olivia records & sandy stone
olivia records was founded in 1973 specifically to produce and market women’s music. the collective was founded by ten lesbian feminists from washington, d.c. (they later moved to l.a. and then to oakland). while the collective did moderately well and produced many albums, including “lesbian concentrate,” a collection of songs and poetry which benefitted the lesbian mothers national defense fund, they are also remembered for rejecting melissa ethridge, who went on to become one of the most successful lesbian musicians of all time. the two concerts they performed at carnegie hall in 1988 were the highest grossing at that venue in history at the time, but were barely mentioned by the new york times.
from 1974-1978 sandy stone (pictured above, at work) was olivia’s sound engineer. she recorded and mixed all of olivia’s music during this period. stone, a trans woman, was subjected to negative and transphobic attacks during this period from some in the mainstream lesbian community. janice raymond, a lesbian feminist scholar, was particularly vicious and attempted to out stone to olivia records and described her as a “male” working for an all-women’s record company. the collective responded by publicly defending stone in various feminist publications of the time. stone continued as a member of the collective and continued to record olivia artists but eventually left after pressure from a book written by raymond, the transsexual empire, (essentially an attack on stone) and the community became too much.
stone went on to collaborate with donna haraway on a response to raymond’s book called the empire strikes back: a posttranssexual manifesto, which has been called “the protean text from which contemporary transgender studies emerged.”
(a slightly unrelated but nonetheless interesting fact: in the late 80s stone bought herself a computer and taught herself how to code, and became a freelance coder, which was no small feat).