Madeline D. Davis is a noted gay rights activist, author, actor, and musician. She is a founding member of the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier, the first gay rights organization in Western New York. For more than four decades, Davis has been an integral force in the LGBT community through her civic engagement, scholarly and artistic activities, and political and social activism. Her efforts have earned her national acclaim and recognition.
Davis will receive a SUNY Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during Buffalo State's 144th commencement celebration, Saturday, May 14, at 2:00 p.m. in the Sports Arena.
In 1972, she became the first openly lesbian delegate at a major political convention, attending the Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida, where she spoke in support of a gay rights plank. As a member of the Democratic Committee, Davis worked to foster equal protections and civil liberties for gay and lesbian Americans. She was named to the Advocate’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
In 1988, she addressed the American Library Association Conference, speaking on AIDS in the workplace. She has also lectured extensively on women’s history and sex and gender issues at a number of universities. She co-authored the book Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community and has published numerous articles on sexuality and women’s history, as well as short stories and poetry.
Davis is a founding member of the HAG Theatre, the first all-lesbian theater company in the United States, and a member of Buffalo United Artists theater company. In 1993, she received an Artie Award nomination for her work in the one-woman drama Cookin’ with Typhoid Mary, directed by Margaret Smith.
She has performed as a folk singer in coffeehouses in Buffalo, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Toronto. In 1994, Davis co-founded the Black Triangle Women’s Percussion Ensemble, and continues to perform with the percussion group Drawing Down the Moon. She has composed over 45 songs, most with gay and lesbian themes.
Davis founded the Madeline Davis Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives of Western New York to help preserve the history of the region’s gay communities. This collection was donated to Buffalo State in 2009, where it remains a treasured resource.
She retired in 1995 as chief conservator and head of preservation in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System.
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