Oldest organization for lesbian and bi-women
In the 1970s, opportunities for lesbian and bisexual women to meet other women were very limited. In 1971, two friends placed an advertisement in the magazine Vrij Nederland calling on other women to contact them if they wanted to expand their network of friends and explore their sexuality. The advertisement number gave the name to the oldest existing foundation for lesbian and bisexual women in the Netherlands, Group 7152.
Between second wave feminism and the gay movement
Dutch lesbians and bisexual women faced specific problems in the late 1960s and early 1970s, both within the feminist movement and within the gay liberation movement.
On the one hand, feminist groups and organizations such as Man Woman Society association (vereniging Man Vrouw Maatschappij / MVM, 1968) and Dolle Mina (1969) focused on improving the situation of women in all aspects of life within the framework of the second wave of feminism, but this was always done from a heterosexist perspective. Many lesbian women participated in these groups, but felt invisible. Prejudice against homosexuality was strong and straight members of the groups feared that an association with lesbianism would weaken their message and reduce their credibility to the (straight) population.
On the other hand, the main gay organization in the country, COC, was too small for women and most of its members seemed deaf to the struggle of feminism. COC had been a coeducational organization since its inception, but in fact the presence of women was minimal and it was still regarded by many at the time as a men’s club.
Lesbian and bisexual women responded in different ways to create space for themselves.
Radical-feminist lesbian women’s support group Purperen Mien came together in 1971, through an advertisement in Vrij Nederland, just like Groep 7152. But that’s where the similarities end. The approach of Purperen Mien and the action group they formed in 1972, Purple September, consisted of confrontation and creative provocation of the heterosexist society, the feminists and the gay movement. They targeted the ‘heterosexual conditioning’ that influenced both the feminist movement and the gay movement. They advocated lesbianism as a political choice that would negate the patriarchal and heterosexual system. For them, a life apart from men was a conceivable option.
Advertisement in Vrij Nederland
There are hundreds of intellectual women, conscious or semi-conscious, single or married, who love women. And most of these lesbian women don’t know where to even make spiritual connections with fellow sufferers. They don’t find anything through the avenues used by male homosexuals. There is not even a serious contact page for them. We are an academically trained couple of friends and have been thinking about this for a long time. Would women with ideas, who can no longer bear the existence of these shortages, want to contact us and try to do something about it together?’
When Hanneke van Buren and Nel Welle Donker placed their advertisement in the magazine Vrij Nederland, they were partners and both married to a man. Because of their experiences with the feminist groups and the gay movement, they did not feel accepted. The feminists demanded that they make a decision: straight or lesbian, while the radical lesbians saw lesbianism as the path to salvation.
The advertisement received dozens of responses and the initiators were confirmed in their idea that it was very difficult for many women who love women to find a comfortable place in both the women’s movement and the gay movement.
Many women who were married or had not yet come to terms with their sexual identity, found it difficult to participate in the activities of COC or in the highly politicized struggles of radical lesbians. What they needed was a place where they felt welcome and safe, could talk about their specific experiences and meet other like-minded women in a private environment.
In December 1971 the first large meeting took place in Amsterdam and Group 7152 was soon to be a fact. From 1972, the group met eight times per year in Utrecht because of its central location. In addition, there were regional discussion groups and other more intimate gatherings.
Many of the women involved in 7152 lived outside the big cities in smaller towns where anonymity was still essential. The lectures, forums, films and shows in Utrecht offered them the opportunity to meet each other safely and find love or new friends. Usually there was a bar and dancing. At the end of the day, the women went out to dinner together and continued to enjoy themselves. Regional groups also organized other activities throughout the year, for example ballroom dancing courses were given in Utrecht.
Between 1984 and 1989, some meetings in Utrecht were held in the wharf cellar of Nieuwegracht 28, the house of Jacques Drabble, where COC also found underground accommodation from 1964 to 1979.
The network continued to grow and attracted a diverse audience. The age of the members varied, but there were more older women. That was one of the attractive points for married or divorced women. Group 7152 was also one of the few places bisexual women could find safe refuge. Over the years, there have also been exclusive activities for bisexual women during the national gatherings.
Over the years, Groep 7152 has reached Dutch women in several ways: with a periodical publication first called Baal and from 1978 onward Amarant containing messages, a calendar of national and regional meetings and lists of regional groups and contacts.
In the 2000s, the network’s national reach declined and the ability to find contacts and information online changed the way young women meet. Regional groups are still active today and mostly target women over 50.