W S 203 Chapter 5: Chapter 5-OGTL

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Iowa State University
Women's Studies
W S 203
Alissa Kristine Stoehr

Chapter 5-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • Lesbian life in the 1940s-1950s o Lesbians and military service ▪ Over 30,000 women served in WWII ▪ Public impression during the war years was that a woman’s corp was “the ideal breeding ground for lesbians” ▪ The war caused men to leave women to fend for themselves; made women feel independent for the first time; brought females of all classes into a group of women where they were able to both expand friendships and learn to appreciate women as serious and self- sufficient human beings ▪ Larger lesbian communities could be created because the war brought large numbers of women to big cities • Helped women with their feelings and the coming out process ▪ Women found themselves in an environment where women worked together in areas they considered important and where they could become “heroes” to one another o Spring 1942-Women’s Army Corps ▪ War progressed and need for personnel grew; military policies become more lenient towards homosexuals ▪ Military needed women who wanted to do work that was traditionally masculine ▪ Military officers were warned to not expose or punish lesbian behavior • Sex Hygiene Lectures (p. 123) ▪ Military could not afford to lose woman power at the height of the war. Lesbians did not cost the military time and money because of STDs or pregnancy. They also did not disrupt the functioning of the service. o Government-sponsored subculture ▪ Military life fostered some tolerance regarding lesbians among young women who for the first time in their lives came in contact with sexuality between women in close quarters ▪ A lot of women, lesbian or not, adopted a “who cares?” attitude. The war made it easier to create a distinctive lesbian style because pants became acceptable for women. Pants became a permanent part of American women’s wardrobes because of wartime jobs. ▪ Butch/femme relationships became more prominent ▪ The military contributed to creating a larger lesbian subculture when it became less lenient in its policy towards homosexuals once WWII ended • “queer ships” filled with “undesirable discharges” sailed to the nearest American port; many of these individuals believed they could not go home again, so they stayed where they disembarked: New York, San Francisca, Los Angeles, Boston, etc. • “The government sponsored a migration of the gay community.” ▪ Because of the growth of lesbian subcultures, the number of bars that catered to lesbians increased. These businesses fostered a sense of community, especially among working class and young lesbians. Lesbians could also more easily conceptualize lesbianism not simply as a secret and forbidden love, but as a lifestyle shared by many other women. o Lucky’s-Harlem (1942) o 181 Club-New York (mid 1940s) o Music Hall-Portland, Oregon ▪ Lesbian political consciousness started to develop-p. 128 o The lesbian “sicko” ▪ After the end
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