Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives


Natalie Zemon Davis - 1995
    As women living in the seventeenth century, Glikl bas Judah Leib, Marie de l'Incarnation, and Maria Sibylla Merian, equally remarkable though very different, were not queens or noblewomen, their every move publicly noted. Rather, they were living "on the margins" in seventeenth-century Europe, North America, and South America. Yet these women--one Jewish, one Catholic, one Protestant--left behind memoirs and writings that make for a spellbinding tale and that, in Davis' deft narrative, tell us more about the life of early modern Europe than many an official history.All these women were originally city folk. Glikl bas Judah Leib was a merchant of Hamburg and Metz whose Yiddish autobiography blends folktales with anecdotes about her two marriages, her twelve children, and her business. Marie de l'Incarnation, widowed young, became a mystic visionary among the Ursuline sisters and cofounder of the first Christian school for Amerindian women in North America. Her letters are a rich source of information about the Huron, Algonquin, Montagnais, and Iroquois peoples of Quebec. Maria Sibylla Merian, a German painter and naturalist, produced an innovative work on tropical insects based on lore she gathered from the Carib, Arawak, and African women of Suriname. Along the way she abandoned her husband to join a radical Protestant sect in the Netherlands.Drawing on Glikl's memoirs, Marie's autobiography and correspondence, and Maria's writings on entomology and botany, Davis brings these women to vibrant life. She reconstructs the divergent paths their stories took, and at the same time shows us each amid the common challenges and influences of the time--childrearing, religion, an outpouring of vernacular literature--and in relation to men.The resulting triptych suggests the range of experience, self-consciousness, and expression possible in seventeenth-century Europe and its outposts. It also shows how persons removed from the centers of power and learning ventured in novel directions, modifying in their own way Europe's troubled and ambivalent relations with other "marginal" peoples.

Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England


Sharon Marcus - 2006
    They pored over magazines that described the dangerous pleasures of corporal punishment. A few had sexual relationships with each other, exchanged rings and vows, willed each other property, and lived together in long-term partnerships described as marriages. But, as Sharon Marcus shows, these women were not seen as gender outlaws. Their desires were fanned by consumer culture, and their friendships and unions were accepted and even encouraged by family, society, and church. Far from being sexless angels defined only by male desires, Victorian women openly enjoyed looking at and even dominating other women. Their friendships helped realize the ideal of companionate love between men and women celebrated by novels, and their unions influenced politicians and social thinkers to reform marriage law.Through a close examination of literature, memoirs, letters, domestic magazines, and political debates, Marcus reveals how relationships between women were a crucial component of femininity. Deeply researched, powerfully argued, and filled with original readings of familiar and surprising sources, Between Women overturns everything we thought we knew about Victorian women and the history of marriage and family life. It offers a new paradigm for theorizing gender and sexuality--not just in the Victorian period, but in our own.

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe


John Boswell - 1994
    For in Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Yale historian John Boswell, one of our most respected authorities on the Middle Ages, produces extensive evidence that at one time the Catholic and eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex but sanctified them—in ceremonies that bear striking resemblance to the heterosexual marriage ceremonies.

Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence


Nancy Manahan - 1985
    In new afterwords, the co-editors reveal how the book came to be and what happened to their lives when, for the first time in history, a lesbian book from a small publisher went mainstream. Each nun in these stories describes her individual and searing path in, or out of, the convent to discover and face the truth of herself. Still myth-shattering, the stories remind us of the courage required to live—and love—in congruence with our authentic selves. "Oblivious to the controversies that surrounded the initial publication of Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, whether they originated within the Catholic Church or the lesbian feminist movement, thousands of readers across the decades have embraced the book and found their lives changed by its message of empowerment." - Joanne E. Passet, Ph.D., Professor of History, Indiana University East

Homophobia: A History


Byrne R.S. Fone - 2000
    Delving into literary sources as diverse as Greek philosophy, Elizabethan poetry, the Bible, and the Victorian novel, as well as historical texts and propaganda ranging from the French Revolution to the Moral Majority to the transcripts of current TV talk shows, Fone reveals how and why same-sex desire has long been the object of legal, social, religious, and political persecution.

Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women


Leila J. Rupp - 2009
    In beautiful prose, Sapphistries tells their stories, capturing the multitude of ways that diverse societies have shaped female same-sex sexuality across time and place.Leila J. Rupp reveals how, from the time of the very earliest societies, the possibility of love between women has been known, even when it is feared, ignored, or denied. We hear women in the sex-segregated spaces of convents and harems whispering words of love. We see women beginning to find each other on the streets of London and Amsterdam, in the aristocratic circles of Paris, in the factories of Shanghai. We find women's desire and love for women meeting the light of day as Japanese schoolgirls fall in love, and lesbian bars and clubs spread from 1920s Berlin to 1950s Buffalo. And we encounter a world of difference in the twenty-first century, as transnational concepts and lesbian identities meet local understandings of how two women might love each other.Giving voice to words from the mouths and pens of women, and from men's prohibitions, reports, literature, art, imaginings, pornography, and court cases, Rupp also creatively employs fiction to imagine possibilities when there is no historical evidence. Sapphistries combines lyrical narrative with meticulous historical research, providing an eminently readable and uniquely sweeping story of desire, love, and sex between women around the globe from the beginning of time to the present.

Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present


Lillian Faderman - 1981
    Surpassing the Love of Men throws a new light on shifting theories of female sexuality and the changing status of women over the centuries.

Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary


Marina Warner - 1976
    Alone Of All Her Sex: The Myth And The Cult Of The Virgin Mary, by Warner, Marina

The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice Della Rovere


Caroline P. Murphy - 2004
    Now, Caroline Murphy vividly captures the untold story of a rare woman who moved with confidence through a world of popes and princes.Using a wide variety of sources, including Felice's personal correspondence, as well as diaries, account books, and chronicles of Renaissance Rome, Murphy skillfully weaves a compelling portrait of this remarkable woman. Felice della Rovere was to witness Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, watch her father Pope Julius II lay the foundation stone for the new Saint Peter's, and saw herself immortalized by Raphael in his Vatican frescos. With her marriage to Gian Giordano Orsini—arranged, though not attended, by her father the Pope—she came to possess great wealth and power, assets which she used to her advantage. While her father lived, Felice exercised much influence in the affairs of Rome, even negotiating for peace with the Queen of France. After his death, Felice persevered, making allies of the cardinals and clerics of St. Peter's and maintaining her control of the Orsini land through tenacity, ingenuity, and carefully cultivated political savvy. She survived the Sack of Rome in 1527, but her greatest enemy proved to be her own stepson Napoleone, whose rivalry with his stepbrother Girolamo ended suddenly and violently, and brought her perilously close to losing everything she had spent her life acquiring.With a marvelous cast of characters, The Pope's Daughter is a spellbinding biography set against the brilliant backdrop of Renaissance Rome.

Joan of Arc: Her Story


Régine Pernoud - 1981
    From the French peasant girl who led an army to the icon burned at the stake, Joan has been a blank slate on which thousands have written. Pernoud and Clin clear away the myths so that modern readers can see Joan as she was and include a glossary of important individuals, historical events and interpretations of Joan through the ages. Joan of Arc: Her Story is the thrilling life of a woman who obsesses us even to this day.

Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature


Emma Donoghue - 2010
    Emma Donoghue brings to bear all her knowledge and grasp to examine how desire between women in English literature has been portrayed, from schoolgirls and vampires to runaway wives, from cross-dressing knights to contemporary murder stories. Donoghue looks at the work of those writers who have addressed the “unspeakable subject,” examining whether such desire between women is freakish or omnipresent, holy or evil, heartwarming or ridiculous as she excavates a long-obscured tradition of (inseparable) friendship between women, one that is surprisingly central to our cultural history.Donoghue writes about the half-dozen contrasting girl-girl plots that have been told and retold over the centuries, metamorphosing from generation to generation. What interests the author are the twists and turns of the plots themselves and how these stories have changed—or haven’t—over the centuries, rather than how they reflect their time and society. Donoghue explores the writing of Sade, Diderot, Balzac, Thomas Hardy, H. Rider Haggard, Elizabeth Bowen, and others and the ways in which the woman who desires women has been cast as not quite human, as ghost or vampire.She writes about the ever-present triangle, found in novels and plays from the last three centuries, in which a woman and man compete for the heroine’s love . . . about how—and why—same-sex attraction is surprisingly ubiquitous in crime fiction, from the work of Wilkie Collins and Dorothy L. Sayers to P. D. James.Finally, Donoghue looks at the plotline that has dominated writings about desire between women since the late nineteenth century: how a woman’s life is turned upside down by the realization that she desires another woman, whether she comes to terms with this discovery privately, “comes out of the closet,” or is publicly “outed.”She shows how this narrative pattern has remained popular and how it has taken many forms, in the works of George Moore, Radclyffe Hall, Patricia Highsmith, and Rita Mae Brown, from case-history-style stories and dramas, in and out of the courtroom, to schoolgirl love stories and rebellious picaresques. A revelation of a centuries-old literary tradition—brilliant, amusing, and until now, deliberately overlooked.

