ONE, Inc., Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

ONE, Inc., the longest-lived GLBT organization in the United States, began as the publisher of the landmark ONE magazine. ONE and ONE, Inc., expanded into an institute that conducted the first American gay studies classes and assembled a library that operates today as ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

Summary of Event

At the October 15, 1952, meeting of the Mattachine Society, Mattachine Society members who wanted a more-visible gay social presence discussed creating a gay-focused magazine, which would provide the homophile movement the exposure it wanted. On November 29, 1952, at the Studio Bookshop in Hollywood, a vote of approval led to the founding of a nonprofit organization that would create and publish the magazine, soon to be called ONE. The magazine’s parent would be ONE, Inc., incorporated in 1953. Early member Bailey Whitaker supplied the group’s name, a name that was inspired by British essayist Thomas Carlyle’s Carlyle, Thomas words, “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.” Also, “one” was a campy nod that referred to someone gay as “one of us.” [kw]ONE, Inc., Is Founded (1952) ONE, Inc.[ONE Inc] Archives;gay and lesbian [c]Organizations and institutions;1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded[0430] [c]Publications;1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded[0430] [c]Civil rights;1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded[0430] [c]Cultural and intellectual history;1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded[0430] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded[0430] Erickson, Reed Legg, W. Dorr Slater, Don Kepner, Jim Thompson, Merritt M. Whitaker, Bailey

ONE’s charter, in brief, established that the institute publish and distribute magazines and books, sponsor educational programs, and stimulate and sponsor research—all pertaining to “socio-sexual behavior.” ONE first published ONE magazine ONE magazine in January, 1953; it had, at varying times, the subtitle The Homosexual Magazine or The Homosexual Viewpoint. ONE also was the first gay or lesbian group in the United States to have its own office, which was in downtown Los Angeles. The ONE office served as a prototype GLBT community center, providing an informal meeting space, lectures, and legal referrals. W. Dorr Legg, given a salary of $25 per week, was the first full-time, paid employee, likely making him also the first paid employee of any organization in a fledgling gay and lesbian rights movement.

Legg had the most influence on ONE in its early years, holding a long view of homophile history and studies and envisioning the organization in terms of an institute. Its model was sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science, founded in Berlin in 1919. (Nazis had stormed the institute and burned its books in 1933.) Legg saw ONE as a center of learning and a degree-granting institution. In 1955, Legg, Jim Kepner, and Merritt M. Thompson, a retired University of Southern California (USC) professor, conceptualized what would become the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies ONE Institute of Homophile Studies in 1956. ONE preferred the term “homophile” to the more clinical term “homosexual” Homosexual, as a term and its awkward combining of root words from two languages.

The institute was supported by academic apparatuses, including conferences, classes, a research library, and a means to publish research. These were set up professionally with Merritt’s input. There were classes in the history of homosexuality, famous homosexuals, homosexuality and religion, and other topics.

In 1961, ONE moved to larger quarters at 2256 Venice Boulevard, and in 1964, businessman Reed Erickson began to provide money for ONE’s educational services. ONE established the Institute for the Study of Human Resources Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR) as a nonprofit tax-exempt charitable arm of ONE, funded by the Erickson Educational Foundation. ONE’s supporters also included researchers Evelyn Hooker and Blanche Baker and prominent gay persons such as Gerald Heard and writer Christopher Isherwood, who introduced Hooker to ONE at an ISHR fund-raiser in 1974.

In 1965, Don Slater, who by this time was a longtime editor of ONE magazine, in an act that has come to be called “The Heist,” removed everything from the magazine’s offices to another location. The magazine’s library, office contents, historical files, and mailing list were taken by Slater and some of his supporters. Slater had been in conflict with Legg for various reasons, including personal and ideological. After Slater’s “heist,” Legg had to rely on his memory of the mailing list to continue circulating the magazine. Lawsuits ensued, with Legg retaining the right to use the name ONE, Inc. ONE soon received a needed boost when Erickson provided the Milbank estate to the institute, an estate that had two large houses in what was once an opulent area of Los Angeles. In time, Legg and Erickson quarreled, however, leaving the use of the house and its inheritance in dispute.


