This article addresses the history of lesbianism in the United States. Unless otherwise noted, the members of same-sex female couples discussed here are not known to be lesbian rather than for example bisexualbut they are mentioned as part of discussing the practice of lesbianism — that is, same-sex female sexual and romantic behavior.
Laws against lesbian sexual activity were suggested but usually not created or enforced in early American history. InJohn Cotton proposed a law for Massachusetts Bay making sex between two women or two men a capital Old women lesbian, but the law was not enacted.
However, in in Plymouth Old women lesbianSarah White Norman and Mary Vincent Hammon were prosecuted for "lewd behavior with each other upon a bed"; their trial documents are the only known record of sex between female English colonists in North America in the 17th century.
In the 19th century, lesbians were only accepted if they hid their sexual orientation and were presumed to be merely friends with their partners. For example, the term " Boston marriage " was used to describe a committed relationship between two unmarried women who were usually financially independent and often shared a house;  these relationships were presumed to be asexual, and hence the women were respected as "spinsters" by their communities.
Some American lesbians in the arts moved in the 19th century from the United States to Rome, including the actress Charlotte Cushman and sculptors Emma Stubbins  and Harriet Hosmer.
The earliest published studies of lesbian activity were written in the early 20th century, and many were based on observations of, and data gathered from, incarcerated women.
Margaret Otis published "A Perversion Not Commonly Noted" in the Journal of Psychologycoupling 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 Old women lesbian, yet offered an almost radical tolerance of the lesbian relations themselves, as Otis noted " Kate Richards O'Hareimprisoned in for five years under the Espionage Act ofpublished a firsthand account of incarcerated women Old women lesbian Prison  complete with frightening accounts of lesbian sexual abuse among inmates.
A thorough education in sex perversions is part of the educational system of most prisons, and Old women lesbian the most part the underkeepers [sic] and the stool pigeons are very efficient teachers Lesbians also became somewhat more prominent in literature at this time.
In the early 20th century, Paris became a haven for many lesbian writers who set up salons there and were able to live their lives in relative openness. Toklaswho lived together there as a couple for many years. Toklas, a modernist memoir of her Paris years written in the voice of Toklas, which became a literary bestseller. Yet openly lesbian literature was still subject to censorship.
InBritish lesbian author Radclyffe Hall wrote a tragic novel of lesbian love, The Well of Loneliness ; after the book was banned in England, Hall lost her first American publisher. But Friede and his publishing partner Pascal Covici had already moved the printing plates out of New York in order to continue publishing the book.
By the time the case came to trial, it had already been reprinted six times. In the United States, as in the United Kingdom, the Hicklin test of obscenity [ citation needed ] applied, but New York case law had established that books should be judged by their effects on adults rather Old women lesbian on children and that literary merit was relevant. Scott FitzgeraldEdna St. Mademoiselle de Maupin described a lesbian relationship in more explicit terms than The Well did.
According to Ernst, The Well had greater social value because it was more serious in tone and made a case against misunderstanding and intolerance. On 19 April, that court issued a three-paragraph decision stating that The Well' s theme — a "delicate social problem" — did not violate the law unless written in such a way as to make it obscene.
After "a careful reading of the entire book", they cleared it of all charges. Most literature of the s, '40s, and early '50s presented lesbian life as tragedy, ending with either the suicide of the lesbian character or her conversion to heterosexuality. Yet as early asFrances V. Rummell, an educator and a teacher of French at Stephens College, published the first explicitly lesbian autobiography in which two women end up happily together, titled Diana: America's Gayest Magazinewas published from — It was written Old women lesbian a lesbian secretary named Edith Eydewriting under the pen name Lisa Ben, an anagram for lesbian.
Furthermore, the Hays Codewhich was in operation from untilprohibited the depiction of homosexuality in all Hollywood films. Many lesbians found solace in the all-female environment Old women lesbian the United States Women's Army Corps WACbut this demanded secrecy, as lesbians were not allowed to serve openly in the U. But you must know, sir, that they are the most Old women lesbian group — there have been no illegal pregnancies, no AWOLs, no charges of misconduct.
From untillesbians were allowed to serve in the military, but only if they kept their sexuality secret under what was known as the " Don't Ask Don't Tell " policy.
Spring Old women lesbianthe first lesbian paperback novel, and considered the beginning of the lesbian pulp fiction genre, was published in and sold 1. In the mids, the obscenity regulations began to relax, and happy endings to lesbian romances became possible. On April 27,President Eisenhower issued Executive Orderwhich banned gay men and lesbians from working for any agency of the federal government.
In the s the lesbian rights movement first began in America.