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution


Jeanne Cordova - 2011
    When We Were Outlaws offers a rare view of the life of a radical lesbian during the early cultural struggle for gay rights, Women’s Liberation, and the New Left of the 1970s. Brash and ambitious, activist Jeanne Córdova is living with one woman and falling in love with another, but her passionate beliefs tell her that her first duty is "to the revolution”---to change the world and end discrimination against gays and lesbians. Trying to compartmentalize her sexual life, she becomes an investigative reporter for the famous, underground L.A. Free Press and finds herself involved with covering the Weather Underground and Angela Davis, exposing neo-Nazi bomber Captain Joe Tomassi, and befriending Emily Harris of the Symbionese Liberation Army. At the same time she is creating what will be the center of her revolutionary lesbian world: her own newsmagazine, The Lesbian Tide, destined to become the voice of the national lesbian feminist movement.By turns provocative and daringly honest, Cordova renders emblematic scenes of the era---ranging from strike protests to utopian music festivals, to underground meetings with radical fugitives---with period detail and evocative characters. For those who came of age in the 70s, and for those who weren’t around but still ask, "What was it like?", Outlaws takes you back to re-live it. It also offers insights about ethics, decision making and strategy, still relevant today.With an introduction by renowned lesbian historian Lillian Faderman, When We Were Outlaws paints a vivid portrait of activism and the search for self-identity, set against the turbulent landscape of multiple struggles for social change that swept hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets.

My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home


Amber L. Hollibaugh - 2000
    Hollibaugh is a lesbian sex radical, ex-hooker, incest survivor, gypsy child, poor-white-trash, high femme dyke. She is also an award-winning filmmaker, feminist, Left political organizer, public speaker, and journalist. My Dangerous Desires presents over twenty years of Hollibaugh’s writing, an introduction written especially for this book, and five new essays including “A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home,” “My Dangerous Desires,” and “Sexuality, Labor, and the New Trade Unionism.” In looking at themes such as the relationship between activism and desire or how sexuality can be intimately tied to one’s class identity, Hollibaugh fiercely and fearlessly analyzes her own political development as a response to her unique personal history. She explores the concept of labeling and the associated issues of categories such as butch or femme, transgender, bisexual, top or bottom, drag queen, b-girl, or drag king. The volume includes conversations with other writers, such as Deirdre English, Gayle Rubin, Jewelle Gomez, and Cherríe Moraga. From the groundbreaking article “What We’re Rollin’ Around in Bed With” to the radical “Sex Work Notes: Some Tensions of a Former Whore and a Practicing Feminist,” Hollibaugh charges ahead to describe her reality, never flinching from the truth. Dorothy Allison’s moving foreword pays tribute to a life lived in struggle by a working-class lesbian who, like herself, refuses to suppress her dangerous desires. Having informed many of the debates that have become central to gay and lesbian activism, Hollibaugh’s work challenges her readers to speak, write, and record their desires—especially, perhaps, the most dangerous of them—“in order for us all to survive.”

Stonewall


Martin Duberman - 1993
    At a little after one a.m. on the morning of June 28, 1969, the police carried out a routine raid on the bar. But it turned out not to be routine at all. Instead of cowering -- the usual reaction to a police raid -- the patrons inside Stonewall and the crowd that gathered outside the bar fought back against the police. The five days of rioting that followed changed forever the face of lesbian and gay life. In the years since 1969, the Stonewall riots have become the central symbolic event of the modern gay movement. Renowned historian and activist Martin Duberman now tells for the first time the full story of what happened at Stonewall, recreating in vivid detail those heady, sweltering nights in June 1969 and revealing a wealth of previously unknown material. This landmark book does even more: it unforgettably demonstrates that the Stonewall riots were not the beginning -- just as they were certainly not the end -- of the ongoing struggle for gay and lesbian rights. Duberman does all this within a narrative framework of novelistic immediacy. Stonewall unfolds through the stories of six lives, and those individual lives broaden out into the larger historical canvas. All six came of age in the pre-Stonewall era, and all six were drawn into the struggle for gay and lesbian rights as a result of the upheaval at the Stonewall bar and the events that followed.

Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman


Leslie Feinberg - 1996
    Transgender Warriors is an eye-opening jaunt through the history of gender expression and a powerful testament to the rebellious spirit.