In a time when few were daring enough to join a gay or lesbian organization, neither ONE nor any of the contemporary organizations had great numbers of members. They could reach more people through their magazines and newsletters, however.

Legg saw homophile studies as interdisciplinary, a view that prevails into the twenty-first century. Class attendance was sparse, although articles and publicity made it seem otherwise.

Through ISHR funding, Legg, Vern Bullough, Barry Elcano, and others in 1964 began what would become An Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (1976), a two-volume compilation. The first advanced degrees in homophile studies Homophile studies —master’s and doctorate—were given in 1984, when the institute moved to the Milbank estate. In the end, however, the rush of mainstream institutions to offer lesbian and gay studies programs of their own in the 1990’s made the institute ultimately unnecessary. Legg, along with others, wrote a history of the institute’s accomplishments that was to be issued just before his death.

ONE composed a lengthy draft bill of homosexual rights in 1961 that included civil rights as well. It read, in part, “Work rights. The right to employment without discrimination in either private or public capacity; the right to military service without prejudice or penalty.” It formulated questions that are still germane, such as, “Can democratic voting procedures determine moral and ethical questions?” and “Does the State have authority to proscribe sex behavior?”

It is possible to see the shell of all future GLBT activism and community building in ONE’s history, whether or not ONE itself was successful in that activism; ONE was not immune to many of the social concerns of the day, including the rights of women and the place of lesbians within the organization. For example, although women helped to write and design ONE magazine, they did not have significant input into the day-to-day running of ONE.

There was a signal achievement when the institute’s library was united with the archives of Jim Kepner, who had written for ONE magazine. With this merger the name ONE remained and thus survives actively as the longest-lived GLBT organization in the United States. ONE, Inc.’s, name was changed in 2004 to ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, and it is run by a board of directors, numerous volunteers, and a full-time staff when funding is available. ONE, Inc.[ONE Inc] Archives;gay and lesbian

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bullough, Vern L., Judith M. Saunders, and C. Todd White, eds. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Devor, Aaron H., and Nicholas Matte. “ONE Inc. and Reed Erickson: The Uneasy Collaboration of Gay and Trans Activism, 1964-2003.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10, no. 2 (2004): 179-209.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gregory, Robert. “ONE Institute, 1955-1960: A Report.” Homophile Studies 3 (1960): 214-220.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Legg, W. Dorr, David G. Cameron, and Walter L. Williams, eds. Homophile Studies in Theory and Practice. San Francisco, Calif.: ONE Institute Press and GLB Publishers, 1994.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Williams, Walter L., and Yolanda Retter, eds. Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003.

December 10, 1924: Gerber Founds the Society for Human Rights

1950: Mattachine Society Is Founded

1953: ONE Magazine Begins Publication

1955: Daughters of Bilitis Founded as First National Lesbian Group in United States

May 27-30, 1960: First National Lesbian Conference Convenes

April 19, 1967: First Student Homophile League Is Formed

May 22, 1967: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Law Preventing Immigration of Gays and Lesbians

August 11-18, 1968: NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

June 28, 1970: First Lesbian and Gay Pride March in the United States

November 28, 1970: Del Martin Quits Gay Liberation Movement

1973: National Gay Task Force Is Formed

Fall, 1973: Lesbian Herstory Archives Is Founded

October 18, 1973: Lambda Legal Authorized to Practice Law

March 5, 1974: Antigay and Antilesbian Organizations Begin to Form

1975: First Gay and Lesbian Archives Is Founded

April 22, 1980: Human Rights Campaign Fund Is Founded

August, 1991: Leather Archives and Museum Is Founded

Categories: History