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Girrlz Bookz Lesbian Books - Lesbian Erotica - Lesbian Relationships Featured Items
The earliest known written references to same-sex love between women are attributed to Sappho (the eponym of sapphism), who lived on the island of Lesbos in ancient Greece from about 625 to 570 BCE and wrote poems which apparently expressed her sexual attraction to other females. Modern scholarship has suggested a parallel between ancient Greek pederasty and the friendships Sappho formed with her students. Lesbian relationships were also common among the Lacedaemonians of ancient Sparta. Plutarch wrote "love was so esteemed among them that girls also became the erotic objects of noble women."
Accounts of lesbian relationships are found in poetry and stories from ancient China. Research by anthropologist Liza Dalby, based mostly on erotic poems exchanged between women, has suggested lesbian relationships were commonplace and socially accepted in Japan during the Heian Period. In medieval Arabia there were reports of relations between harem residents, although these were sometimes suppressed. For example Caliph Musa al-Hadi ordered the beheading of two girls who were surprised during lovemaking. During the twelfth-century Etienne de Fougères derided lesbians in his Livre des manières (about CE 1170), likening them to hens behaving as roosters and reflecting a general tendency among religious and secular authorities in Europe to reject any notion women could be properly sexual without men.
The earliest American historical records concerned with female homosexual conduct were not drawn from sources sympathetic to lesbians, or women in general. Although it is through early records of colonial legislatures and writings that clearly consider lesbians a social outgroup, the sparse material shows mainstream attitudes toward lesbianism, and the opposition to homosexual women during the years prior to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement.
Some of the earliest published studies of female homosexual activity were written from observations of, and data gathered from, incarcerated women. Margaret Otis published "A Perversion Not Commonly Noted" in the 1913 Journal of American Psychology, coupling a decidedly Puritanical moral foundation with an almost revolutionary sympathy for lesbian relationships; her focus revolved more around her revulsion for sexual contact between those of different ethnic backgrounds, yet offered an almost radical tolerance of the lesbian relations themselves, as Otis noted "...sometimes the love [of one young woman for another] is very real and seems almost ennobling." This document provided a rare view from a tightly controlled setting monitored by a corrections supervisor. Kate Richards O'Hare, imprisoned in 1917 for five years under the Espionage Act of 1917, published a firsthand account of the life of incarcerated women In Prison complete with frightening accounts of lesbian sexual abuse among inmates. So wrote O'Hare: "...A thorough education in sex perversions is part of the educational system of most prisons, and for the most part the underkeepers and the stool pigeons are very efficient teachers..."
O'Hare then recounted a systematic induction of women into a cycle of forced prostitution to which authorities turned a blind eye: "...there seems to be considerable ground for the commonly accepted belief of the prison inmates that much of its graft and profits may percolate upward to the under officials...the...stool pigeon...handled the vices so rampant in the prison...she, in fact, held the power of life and death over us, by being able to secure endless punishments in the blind cell, she could and did compel indulgence in this vice in order that its profits might be secured."
Though these both provided second-hand accounts from two very different perspectives, no locatable known lesbian first-hand accounts of life in a correctional institution are known to exist, leaving this area of study incomplete and ripe for further investigation.
Boston marriage was a term used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for households where two women lived together, independent of any male support. These relationships were not necessarily sexual; the existence of platonic Boston marriages was used to quell fears of lesbianism following the loss of men in World War I.Today, the term is sometimes used when referring to two women living together who are not in a sexual relationship. Such a relationship may have intimacy and commitment, without sexuality.
The 20th century saw the birth of the earliest Lesbian rights organizations, most importantly of which was Heterodoxy, founded as a feminist luncheon club for "unorthodox women," in whose membership is included notable and prominent lesbians Katherine Anthony, Sara Josephine Baker, Helen Hull, and Elisabeth Irwin. Concurrently established in San Francisco, Mona's 440 club became the first recognized lesbian bar. Emma Goldman, internationally known anarchist and social activist, once dubbed "the most dangerous woman in America" by J. Edgar Hoover, was also an outspoken advocated of the rights of gays and lesbians, perhaps for the first time in American history. Whether or not Goldman was involved in any lesbian relationships is uncertain, but her advocacy has resulted in some calling her the Mother of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement.
Founded in 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis was the first exclusively Lesbian organization in the United States. A year after their founding in San Francisco, DoB began publishing The Ladder (Magazine), the first widely-distributed Lesbian American periodical. Soon after, a chapter was formed in New York City, and held the first Lesbian American conference in 1960. As the Women's Liberation Movement began, lesbians found an outlet to voice concerns shared with heterosexual women. In 1969 lesbian author and activist Rita Mae Brown joined the National Organization for Women and challenged homophobia within the organization: "I'm tired of hearing everyone moan about men. Say something good about women. I'll say something good. I love them. I'm a lesbian." One year later all lesbians were expelled from its ranks, and one year after that they were again admitted, with apologies from NOW's leadership.The Metropolitan Community Church was founded in 1968, the first Christian assembly of gays and lesbians. In 1969, the church's founder, Rev. Troy D. Perry, performed the first known same-sex marriage in the United States.
In the second half of the 1960s, LGBT activism spilled over into social protest and gay liberation. On the East Coast, beginning in 1965, homophile organizations picketed the White House, The Pentagon, the United Nations, and Independence Hall, demanding an end to anti-gay discrimination. The picketers were few in number, but received attention (generally unfavorable) in national news reports. More dramatically, transgendered people rioted in August 1966 at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco, the first time in history an organized group of LGBT people resisted arrest. In 1969, Rita Mae Brown, along with many other lesbians, took part in the Stonewall riots. This event, known as the birth of the modern Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement, began in response to a targeted effort by police to close known gay and lesbian establishments.
Lesbian Pulp Fiction
Lesbian pulp fiction refers to any mid-20th century pulp novel with overtly lesbian themes and content. Lesbian pulp fiction was published in the 1950s and 60s by many of the same publishing houses that other subgenres of pulp fiction including Westerns, Romances, and Detective Fiction. Because very little other literature was available for and about lesbians at this time, quite often these books were the only reference people (lesbian and otherwise) had for modeling what lesbians were. Stephanie Foote, from the University of Illinois commented on the importance of lesbian pulp novels to the lesbian identity prior to feminism: "Pulps have been understood as signs of a secret history of readers, and they have been valued because they have been read. The more they are read, the more they are valued, and the more they are read, the closer the relationship between the very act of circulation and reading and the construction of a lesbian community becomes...Characters use the reading of novels as a way to understand that they are not alone." Writer Donna Allegra explained why she purchased them in saying, "No matter how embarrassed and ashamed I felt when I went to the cash register to buy these books, it was absolutely necessary for me to have them. I needed them the way I needed food and shelter for survival."
Pulp fiction novels got their name from the cheap wood pulp paper they were printed on (note: the pulp fiction novels of the 1950s and 60s evolved out of the pulp magazines of earlier decades). These books were sold at drugstores, magazine stands, bus terminals and other places where one might look to purchase cheap, consumable entertainment. The books were small enough to fit in a purse or back pocket and cheap enough to throw away when the reader was through with it.