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Lecture 8

Lecture 8 - The Perverse Adult, Part I.docx

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Queen's University
HIST 210
Steven J Maynard

The Perverse Adult, Part I: The Making of Lesbian Identities and Subcultures I. Lesbian History: A Problem of Sources? A. Lesbian Community-based Oral History Projects B. Early 20 Century: Elsa Gidlow, Frieda & Bud C. Private vs. Public Sources of Lesbian/Gay History D. Gendered Differences in Visibility: On the Streets, In the Sheets (of print culture) II. HUSH, The Well of Loneliness, and Lesbianism in Early 20 -Century Toronto A. Radclyffe Hall’s The Well B. The Tabloids: A Little Sex and a Little Sleaze C. “Hell Witches in Toronto” and Localizing Lesbianism D. “A Certain Class of Perverted Women” and the “Man-Woman” E. “Married” and Middle-Class F. Loring and Wyle: Elusive Identities, Parks, and Progressive Politics III. “These Unconventional Times” and “Shameless Females Beyond the Law” IV. The Canadian Forum, 1929 – Popularizing Sexology, Defending Lesbianism V. A Note on Non-Elite Women: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Jealous Lesbian VI. “Forbidden Love”: The Postwar Emergence of Lesbian Subcultures A. Wartime: “A Nation-Wide Coming Out Experience” B. Bars and Butch/Femme C. Lesbians in the Law D. Pulp Novels I. Lesbian History: A Problem of Sources? A. Lesbian Community-based Oral History Projects The research of lesbian history in Canada began in the 1980s. Focused on the post-war period. This has a lot to do with the fact that in the 1980s there were lots of women still around to remember lesbian life in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Lots of efforts made to interview women about what they remember about lesbian life. Took the form of oral history. Much of this kind of work started in community based settings. Lynn Kennedy; Joan Nestle; in Canada there was a group – Lesbian Making History – who wanted to interview; Kynn Ferney; not academics After that lesbian oral history took off B. Early 20 Century: Elsa Gidlow, Frieda & Bud • Not going to find too many people who remembered the early 20 c. th • Based primarily on legal records; almost impossible to remember gay history without legal records; it was illegal so when those people were thrown in jail or brought to court • Based on the records historians can reconstruct • Lesbian relationships were not included in the law; escaped the law because it was already discredited that women had a sexuality much less with one another • Reading the literature gave them reasons to love themselves • Used the literature to name her own desires and affirm them; reasons to love herself • Discoveries of lesbian couples; Frieda Fraser and Edith Williams – in 1899 – attended the university of Toronto o Frieda went on to Medical School and became a prof at U of T/ Edith (Bud, she was nicknamed) became a vetenerian (the 2 one to do so in Canada) o The two were apart for a while; their families tried to keep them apart o During their time apart they wrote to each other; and the collection is at the U of T archives o Letters and stories serve as the basis for many books on lesbian history o After a couple of decades of trying to maintain their relationship they set up a house together in 1939 o Had a good sense of their sense in history  Bud wrote a letter in 1926 about the struggle to maintain their relationship  “Perhaps in time, 20 years or so, people will get tired and leave in peace C. Private vs. Public Sources of Lesbian/Gay History • The sources have been revealing o They are all private • The private nature stands constrant to the public documents used to recreate the male homosexuality o Says a lot about gendered inequalities • The differences in access to commercial to public sexual space • Women had fewer opportunities to form sexual sub-cultures • Lack of public visibility • In 1925 • Why is it that women did not have access to the same public space as men? • Before the 2ndWW lesbian remained virtually invisible in Canadian society. Were they actually intirely visible? Even though they didn’t have the vibrant form of visible that the men had they may have been visible in other ways. D. Gendered Differences in Visibility: On the Streets, In the Sheets (of print culture) • Print culture has a huge impact in the social sphere; especially for lesbian culture • 11 Oct. 1928; tabloid called Hush it ran a story about a Secret noevl banned in England – the Well of Loneliness, by Radcliffe Hall o It is the first overt lesbian novel o The mian character is depicted in the novel o This is the way it was presented: “a story pervert heroin but defend her”  Novel got charged with obseneties o Between Oct 1928 and Jan 1929 Hush publishes a whole bunch of articles on the Well trial  Then the Hush went on to write 5 more articles about lesbianism  The Well, the novel and the Trial allowed for the circulation of lesbian identity • Tabloids were a huge thing; if looking at how lesbian identity emerged it is linked to the beginning of tabloids • What set them apart wa
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