Lesbian Herstory Archives AudioVisual Collections

Buffalo Women's Oral History Project

Part-ethnography and part-history, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold by Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Kennedy is an intimate history of a lesbian community in Buffalo, New York. It combines the ethnographic method of a rigorous study of a single community’s culture and identity, along with the historian’s urge to analyze the specific forces that shape these communities over time. In terms of primary sources, this historical analysis relied on the Buffalo Women’s Oral History Project. This extensive oral history project began in 1978 and extended through the next 13 years. Interview subjects were working-class lesbian women from Buffalo, New York who described their experiences during the period from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s. 

These recordings of interviews with working-class lesbians are rich with wisdom, insight and emotion. Interviews discuss a wide range of topics including butch/femme roles, gendered sexuality, relationships, family dynamics, the bar scene, religion, realization of homosexuality, coming out, lesbian mothers, oppression, police brutality, race, gay rights movements, women in the military, youth, and identity. They offer dynamic first-person perspectives of the place and time before the emergence of the gay and lesbian liberation movements. From these stories surface the personal struggles and triumphs of the lesbian community during an intensely oppressive time.

These interviews were donated to the archives by Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Kennedy and were subsequently digitized by students from the Pratt Institute, Projects in Digital Archives class, LIS-665.