Activist Cathy Cade’s photos document decades of Bay Area’s lesbian community

pride parade with women holding signs

"To have a group of demonstrators that was all women, that was new and radical," said Cade of the 1971 parade in San Francisco. "And to have them look so happy! They’re not being scared, they are totally celebrating, and they are totally out." (Photo by Cathy Cade, BANC PIC 2017.001. © The Regents of the University of California, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)

Cathy Cade first saw the power of photography in 1962, when she was working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization in Atlanta. Renowned photographers would use the office’s photo lab, developing photos that they’d use to gain support for the movement across the country.

“But I didn’t think I could be a photographer because I was a woman,” Cade said. “That’s what it was like back then.”

Cade, now 77, began taking photos in 1971 — the same year she came out as a lesbian — and in the decades since, has focused on documenting the Bay Area’s lesbian community, photographing moments from California’s earliest Pride parades to women working as mechanics to the 2011 Occupy movement.

a woman works on a truck

This photo by Cade shows a woman, Kate, repairing a truck. The photo captured a woman working in a job she “had been raised to think was impossible,” Cade said. (Photo by Cathy Cade, BANC PIC 2017.001. © The Regents of the University of California, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)

In 2012, UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library acquired Cade’s full photo archive. It’s the library’s only full archive from a lesbian photographer. Cade says she hopes the photos will help future generations understand “where we were and what we’ve done.”

Read the full story and see Cade's photos on Berkeley Library News.