First Advisor

Patricia Schechter

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Gay bars -- Oregon -- Portland, Gays -- Oregon -- Portland, Portland (Or.) -- Politics and government



Physical Description

1 online resource (162 pages)


The city of Portland adopted different policies toward gay bars between 1948 and 1965. Portland's conservative mayors, generally uninterested in changing the city or promoting growth, ignored gay bars. Reform mayors instigated campaigns against gay bars to gain public, political, and business support for their broader economic and social goals. They were able to use crackdowns on gay bars as popular components of their reform initiatives because Portland, in comparison to other cities, professed conservatism and morality and had little economic or cultural incentive to tolerate gay bars. Blaming Portland's vice on outsiders, reform mayors argued that their actions protected Portland's traditional reputability, despite the city's long history of tolerating vice and gay bars.

This thesis focuses on the reform mayoral administrations of Dorothy McCullough Lee and Terry Schrunk and their policies toward gay bars and vice. Chapter two discusses Lee's attack on all criminality in Portland, and deals briefly with why the previous administration, under Frank Riley, was rejected as corrupt. Terry Schrunk's later reform, centered in suppressing sexual deviance and promoting economic development downtown, is discussed in chapter four.

Chapter three describes growing awareness of queer communities, including changing definitions of queerness and perceived threats. These changes in popular beliefs about queerness, although not the direct cause of actions against gay bars in Portland, influenced the types of vice associated with gay bars, arguments used to justify anti-queer actions, and the level of priority placed on suppressing Portland's queer community.

This thesis incorporates primary and secondary sources on gay bars, Portland, and queer history. It relies heavily on city council minutes and newspaper articles, but also draws from sources including City Club Bulletins, letters from Schrunk's constituents, interviews, popular psychological works, and comparisons with articles about other cities, such as Miami, San Francisco, and New York.


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