View the Lavender Salon's web site at this link
In March of 1993, a group of five or six gay men and women gathered at the home of a friend (Len T.) on Meade Street in Appleton to enjoy a pot luck meal and watch a film. They also chatted about whether or not there was sufficient interest in forming a book discussion group. It seemed that there was. So the group planned a second meeting, and also chose a book to discuss at a third meeting. That book’s title was “Behind the Mask” by Dave Pallone.
According to a 2023 article in the Appleton Post-Crescent:
"To provide a safe space for gays and lesbians to socialize, Appleton Public Library collections coordinator Michael Nitz and Lawrence University Professor Dick Winslow founded a book club named the Lavender Salon in 1993. For 15 years, the group met each Sunday in members' homes with potluck meals and discussions on books and movies. The club was exclusive to gay people, so members — whether they were openly gay or not — were able to be themselves and safely meet other people in the LGBTQ community.
"For some, it was their first time knowingly meeting other people who were gay and lesbian so it being a safe space was really important," Nitz told The Post-Crescent.
"Participation in the club grew from seven members to over 60 at a time, bringing in people from Marinette and Sheboygan for the weekly meetings."
The second meeting was held at the home of Dick Winslow, and the group watched another film. The third meeting was held at the home of Tom and Fred. Here the group discussed “Behind the Mask”. It was at this third meeting when the group decided to call themselves THE LAVENDER SALON. They also decided to publish a newsletter documenting their activities. The newsletter would be called the LAVENDER SALON READER.
The Lavender Salon group continued to meet monthly for dinner and discussion. The June meeting was held at Marge’s home. The pot luck dinner theme was Italian, and the book discussed was “Vital Ties” by Karen Kringle. July's meeting was a discussion of the film “The Children's Hour” by William Wyler. And in August the group discussed Paul Russell's book, “Boys of Life”.
During the four years of publication, more than 36 contributors wrote reviews for the Lavender Salon Reader newsletter. The final issue was released in December of 1998, though the group continued to meet until 2008.
At one time, early newsletters and information about the group were accessible online at "www.lavendersalonreader.com", but that website is no longer available.
Credits: History and description by NE Wisconsin LGBT History Project,
Paul "Cricket" Jacob and Lloyd Schaefer;
Web site concept, design, layout and contents by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2023.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.