madeline davies

anonymous asked:

hello, do you know any good books about gay and lesbian history? i can't stand books were gay men and lesbian women are called queers or whatsoever... i'd like to inform myself where the words butch and femme came from and what the meaning of butch and femme in lesbian history is. :>

Oh sure! Here are a few that might be helpful as far as butch/femme history specifically:

-Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis 
-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman
-The Persistent Desire: A Femme-butch Reader by Joan Nestle

And a few more just for fun:

-The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture by Bonnie J. Morris 
-Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement by Marcia M. Gallo 
-Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Berube (Lesbians and gay men in WWII)
-Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio (Rustin was the gay man who organized the March on Washington)
-Not a Passing Phase: Reclaiming Lesbians in History, 1840-1985 by Lesbian History Group 

And there is always the Lesbian Herstory Archives! They are located in Brooklyn, which obviously is not reachable for many of us, but they do respond to specific requests with references that you might look for. (They also accept interns, for anyone who is in that area.)

If you’re looking for anything more specific by time period or subject, please just let me know!


Then And Now - The Cast Of The Nanny (1993-1999)

Fran Drescher (Fran Fine), Charles Shaughnessy (Maxwell Sheffield), Daniel Davis (Niles), Lauren Lane (C.C. Babcock), Nicholle Tom (Margaret ‘Maggie’ Sheffield), Benjamin Salisbury (Brighton Sheffield), Madeline Zima (Grace ‘Gracie’ Sheffield), Renée Taylor (Sylvia Fine), and Ann Morgan Guilbert (Yetta Rosenberg)

Lesbian feminism’s negative valuation of butch-fem communities also seems to be a response to the explicit sexuality these communities expressed through butch-fem roles. From the beginning, lesbian feminists tended to downplay sexuality between women in an attempt to free lesbians from the stigma of sexual deviance. They separated lesbians from gay men, primarily with respect to the place of sexual expression in men’s and women’s lives. This trend, which became fully elaborated in the 1980s, was central to the identity around which lesbian-feminist politics was built and to the debates that developed around sexuality throughout the entire feminist movement.

In 1980 and 1981, the publication of two works had a powerful impact on the shape of lesbian feminism and on research about lesbian history, Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” and Lillian Faderman’s Surpassing the Love of Men. Both works privileged passionate and loving relationships over specifically sexual relationships in defining lesbianism and explicitly separated lesbian history from gay-male history. Rich’s work is not intended to be an historical study; nevertheless, it proposes a framework for lesbian history. She establishes a “lesbian continuum” that consists of woman-identified resistance to patriarchal oppression throughout history. The lesbian transcends time periods and cultures in her common links to all women who have dared to affirm themselves as activists, warriors, or passionate friends. The place of sexuality in this resistance is not specified and the butch-fem lesbian communities of the twentieth century, because of their use of gender roles, are considered, at best, marginal to women’s long history of resistance to patriarchy. Thus, in this formative work for lesbian feminism, the only group of women in history willing to explicitly acknowledge their erotic interest in women are not central to the definition of lesbian.

Lillian Faderman’s book, an explicitly historical study, resonates with the themes of Rich. Faderman emphasizes the historical continuity of women’s passionate friendships in the middle and upper classes throughout history. She reclaims this hidden dimension of the lesbian past, which is particularly important in the late twentieth century, when the dominant culture admits little possibility of connection between women. At the same time, she gives minimal attention to the explicitly sexual lesbian communities of the turn of the century, treating their sexuality as problematic. She argues that the sexualizing of relationships between women was the result of the medical profession’s diagnosis of love between women as pathological. In her analysis, the nineteenth-century women’s movement’s achievement of some autonomy for women in the public world, coupled with the tradition of female passionate friendships, gave women the potential for self-sufficiency. Patriarchy responded to the severe threat by characterizing close ties between women as sexual and therefore suspect.

These works have been criticized for focusing on similarities in relationships between women, ignoring changing historical conditions that create different kinds of relationships, and for their valorizing of nonsexual relationships. For instance, Martha Vicinus shows that boarding-school “passionate friendships” in nineteenth-century England were not without strife and difficult power dynamics. Others have shown how the developments of urban life and the rise of consumer capitalism, combined with shifts in the organization of male supremacy, created new conditions that allowed for the development of explicitly gay-male and lesbian communities.

–Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community

We view [working-class lesbians] as having had a unique role in the formation of the homophile and gay liberation movements. Like virtually every other aspect of modern social relations, lesbian social life and culture differed according to social class. Lesbians who were independently wealthy and not dependent on society’s approval for making a living and a home could risk being open about their lesbianism with few material consequences. But this privilege also meant that their ways of living had limited benefit for the majority of working lesbians. Middle-class lesbians who held teaching and other professional jobs had to be secretive about their identity because their jobs and status in life depended on their reputations as morally upstanding women. So they, too, could not initiate the early effort to make lesbianism a visible and viable opportunity for women, nor develop a mass political movement that could change social conditions. By contrast, working-class lesbians pioneered ways of socializing together and creating intimate sexual relationships without losing the ability to earn a living.
—  Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community

