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Cathy Cade

About Their Work

The following text is a piece written about the artist's work. The original article was written by Virgie Hoban and was published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License, at UC Berkeley Library. It can be found here (

Cathy Cade first witnessed the power of photography during the civil rights movement, as black-and-white portraits of oppression and resistance blazed across the nation.

It was 1962, and Cade was a visiting student at Spelman College, a historically black women’s school. She was working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a major civil rights organization, in its Atlanta office. The space had a photo lab, where big-name photographers would bustle in and out.

“Danny Lyon (a noted civil rights photographer) would come running out of the darkroom holding up a picture saying, ‘Look at this! Look at this!’” recalled Cade, now 77, from her home in central Berkeley. “A lot of those pictures were used to get support from all over the country. So that was my beginning.

“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.”

In 1969, Cade moved to San Francisco and joined the women’s liberation movement. She surrounded herself with women and learned, among other things, how to tune up her own car — another task women were told they “could never do.”

For Cade, it was a revelation: “I thought, if I can tune up my car, I can take pictures.”

Cade began photographing in 1971 — the same year she came out as a lesbian. In the decades since, Cade has documented the quiet joys and great successes of womenhood, focusing on the lesbian community of the Bay Area. An activist with a camera, she has marched for equality on all fronts, photographing moments ranging from California’s earliest Pride parades to the 2011 Occupy movement.

“She’s all about the power of visibility,” said Christine Hult-Lewis, curatorial assistant for The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. “It’s not only lesbian rights. It’s labor rights, civil rights, feminism as women’s rights — all these different sections that coalesce and converge in the very person of Cathy.”

In 2012, Bancroft acquired Cade’s full photo archive — the library’s only full archive from a lesbian photographer, containing thousands of negatives and Cade’s personal writings. There, Cade hopes her photographs will teach future generations “where we were and what we’ve done.”

Artist Biography

Cathy Cade (born 1942, Hawaii), is an American photographer noted for her work in documentary photography, including photos about lesbian mothering. She has been a feminist and lesbian activist since the early 1970s, having gotten her start as an activist and seen the power of photography in the early 1960s as part of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. She currently lives in Berkeley, Ca. and is working with her archives at The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. She is a member of the Bay Area Civil Rights Veterans and has memoir material at the Civil Rights Movement Archive. She is a member of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

The Cathy Cade archive is at The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. The article here gives a good overview of her important work during the 1970s’.

You can find more of Cathy Cade's work in SEAS' February exhibition, 'Queering Spaces'.


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