The Daughters of Bilitis DOB was founded in San Francisco in by four same-sex female couples including the lesbians Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon and was the first Old women lesbian lesbian political and social organization in the United States. The first public protests for equal Old women lesbian for gay and lesbian people were staged at governmental offices and historic landmarks in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.
Political lesbianismwhich embraces the theory that sexual orientation is a political and feminist choice, and advocates lesbianism as a positive alternative to heterosexuality for women as part of the struggle against sexism, originated in the late s among second wave radical feminists.
Ti-Grace Atkinsona lesbian and radical feminist who helped to found the group The Feministsis attributed with the phrase that embodies the movement: They at first advocated that women practice celibacy, and later came to advocate political lesbianism. A scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon several times.
She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. Described as "a typical New York butch" and "a dyke—stone butch", she had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as one witness claimed, complaining that her handcuffs were too tight.
Lesbians were also active in the feminist movement. The first time lesbian concerns were introduced into the National Organization for Women came inwhen Ivy Bottinian open lesbian who was then president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women Old women lesbian, held a public forum titled "Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?
In she referred to growing lesbian visibility as a "lavender menace" and fired openly lesbian newsletter editor Rita Mae Brownand in she engineered the expulsion of lesbians, including Ivy Bottinifrom NOW's New York chapter. Yes, I suppose you have to say that freedom of sexual choice is part of that, but it shouldn't be the main issue Inat the National Women's Conferenceshe seconded the lesbian rights resolution "which everyone thought I would oppose" in order to "preempt any debate" and move on to other issues she believed were more important and less divisive in the effort to add the Equal Rights Amendment ERA to the U.
At the Old women lesbian to Unite Women, on the first evening when all four hundred feminists were assembled in the auditorium, twenty women wearing t-shirts that read "Lavender Menace" came to the front of the room and faced the audience. State legislatures should reform their penal codes or repeal State laws that restrict private sexual behavior between consenting adults.
State legislatures should enact legislation that would prohibit consideration of sexual or affectional orientation as a factor in any Old women lesbian determination Old women lesbian child custody or visitation rights. Rather, child custody cases Old women lesbian be evaluated solely on the merits of which party is the better parent, without regard to that person's sexual and affectional orientation.
Lesbian feminism is a cultural movement and critical perspective, most influential in the s and early s primarily in North America and Western Europethat encourages women to direct their energies toward other women rather than men, and often advocates lesbianism as the logical result of feminism.
Lesbian separatisma subset of lesbian feminism, became Old women lesbian in the s as some lesbians doubted whether mainstream society or even the LGBT movement had anything Old women lesbian offer them.
Inseven women including Del Martin confronted the North Conference of Homophile [meaning homosexual] Organizations about the relevance of the gay rights movement to the women within it. The delegates passed a resolution in favor of women's liberation, but Del Martin felt they had not done enough, and wrote "If That's All There Is", an influential essay in which she decried gay rights organizations as sexist.
Olivia Records was a collective founded in to record and market women's music. Olivia Records, named after the heroine of a pulp novel Old women lesbian Dorothy Bussy who fell in love with her headmistress at French boarding school, was the brainchild of ten lesbian-feminists the Furies and Radicalesbians living in Washington, D.
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In that decade, Gittings was Old women lesbian involved in the American Library Associationespecially its gay caucus, the first such in a professional organization, in order to promote positive literature about homosexuality in libraries. She was also involved in getting homosexuality accepted by psychiatry, and was a discussion leader for the American Psychiatric Association panel on "Life Styles of Non-Patient Homosexuals," which included Del Martin as one of six panelists.
Anonymous," a gay psychiatrist who appeared wearing a mask to conceal his identity and joined a panel that she and others Old women lesbian in titled "Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals? Lesbian separatist ideology led to the establishment of sex segregated womyn's land communities,  and creation of the women-only Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. In the s open lesbians also began their first forays into American politics.
InNancy Wechsler became the first openly gay or lesbian person in political office in America; she was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council in as a member of the Human Rights Party and came out as a lesbian during her first and only term there.
She addressed the convention in support of Old women lesbian inclusion of a gay rights plank in the Democratic Party platform. InElaine Noble became the first openly gay or lesbian candidate ever elected to a state-level office in America when she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It drew between 75, and lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, gay men, and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation.
Charlotte Bunch and Audre Lourde were the only out lesbians who spoke at the main rally. The s also saw conflict between the transgender and lesbian communities in America. A dispute Old women lesbian inwhen the West Coast Lesbian Conference split over a scheduled performance by the lesbian transgender folk-singer Beth Elliott.