First-Ever Lesbian Characters On American TV: Gladys (Laraine Stephens), Police Woman, “Flowers of Evil,” November 1974
“Flowers of Evil” was radically transformed from its initial cut to air, in response to aggressive and overwhelming protest from lesbian activist groups. The episode focused on a nursing home run by a lesbian gang who were killing off and stealing from their residents. Pepper (Angie Dickinson) goes undercover in the nursing home as a nurse to expose the killing-and-stealing scheme.
NBC responded to protest by removing all explicit references to lesbianism, which of course, just made matters infinitely worse, as the lesbianism remained obvious even if nobody said the word “lesbian.”
Lesbian Feminist Liberation members went directly to NBC headquarters ten days after the “Police Woman” episode aired, with Stevye Knowles accessing the building by saying she was there for lunch with her husband (she brought her three children along) and the rest entering through a door they’d duct-taped unlocked. The group staged an overnight sit-in, demanding to speak with the NBC Vice President. Outside, around 75 women were marching and handing out leaflets. Networks were realizing we couldn’t be ignored. Consequently, anti-gay groups ramped up their efforts, attempting to stop networks from ever portraying homosexuality in a positive light. That fight continues today.