12 Informative Queer Women's History ReadsHistorians in the News
tags: books, womens history, LBGTQ history
Queer women have appeared in the historical record for thousands of years, because they have literally always existed. Despite this, they are frequently overlooked or mentioned as an aside. This is due to a number of factors including arrest records (queer men were more likely to be arrested and therefore be found by researchers) and plain old misogyny. In the past few decades, however, books about queer women’s history have been published with increasing regularity, leading to the slow disabuse of the notion that queer women are a “new thing.” When Regency-era Anne Lister’s diaries were decoded by scholar Helena Whitbread and were discovered to be rife with her sexual escapades with other women, people spoke of hoaxes and forgeries, because it was thought that women hadn’t been exposed to the idea of relationships with other women at that time, and that those relationships were therefore impossible.
Below are a smattering of book selections focused on queer women’s history. They range in identity from queer to bi to lesbian and more. But they are all about women who love women and they all help expand our view of the world.
How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective Edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The Combahee River Collective was a group of radical Black lesbian feminists in 1960s and ’70s Boston who believed in intersectionality (before we had a word for it) and the idea that “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free.” This book reprints the Combahee River Collective Statement, still impactful and relevant almost 50 years later, and editor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor interviews Combahee members.
Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality by Hanne Blank
I had to include this because how did heterosexuality become the norm? Its invention as a term dates to the mid-19th century, and its origin story is surprising. Historian Blank looks into how this word got twisted from its original intent and turned into a measuring stick used against queer people for decades.
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