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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Many think the struggle for women's rights began with the feminist movement in the 1960s, but in To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History, author, researcher, and two-time Lambda Award winner Lillian Faderman proves otherwise.
Through meticulous research and review of the letters, diaries, and speeches of several notable women leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries, Faderman documents the genesis of modern-day feminism and women's rights as far back as the Civil War. What's more, Faderman offers compelling and convincing proof that lesbianism was not only a significant factor in many of these women's lives, it very likely facilitated their remarkable accomplishments.
Faderman highlights many of the ups and downs, advances and setbacks, from the Civil War to the present, that have occurred as American women struggled to find their place in society and gain rights equal to those of men. Along with documentation of the efforts these women made on behalf of women everywhere, Faderman reveals details about the lesbian relationships these women enjoyed and argues that it was their very lesbianism that allowed them to achieve what they did. Without the constraints imposed by traditional heterosexual relationships and the duties of marriage, the women were free to pursue their goals in education, politics, culture, and various professions.
Faderman's research is thorough as well as entertaining, and the end result is a groundbreaking and enlightening rewriting of American women's history. The women Faderman highlights vary from the wellknownto the little known, but all have two things in common: They had a tremendous impact on the development of women's rights in America, and they enjoyed loving lesbian relationships.
Faderman covers such events as the development of the Women's Trade Union League in 1903 in response to organized labor's efforts to keep women out of the workplace for fear they might glut the labor market. She also tells of the watershed years when women reigned in certain halls of academia and when numerous lesbian couples lived together in what came to be called Boston or Wellesley marriages. Faderman hits on the setbacks that occurred in the postwar '40s and '50s with the growth of conventional family values, a societal shift that created a witch-hunt environment that drove many gay people underground.
Compelling, persuasive, and even empowering, To Believe in Women should prove to be a source of pride to many and a consciousness-raiser for all.