Bibliography: Attempting a Lesbian History Project

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Chauncey Jr., George. 1989. "From Sexual Inversion to Homosexuality" The Changing Medical Conceptualization of Female "Deviance"." Pp. 87-117 in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, edited by K. Peiss and C. Simmons. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Chauncey Jr. reviews approximately 85 medical books, articles, and reviews published in the United States between 1880 and 1930, and he examines the medical literature on inversion and homosexuality as a response to and a reflection of changes in the sex/gender system at the turn of the century. He then analyzes the assumptions about sexuality revealed by the explanations offered for sexual deviance. For more information on George Chauncey:

D'Emilio, John. 1983. "Capitalism and Gay Identity." Pp. 100-113 in Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, edited by A. Snitow, C. Stansell, and S. Thompson. New York: Monthly Review Press.

In this piece, D'Emilio posits that the creation of the "homosexual" is a modern phenomenon, and gives an accounting of how macro-structural forces shaped the possibility of gay identity. Lesbians, he argues, were rarer presences in the male space of the streets, parks, and bars because of women's continued economic dependence on men. It was economic oppression, not a more essentially caring nature, that kept them at home. The chance for a life outside the family, one made possible by wage labor, had enormous consequences for both sexes. D'Emilio emphasizes the role of gay men in pioneering a sexual life unrelated to procreation though increasingly, of course, the breakdown between sex and birth is shifting the meaning of sexuality for everyone, and above all for women. For additional information on John D’Emilio:

D'Emilio, John and Estelle B. Freedman. 1997. Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

This book, originally published in 1988, explores American history through the lens of sexuality. Beginning in the colonial period, it extensively documents the major historical events in America, showing how sexuality was intertwined at all points. With an Afterword that deals with issues from the 1990s, the book covers approximately 400 years of sexual history. This work is a must have for anyone serious about studying Western sexuality.For more information on Estelle B. Freedman:

Duberman et. al. 1989. ""She Even Chewed Tobacco": A Pictorial Narrative of Passing Women in America." Pp. 183-194 in Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, edited by M. B. Duberman, M. Vicinus, and G. Chauncey: Dutton.

This essay is an edited version of the slide-show tape, "She Even Chewed Tobacco." It represents the efforts of local history projects to popularize gay and lesbian history through media presentations: the slide-tape show has been shown to community groups throughout the country since 1979 and has been used in women's studies and history classes as well. In addition to providing images of women in nontraditional roles, it raises questions about the relationship of women who passed as men in the 19th century and the emergence of lesbian identity in the 20th century. Since so many of these women came from the working class, it suggests important continuities in working-class lesbian history.

Duggan, Lisa. 2000. "Doctors of Desire." Pp. 156-179 in Sapphic Slashers. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

In this chapter of her book, Duggan explains how newspaper narratives of lesbian love murder interacted with the emerging literature of scientific sexology throughout the 1900s. To that end, she details the development of sexology and its attending literature, documenting how intertwined it was with dominant scientific thought regarding evolution and social hierarchies or race, class, and sexuality. Showing how the two worlds of publication influenced each other, Duggan notes that often the line between formal and folk knowledges was very thin. For more information on Lisa Duggan:

Katz, Jonathon. 1976. "Passing Women, 1782 - 1920." Pp. 209-238 in Gay American History. New York: Crowell.

This chapter from Katz's larger work details the phenomenon of women who passed as men in America from 1782-1920. It extensively discusses the lives of approximately nine women, using both popular press stories as well as personal accounts and psychiatric reports to document their lives. Interesting in its scope, Katz sheds light on the topic of passing women, at a time when histories of gay and lesbian people were beginning to be more regularly written and published. For more information on Jonathan Ned Katz:

Peiss, Kathy. 1989. ""Charity Girls" and City Pleasures: Historical Notes on Working-Class Sexuality, 1883-1920." Pp. 57-69 in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, edited by K. Peiss and C. Simmons. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Peiss uncovers the history of working-class female sexuality by showing how middle-class representations of that sexuality (as promiscuous) do not take into account various social and historical factors. By explaining the rise of "charity girls," Peiss shows how ideas of sexuality differed between social classes, as did customs and expectations around sex and sexual behavior. For more information on Kathy Peiss:

Smith-Rosenberg, Carol. 1975. "The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America." Signs 1(1): 1-29.

Smith-Rosenberg explores the often unstudied and untheorized passionate friendships between women in 19th century America. An abundance of evidence suggests that 18th and 19th century women formed deep emotional ties with other women, and that these same-sex friendships were casually accepted in society. Ranging from the supportive love of sisters, through the enthusiasms of adolescent girls, to the sensual love by mature women, Smith-Rosenberg uncovers a world of ritual, passion, and romance, typically devoid of men and male participation. For more information on Carol Smith-Rosenberg:

Vicinus, Martha. 1993. ""They Wonder to Which Sex I Belong": The Historical Roots of the Modern Lesbian Identity." Pp. 432-452 in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, edited by H. Abelove, M. A. Barale, and D. M. Halperin. New York: Routledge.

In this survey of current work in lesbian history, Vicinus describes the pitfalls accompanying some historians' concern with the origins of individual and group identity - a concern that can limit its possibilities for inquiry by focusing solely on Euro-American instances where identity and sexuality are intertwined and where identity itself is a cultural value; she also indicates the ways in which lesbian history can begin more fully to reflect intersecting and conflicting identities. Locating lesbian history's focus in the cultural margins, and denying that any specific sexual expression can provide a key to understanding the lesbian past, Vicinus argues that lesbian history must be written so as to include not only the dyke, butch, witch, and amazon, but the invert, femme, androgyne, and even the merely occasional lover of women. For more information on Martha Vicinus:

Weeks, Jeffrey. 1989. "Movements of Affirmation: Sexual Meanings and Homosexual Identities." Pp. 70-86 in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, edited by K. Peiss and C. Simmons. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

This essay, first written in 1978, was intended to challenge the essentialism of most writing on homosexuality at the time by pointing out the historical and social constructedness of sexuality itself. By mapping how and when "homosexuality" first emerged as a term and as a category, Weeks moves discussions of sexuality from a biological to a social realm. For more information on Jeffrey Weeks: