Lesbian Nation Interviewees
Martha Shelley was able to bring in many contributors to share their knowledge, insight, creativity, and experiences to the wider audience a radio broadcast could provide. Some of these contributors were recurring and others appeared as one-time guests. All were members of the lesbian and LGBTQ community. In this section, you will find brief biographical information about the interviewees who appear in the Lesbian Nation tapes. The provided information is meant to give you only a small glimpse into expansive and varied lives that these women have led. Much of the information here was gleaned from the Herstory Archives' own materials. We encourage you to explore the work, activism, and lives of these women and listen to their stories.
Sidney Abbott (1937 - 2015)
Appears in: LHA Audio 008
Abbott was an American lesbian and feminist author and activist. Along with many other members of the gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the National Organization for Women (NOW), Abbott was a former member of the lesbian radical feminist group Lavender Menace which protested the exclusion of lesbians from the feminist movement. Abbott was one of the most vocal members of NOW, always advocating for the inclusion of lesbian issues alongside feminist issues. She is also well-known for co-authoring the groundbreaking Sappho Was A Right-On Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism (1971) with her partner, Barbara Love. Her advocacy for lesbian and feminst issues has included the creation of the Women’s Rights Are Human Rights nonprofit in 2007 and the 2008 establishment of the In Our Shoes newsletter which emphasized issues of class, poverty, and politics. Abbott tragically passed away in a house fire in Southold, New York on April 15, 2015.
Jane Alpert (1947 - Present)
Alpert is a Jewish-American, former far-left radical/political activist (involved with the Weather Underground Organization) now radical feminist, activist, and writer, who conspired in and served time in prison for the bombings of eight government buildings in the late 60s. Her activism and writing are primarily concerned with feminism and advocacy for women’s rights, including advocacy for LGBT rights. In 1969 she was involved with several bombings claimed by the Weather Underground. She was arrested and charged with bombing eight corporate and government offices. Her parents paid her bail, and she went underground, as she was still wanted for another bombing.
Blanche Boyd (1945 - Present)
Appears in: Lesbian Nation (1973-10-29)
Blanche Boyd is a writer, activist, and the Roman and Tatiana Weller Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Connecticut College. Author of five novels, including 1973's Nerves, her work is shaped by her Southern upbringing and speak to themes like lesbianism, racial conflicts, white supremacy, and feminism. She counts a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and the Lambda Literary Award among her numerous accolades.
Rita Mae Brown (1944 - Present)
Appears in: Lesbian Nation (1973-10-29)
Rita Mae Brown is an American feminist author and activist. Expelled from the University of Florida at Gainesville for participating in the civil rights movement, Brown went on to graduate from New York University and earn a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University and a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies. In 1973 Brown published her seminal novel Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age novel that portrayed its protagonist's lesbianism in a frank and open manner revolutionary in literature at that time.
Phyllis Chesler (1940 - Present)
Appears in: LHA Audio 012
A feminist psychologist, writer, and professor at College of Staten Island (CUNY), Phyllis Chesler is the author of such best-sellers as: Women and Madness (1972), With Child: A Story of Motherhood (1979) and An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (2013). Her writing runs the gamut of topics, ranging from divorce and child-custody to pornography and violence against women. She was interviewed by Martha Shelley for Lesbian Nation in October of 1972 and discussed her debut novel, Women and Madness, which dealt with gender and sexuality theories. In 1973 she returned to discuss her legal battle with her publisher over their selling an unapproved version of her book.
Appears in: LHA Audio 001
A lesbian historian, writer, and researcher who published dozens of articles in lesbian journals and publications throughout the 70s and 80s, her most well-known publication being “Lesbian Biography, Biography of Lesbians” (1979) published in Lesbian History.
Mary Flowerpot (Unknown)
Appears in: LHA Audio 019 and Lesbian Nation (1972-10-20)
“Mary Flowerpot” is an alias for a friend of producer Martha Shelley, who gained a casual co-producer role on Lesbian Nation. Her first appearance on the show is an interview where she discusses the Gay Liberation Front and cultural/societal differences between American and British communities. Consecutive appearances coincide with abstract performances, random recordings, and what can only be described as a little bit of tom-foolery.
Judy Grahn (1940 - Present)
Appears in: T81_1_53
Judy Grahn is a well-known American poet whose work touches on feminism and metaformic theory. She faced discrimination during her adolescence for her identity and was discharged from the United States Air Force for her refusal to conform. After surviving an illness at 25, Grahn came to the realization that poetry was her calling. In the following years she would move to California where she would go on to join the Gay Women’s Liberation Group and contribute to the Women’s Press Collective. Her poetry gained a following with the underground scene before finding wider acclaim from the mainstream in the late 70s. Judy Grahn is still pursuing her craft to this day and currently works at the California Institute for Integral Studies as an Associated Distinguished Professor.
Bertha Harris (1939 - 2005)
Appears in: LHA Audio 015 and Lesbian Nation (1972-10-20)
Harris was born in Fayetteville, NC. She was a lesbian novelist and was known for her 1976 book Lover, which was inspired by the women’s movement in the 1970s and her own personal journey with lesbianism. She had written two previous books, Catching Saradove (1969) and Confessions of Cherubino (1972). Harris grew up in an environment where gays were not openly accepted, and her discovery of the library and writing impacted her youth and later, her choice to become a writer and teacher.
Appears in: LHA Audio 004
A lesbian musician, composer, writer, teacher, and activist who is perhaps most known for her early 70s feature on A Few Loving Women (1973) and her album Jeritree’s House of Many Colours (1978), produced by Hilferley’s own Seawave Recordings label. The latter album is a collection of avant-garde folk music that experiments with ritualistic rhythms and chants. Marge Piercy dedicated several poems to Hilderley.
Lavender Jane (1940 - Present)
Alix Dobkin is the folk musician behind the first album explicitly by and for the lesbian community, "Lavender Jane Loves Women". Dobkin is an American lesbian activist, singer-songwriter, and author, producing music around countercultural political movements as well as her work exploring lesbian identity. She has been called "iconoclastic" by the Guardian, a "women's music legend" by Spin Magazine, and "a troublemaker" by the FBI.
Karla Jay (1949 - Present)
Appears in: LHA Audio 013
An activist and a pioneer in the field of lesbian and gay studies, Jay is a professor emerita at Pace University where she taught English and directed the Women and Gender studies program between 1974 and 2009. To date, she has published 10 books on topics on womens and civil rights, and different gay rights organizations. Many of her papers can be found at the Archives and Manuscripts Division at the New York Public Library.
Jill Johnston (1929 - 2010)
Appears in: LHA Audio 022
Johnston was a feminist author and was known for her stance on radical lesbian feminism, which called for a complete divide from male-dominated aspects of life. She published Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution in 1973, which was originally published as a series of essays in The Village Voice between 1969 to 1972. Her long-time views encouraged women to separate from their male counterparts in order to reform society to allow for women to seek their own power and self-determination. She also wrote under the pen name F.J. Crowe.
Florynce Kennedy (1916 - 2000)
Florynce ("Flo") Kennedy was a lawyer and advocate for intersectional feminism and civil rights. She attended Columbia University for her undergraduate and law degrees; when Columbia turned down her admission to the law school, she threatened to sue on grounds of sexism and racism, and was admitted. She was part of the legal team representing Assata Shakur and the Black Panthers, and helped found institutions like the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Media Workshop, and the Feminist Party. Outfitted in her signature cowboy hat, she lived according to the motto "Don’t agonize; organize."
Jane Kogan (1939 - Unknown)
Appears in: LHA Audio 020
Kogan was a painter and etching artist. She was involved with Daughters of Bilitis from 1967-1968. She completed college at Brandeis University, and completed her MFA at Columbia University. In the mid-1960s, she began spending her summers in Provincetown, MA, where she found a gay community where she could live freely. She began making large paintings of semi-nude women, which became her breakthrough painting style. Her paintings center women, along with spiritualistic and naturalistic themes. Her first painting show was a group show that Daughters of Bilitis coordinated.
Julia Lee was an early and important member of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). She worked as a secretary and lesbian counselor for the DOB and kept correspondence with a large number of women from across the United States, advising them on various issues including: finding support, coming out, various personal issues, and locating literature. Although she generally told the younger set to wait until they had reached the age of legal adulthood before locating and joining a DOB group, her writings invariably reached a large number of lesbians and helped them accept themselves and locate the support and resources they needed.
