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Betty Louise Berzon was born to a middle-class Jewish family on January 18, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Tuscon, Arizona when Berzon was young, and upon graduating high school she attended Stanford University, majoring in journalism and creative writing. In 1949, Berzon got a job in a bookstore, which turned into a short-lived career as a bookseller. She owned and operated Berzon Books in 1951 in Los Angeles, but it went out of business after one year.

In the following years, she experienced a bout of depression and sought treatment in a psychiatric hospital. After her release from the hospital, she got a job in a sanitarium and enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a psychology student. While working on her degree, Berzon took a job as a caseworker for the American Red Cross Military Hospital Service, and later for the San Diego County Probation Department. By 1958, she had graduated with a Master's degree in Psychology from San Diego State College and hadbegan working for a psychotherapy research organization, Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI). There, she developed her psychotherapy career and created program materials for group therapy sessions called the Bell & Howell Encountertape Series. She evenually left WBSI and established herself as a consultant, developing workshops, training sessions and seminars in group therapy, personal growth and interpersonal relationships. She later received her Ph.D. (Picture: Terry DeCrescenzo)

By 1971, Berzon had began specializing in work counseling gay men and lesbian women, as well as same-sex couples. Throughout the 1970s to 2000s, Berzon edited or wrote a number of books about gay and lesbian identity, relationships, and homophobia, including Positively Gay, Permanent Partners, Intimacy Dance, and Setting Them Straight. She also wrote an autobiography about her therapy career and experience coming out as a lesbian woman called Surviving Madness.

In addition to her psychotherapy and writing career, Berzon was an outspoken activist on behalf of gay and lesbian rights and awareness. Among her advocacy work, Berzon served as the National President of the Gay Academic Union; served on the boards of National Gay Rights Advocates and the Gay Community Services Center (later called the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center); and was the founding Board Chair of the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). She also participated in the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Whitman-Radclyffe Foundation.

In the 1970s, Berzon met Teresa DeCrescenzo, who would be her partner throughout the rest of her life. Berzon and DeCrescenzo lived together in Los Angeles for 33 years. Berzon died of cancer on January 24, 2006.

Her papers are held at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Manuscripts, correspondence, organizational records, research materials, photograph albums, audiovisual items, clothing, trophies and other materials from lesbian activist, writer and psychotherapist, Betty Berzon (1928-2006). Included in this collection are manuscripts and resource materials for Berzon's published and unpublished books; records from gay and lesbian organizations in which she was involved; paper and audiovisual material for her therapy practice, workshops, and training programs; correspondence files; subject files; extensive photo albums and memorabilia documenting Berzon's personal life; and personal papers, including those related to Berzon's relationship with long-time partner, Teresa DeCrescenzo, and Berzon's years-long battle with cancer.


Further Readings:

Surviving Madness: The Betty Berzon Story by Betty Berzon
Paperback: 310 pages
Publisher: Spinsters Ink; Reprint edition (February 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935226541
ISBN-13: 978-1935226543
Amazon: Surviving Madness: The Betty Berzon Story

“…a rich account of the fascinating journey of [not only] her own life, [but] the remarkable people and places that punctuated it, and the war that raged inside her…an enthralling, instructive, and ultimately uplifting story."
-Michelangelo Signorile, author of Queer in America and Life Outside.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Anais Nin, Edith Sitwell, Evelyn Hooker, Paul Monette—such luminaries are only some of the fellow trailblazers whose paths intersected with Betty Berzon in this amazing memoir of the life of one of the most vital and fascinating of our LGBT pioneers.

Surviving Madness unveils the dramatic story of an emergence from mental breakdown and suicide attempts to coming out as a lesbian at age forty, followed by the discovery of life-long love, the triumphant rise to becoming a groundbreaking therapist and a courageous, passionate, resolute activist--and the pioneering author of such classic books on lesbian and gay relationships as Permanent Partners and Positively Gay.

Surviving Madness is the transcendent story of a woman central to the reach for LGBT civil rights in the twentieth century, whose drama-charged life changed forever our own lives today.

This edition of Surviving Madness includes a very special Introduction and Afterword by life partner Terry DeCrescenzo.

More Real Life Romances at my website:, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance


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