Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers (1991) by Lillian Faderman


Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America is the full title of this non-fiction book by Lillian Faderman. It deals with lesbian life in the 20th century.

Lesbian history in “Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers”

The book describes lesbian history as a pattern of alternating tolerant and intolerant decades for American lesbians between 1900 and 1960, as well as the improvements and adverse developments that the author believes have taken place since the 1960s. Faderman wrote that the rise and fall of the social acceptance of lesbianism in the United States coincides with gains and losses in women’s broader economic and political freedom.


She describes the relatively liberated 1920s as a period in which lesbian communities formed and that lesbianism had a certain cachet in some circles.


In the 1930s, social conservatism, partly driven by the Great Depression, led to a period of greater repression.

1940 – ’45

The 1940s and World War II increased demand for women’s skills and talent, leading to a temporary tolerance of female independence and female homosexuality.

1945 – ’70

The post-war period and the McCarthyist conservatism of the 1950s led to mainstream intolerance of homosexuality. McCarthyist purges resulted in lesbians losing their jobs and raids on their homes and gathering places. One result of this repression was an increase in secrecy in the lesbian community, and Faderman attributes this secrecy to the development of multiple lesbian subcultures.


By the late 1960s, the stigma associated with lesbianism had learned lessons. She captures the lesbian movements of the 1970s as greed through separatism and a quest for ideal community.


In the 1980s, acceptance picked up again and more lesbians opted for middle-class lifestyles, but also a backlash against homosexuality in the wake of the AIDS crisis as the 1990s dawned (and the book was published).

The material in the book comes from a variety of sources, including “memoirs, literary work, personal correspondence, journalism, and 186 interviews”.

The book looks to the late nineteenth century to explore the roots of lesbian relationships. She examines the romantic friendships of middle-class, college-educated women, such as reformer Jane Addams, feminist leader Carrie Chapman Catt, and Bryn Mawr College President M. Carey Thomas, and says this form of friendship was considered socially acceptable to women of their age. class at that time. She claims that these relationships were definitely emotionally intense and may or may not have been sexual. She argues that while the increase in women’s sexual freedom has since benefited lesbians, it has also “undermined” romantic friendship.

Awards for “Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers”

In 1992, it won the Stonewall Book Award for non-fiction and was selected as the “Editor’s Choice” at the Lambda Literary Awards.
In September 2011, Ms. magazine ranked the book 99th on its list of the top 100 feminist non-fiction books.


Links to “Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers”

Odd Girls Twilight Lovers on Autostraddle

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