Audre Lorde (1934 - 1992)
Appears in: LHA Audio 009
Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, artist, and civil rights activist. Lorde is perhaps most well-known for her poetry and writing which confronts injustices of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. She is a self-described, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” She has been the recipient of several accolades, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit and being the New York State Poet Laureate (‘91 - ‘93). Lorde was also a Professor at John Jay College and Hunter College. Her life was dedicated to advocacy and activism for women, LGBT, the Black community, the mentally ill, and the many marginalized communities that are often excluded from overarching narratives. Lorde sought to provide voices for these groups through her work and endeavored to restore their humanity. More information about her work and the work being continued in her name can be found at the Audre Lorde Project.
Barbara Love (1937 - Present)
Appears in: LHA Audio 008
Love is an accomplished American lesbian author, editor and activist. Some of her notable publications include Sappho Was A Right-On Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism (1971) which Love co-authored with her partner Sidney Abbott and, Feminists Who Changed America 1963 - 1975 (2006) which is a collection of 2,200 biographies on second-wave feminists which were compiled with assistance from Veteran Feminists of America (VFA). Both works were contributions Love made on behalf of gay liberation, a movement she was heavily involved with, helping found lesbian consciousness-raising groups. In many ways, Love wanted to de-stigmatize lesbianism in society and much of her activism and advocacy was done on behalf of this goal. She was part of the presentation to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that eventually led to the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). She continues to serve on the VFA board and also continues to swim competitively, having earned several gold medals at the Gay Games (Amsterdam, 1998).
Isabel Miller (1924-1996)
Appears in: Lesbian Nation (1973-03-27)
Alma Routsong is known for her fictional lesbian novels written under the pseudonym, Isabel Miller. Miller began her career in the 1950s with the publishing of 1953’s A Gradual Joy and 1959’s Round Shape. Both novels were published under her birth name and revolve around heterosexual domesticity. Her next novel, 1969’s A Place for Us, had a more complicated journey to reaching publication as it dealt with lesbian themes that were was “no market for” within mainstream publications. As a result, Miller published 1,000 copies of the novel herself and sold it outside of Daughters of Bilitis meetings. The novel eventually made its way to McGraw-Hill, who republished it in 1971 as Patience and Sarah. Patience and Sarah became the first-ever novel to receive the Stonewall Book Award in 1971. Miller continued to publish lesbian novels under the name Isabel Miller through the 1990s.
Kate Millett (1934 - 2017)
Appears in: Kate Millett, "Since Sexual Politics"
The first American woman to receive a degree with first-class honors from St. Hilda's College at Oxford University, Millett was an American feminist writer, activist, and teacher. Millett is considered one of the leading figures of the second-wave feminism of the 1970s, and her best-known book Sexual Politics (1970) is considered a feminist classic. Sexual Politics investigates the patriarchal politics that influence Western society and literature, calling attention to the way that patriarchy and sexism inform depictions of sex in works by authors like Henry James and Norman Mailer.
Dr. Esther Newton (1940 - Present )
Appears in: LHA Audio 002
An American cultural anthropologist most known for her groundbreaking work on ethnography of gay and lesbian communities in the US, particularly around New York City. Her second book, Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty years in America’s first gay and lesbian town (1993), derived from oral histories and ethnography, documents the history of the Cherry Grove beach resort on Fire Island, New York which is one of the oldest gay and lesbian communities in America. Newton is currently the Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Kempner Distinguished Research Professor at Purchase College, State University of New York and a lecturer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is in a long-term partnership with lesbian-feminist performance artist Holly Hughes.
Marge Piercy (1936 - Present)
Appears in: LHA Audio 004
A Jewish-American activist, novelist, and poet, well-known for her feminist poetry which explores a wide variety of issues and subject matter including lesbian rights and relationships. She has written 17 volumes of poetry and 15 novels. Piercy identifies as bisexual herself and much of her poetry is a narrative exploration of her own sexuality and what it means to navigate the world when you identify between categories. Piercy has been a member of the non-profit organization Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP), which works on increasing communication between women in the public and women-based media, since 1977.
Appears in: LHA Audio 007
Lesbian track & field participant. In 1994, Rawcliffe won gold at the Gay Games IV & Cultural Festival.
Judy Wenning (1944 - Present)
Appears in: LHA Audio 007
Wenning, an openly lesbian candidate, was elected and served as president of the NY chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1973 - 1974. During her tenure, she traveled throughout the country to visit various communities and professional groups, promoting the importance of Title IX. Wenning also developed and chaired the women and sports committee for national NOW. She was also a former teacher and a feminist therapist at New York City Collge and in private practice.