with Jennie McKnight, Liz Buchal, and Andrea Weatherhead in a band named Syzygy. They recorded one vinyl album in 1986. <br /><br />In 1975, Lewis was accepted at Howard University to become a physician’s assistant. Soon after graduating, Lewis worked in the Emergency Room at Howard University Hospital until she left in 1989 to perform clinical trials at GW (George Washington Research Center) to find a treatment for HIV. In 1978, Lewis was recruited by Whitman-Walker to form a clinic that catered to gays and lesbians. She worked in the clinic until 1983, when the facility closed due to financial issues resulting from the influx of patients with AIDS. She returned to work with HIV and lesbian health clinics at Whitman-Walker in 2000 and continues to hold this position as of the date of this recording. <br /><br />Lewis has given up softball and drumming to pursue her interests in golf and country western dancing, which she took up in 1993. She is also involved with a lesbian Jewish group that she formed with a group of friends in 1980 as a way to rediscover their Jewish roots. Original members included Evelyn Torton Beck, who wrote a lesbian anthology called Nice Jewish Girls and Mary-Helen Mautner, the inspiration for the Mautner Project.

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<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=47&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=%22No+permissions+release+on+file.%22">"No permissions release on file."</a>

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For more about Barbara Lewis:<br /><ul><li><a href="http://www.thebody.com/hivawards/winners/blewis.html?ts=pf" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">TheBody.Com HIV Leadership Awards, 10th Anniversary, 2005: Outstanding Physician Assistant, Barbara R. Lewis, P.A.-C.</a></li>
<li><a href="https://www.whitman-walker.org/40-story/40-stories-barbara-lewis-empowering-women-through-healthcare" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Whitman Walker's 40 Stories: Barbara Lewis--Empowering Women Through Healthcare</a>.</li>
<li><a href="https://taggmagazine.com/7-people-leading-lgbtq-health/4/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">TaggMagazine: 7 People Leading LGBTQ Health</a>.</li>
<li><a href="http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/05/30/pride-heroes-gala/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">2013 Capital Pride Heroes Gala</a>.</li>
<li><a href="https://www.queermusicheritage.com/musica6.html" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Musica, Issue 6, Spring 1977, courtesy queermusicheritage.com.</a></li>
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70s-90s
Jewish lesbian experience, women's music scene, lesbian organizing and health groups

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Interviewer

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=2&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Mark+Meinke">Mark Meinke</a>

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<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=3&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Barbara+Lewis">Barbara Lewis</a>

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No, not yet transcribed.

Summary available, courtesy Haley Steinhilber, 2018.

Original Format

<span>Yes, recording available. <br /><br /></span><span>Must have </span><a href="http://www.driveplayer.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Music Player for Google Drive</a><span> enabled.</span><br /><br /><a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_rmd0YNI039VTZCc3ZqQ3hhbE0/view?usp=sharing" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Click here to listen to recording.</a>

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35:41

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Citation

“Oral history interview with Barbara Lewis, 1948-,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed July 19, 2019, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1162.

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