Iconic Lesbian Historians: Dr. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy & Madeline D. Davis

The other day I posted this wonderful quote from the essential Persistent Desire. Today, I thought I would share a little information about the two impressive and inspirational lesbian women who wrote it. Sections in commas are reproduced from the wiki pages, which are linked below.

kennedy_elizabethDr. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy

Born in 1939, she is a lesbian historian who ‘additionally was one of the founding feminists of the field of Women’s Studies’.

Formerly married to a man, she fell in love with a woman and came out a lesbian in the 1970s.  ‘Her pioneering role in the development of modern lesbian history was the result of her search for a different and more responsible way to use her anthropological training’. Due to her rigorous ethical approach to accurately collecting the voices of lesbians who contributed to her work, ‘Kennedy went on to become an important figure among oral historians in the US and internationally and has remained a central figure in lesbian and LGBTQ history in general’.  Read more at her wiki page.

mad Madeline Davis

 Born in 1940, she ‘was a founding member of the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier, the first gay rights  organization in Western New York, in 1970. In 1972, Davis  taught the first course on lesbianism in the United States’.

 ‘In 1972, she became the first openly lesbian delegate elected  to  a major political convention when she was elected to the  Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida. She  addressed the convention in support of the inclusion of a gay  rights plank in the Democratic Party platform. Davis became a member of the Democratic Committee, and worked within the party for the acceptance of gays and lesbians‘. And that’s just a small fraction of the vital work she has done in the LGBT rights movement. Read more at her wiki page.

In collaboration, these women published in 1993 the path-breaking community study Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold, as a result of thirteen years of research.

In the process of researching and writing the book, the authors not only drew information and perspectives from veteran members of the Buffalo lesbian community, but returned over and over again to that community with their results, sharing various iterations of the manuscript, both to make sure that they were accurately representing those about whom they were writing; and to return the results of their researches to the community itself. The authors’ scrupulous method of in depth interviewing, of careful listening to their informants, and of probing analysis, produced an account of mid century lesbian sexuality that was striking and influential for its originality. Written at a time when lesbian feminist politics was still uncomfortable with older lesbian traditions of polarized masculine and feminine sex roles, Boots of Leather Slippers of Gold explored these traditions to discover practices and identities that only superficially reflected heterosexual sexuality’. It is an extraordinary and sensitive depiction of lesbian history at a time when butch-fem relationships dominated this community, told as a collection of oral history, painstakingly recorded as authentically as possible, in close collaboration with those whose stories it records. For new generations of butches and fems, this extensive work is a fascinating and meaningful insight into the formation of our community and culture.

Furthermore, both these phenomenal women are lesbians, and have publicly identified this way for the majority of their lives. Their passionate and dedicated work in lesbian history and lesbian rights is truly vital to our history and they have done their work with the utmost respect and love for fellow lesbians and the importance of recording the stories of our elders.

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