LGBT History Month - Lesbian Non-Fiction

  • Women Like Us, by Suzanne Neild & Rosalind Pearson
  • Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, by Lilian Faderman
  • The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life, by Sherrie Innes
  • Finding the Lesbians, eds. Julia Penelope & Sarah Valentine
  • Lesbian Studies: Present and Future, by Margaret Cruikshank
  • Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community, by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy & Madeline D. Davis
The key identifiers for butchness during the forties and fifties were image and sexuality. In the forties, in bars on the weekend, butches cut a masculine appearance. When we asked Reggie, a butch narrator, if she could tell that Ralph Martin’s was a gay bar on her first visit by the way people touched, she replied, “No, you could tell by their dress… the butches were very butchy, very ties, very shirts.” Those forties butches put a great deal of time and energy into their appearance. Arden remembers, “They would starch [their shirts] until they would break. If there was a wrinkle in them, they would put them back in the water.” They wore cuff links, and those who could afford them wore jackets. Pants were just becoming acceptable for women during the war, and butches started wearing them when going out to the bars, though they had to have them custom tailored, since ladies’ pants were not yet easily available. They wore flat shoes, the most masculine style they could find, and wore their hair cut short over their ears. In addition, they cultivated masculine mannerisms in the little details of self-presentation- manner of walking, sitting, and holding a drink, and tone of voice. The total image, although masculine, was not aggressive or rough. Our narrators describe the image as “severe,” never tough. Reggie contrasts butches of the forties with the rowdy bar lesbians of the next decade: “Your butches were butchy, but they were kind, you know. Not saying that there’s not any kind butches [later]; don’t misunderstand. They weren’t the macho type, and they didn’t go out and want to fight right away.”
—  Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy & Madeline Davis. “‘They Was No One To Mess With’: The Construction of The Butch Role in the Lesbian Community of the 1940s and 50s.” 1992. Included in Joan Nestle’s The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader.
Community is key to the development of twentieth-century lesbian identity and consciousness. Even though lesbians or gays did not live in the same areas, or work at the same place, they formed communities that were primary in shaping lesbian and gay culture and individual lives by socializing together. In the 1960s, sociologists and psychologists already had come to realize that what many had taken as the idiosyncratic behavior of gays and lesbians was really a manifestation of gay and lesbian culture formed in the context of bar communities. But the ideology characterizing gays and lesbians as isolated, abnormal individuals remains so dominant that the importance of community in twentieth-century working-class lesbian life has reached few people and has to be affirmed and explained regularly to new audiences.
—  Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community
Popular culture, the medical establishment, affluent lesbians and gays, and recently, many lesbian feminists have stereotyped members of this community as low-life societal discards and pathetic imitators of heterosexuality, and therefore hardly self-conscious actors in history. Our own first-hand acquaintance with some older working-class lesbians, who told lively and dramatic stories about the joys and pains of their experiences, led us to question this view. We suspected that they had forged a culture for survival and resistance under difficult conditions and had passed this sense of community on to newcomers; in our minds, these were signs of a movement in its prepolitical stage. Our research has reinforced the appropriateness of this framework, revealing that working-class lesbians of the 1940s and 1950s were strong and forceful participants in the growth of gay and lesbian consciousness and pride, and necessary predecessors of the gay and lesbian liberation movements that emerged in the late 1960s.
—  Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community

sapphicdoctorscully  asked:

I loved the post about lesbian women in college, any recommended reading from your professor about lesbian history? Thank you!

yeah! im taking a class that’s like rewriting the history of the united states starting in the late 19th century until today so that it’s exclusively from the perspective of women. a lot of it is our own research and a lot of what IS written in books is very hard to call lesbian/queer history when we look at the early 1900s because those women didn’t identify that way and a lot of it is speculation on the historian’s part or like…stumbling on people’s love letters. jane addams the founder of hull house is the closest thing to #confirmed. she spent her whole life in partnerships with women in what would be a common law marriage today. a lot of prominent women in history lived together and were uninterested in men their whole lives (”boston marriages”). so like yeah lesbians rocked but also we can’t really confirm they were all lesbians or really call them that?

all the disclaimers aside, here is reading from the class/other classes that may be of interest in terms of queer women’s history and, later on, lesbian history:


  • A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski 
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall 
  • Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
  • Zami by Audre Lorde
  • Tales of the Lavender Menace by Karla Jay 

Articles or excerpts (you should be able to find most of these online):

  • Susan Stryker, “Transgender Liberation,” Transgender History (Berkeley: Seal, 2008): 59-90. 
  • Carole Vance, “Social Construction Theory: Problems in the History of Sexuality” in Knowing Women: Feminism and Knowledge. Eds. Helen Crowley and Susan Himmelweit. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992): 132-146. 
  • Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America,” Signs 1 (1975), 1-29.
  •  Karen V. Hansen, “`No Kisses Like Youres:’ An Erotic Friendship between Two African American Women during the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Gender & History 7 (August 1995), 153-82.
  • Hannah Rosen, “‘Not that sort of women’”: Race, Gender, and Sexual Violence During the Memphis riot of 1866,” Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (New York: New York University Press, 1999): 267-293.
  • Lisa Duggan, “The Trials of Alice Mitchel: Sensationalism, Sexology, and the Lesbian Subject in Turn-of-the-Century America,” Signs 18 (Summer 1993), 791-814
  • Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline Davis, “I Could Hardly Wait to Get Back to That Bar’: Lesbian Bar Culture in the 1930s and 1940s,” Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Routledge, 1993): 29-66.
  • Elizabeth L. Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, “Constructing Lesbian Community History Using Oral History,” Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold, pp. 15-26 
  • Boyd, “Lesbian Space, Lesbian Territory,” Wide Open Town, pp. 68-101
  • Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” 1984, Sister Outsider, pp. 36-40