May 17, 1929|
|Died||September 18, 2010(aged 81)|
|Occupation||Author, cultural critic|
|Known for||Lesbian feminist activism|
Jill Johnston (May 17, 1929 – September 18, 2010) was an American feminist author and cultural critic who wrote Lesbian Nation in 1973 and was a longtime writer for The Village Voice. She was also a leader of the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s. Johnston also wrote under the pen name F. J. Crowe.
Born as Jill Crowe in London, England in 1929, the only child of Olive Marjorie Crowe (born 1901), an American nurse, and Cyril F. Johnston (1884-1950), a British bellfounder and clockmaker whose family firm, Gillett & Johnston, created the carillon of Riverside Church in New York City. Her parents, who never married, separated when their daughter was an infant, and Johnston's mother took her to Little Neck, Long Island, New York, where she was raised.
After attending college in Massachusetts and Minnesota, Johnston received an M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
In 1993, in Denmark, she married Ingrid Nyeboe. The couple married again, in Connecticut, in 2009.
For many years beginning in 1959 and during the 1960s, Johnston was the dance critic for The Village Voice, the weekly downtown newspaper for New York City. She was friendly with many performers, performance artists, composers, poets and artists in New York City especially during the 1960s and 1970s. During the late 1960s Deborah Jowitt joined the paper and wrote a regular dance column, while Johnston's dance column became a kind of weekly diary, chronicling her adventures in the New York art world.
Johnston was a member of a 1971 New York City panel produced by Shirley Broughton as part of the "Theater for Ideas" series. The event was a vigorous debate on feminism with Norman Mailer, author; Germaine Greer, author; Diana Trilling, literary critic; and Jacqueline Ceballos, National Organization for Women president. The event was a showdown of intellect and personality. While Johnston read a poem culminating in on-stage lesbian sex (fully dressed) followed by a quick exit, Greer and Mailer continued to exchange verbal blows with each other and the audience for the rest of the 3½ hour event.
As this incident illustrates, Johnston's self-described "east west flower child beat hip psychedelic paradise now love peace do your own thing approach to the revolution" often confounded her feminist allies as much as it did the conservative foes of gay and lesbian liberation. In 1973, she predicted "an end to the catastrophic brotherhood and a return to the former glory and wise equanimity of the matriarchies." As recorded in Lesbian Nation, Johnston often was at the center of controversies within the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Johnston's career as a dance critic was hampered by the controversy that attended the publication of Lesbian Nation and the publicity engendered by her dramatic style of lesbian feminist activism. She remained with The Village Voice until 1981 and subsequently wrote freelance art and literary criticism. Along with the political memoirs, Lesbian Nation and Gullible's Travels, Johnston published an anthology of dance criticism entitled Marmalade Me as well as the autobiographies Mother Bound and Paper Daughter.
Described by one critic as "part Gertrude Stein, part E. E. Cummings, with a dash of Jack Kerouac thrown for good measure," Johnston's freeform, fluid writing style of the 1970s matched the colorful nature of the tales recounted in her books Lesbian Nation and Gullibles Travels. Her later work as a literary and art critic for Art in America and the New York Times Review of Books is more standard in tone and content. Early writing not collected in other volumes can be found in Admission Accomplished while the critical biography Jasper Johns represents an example of her later style.
- Marmalade Me (1971; revised 1998) - an anthology of short pieces on dance reprinted from Village Voice
- Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution (1973)
- Gullibles Travels (1974)
- Mother Bound (1983) - autobiographical
- Paper Daughter (1985) - autobiographical
- Secret Lives in Art (1994) - selected essays on literature, visual and performing arts
- Jasper Johns (1996) - critical biography of the artist
- Admission Accomplished: the Lesbian Nation years (1970–75) (1998) - anthology of earlier writing
- At Sea On Land: Extreme Politics (2005) Travel and with political commentary against governmental policies since 9/11.
- England's Child: The Carillon and the Casting of Big Bells (2008) A biography of the author’s father, Cyril F. Johnston. a foremost English bellfounder (Carillons) in the earlier half of the 20th century.
- William Grimes Obituary: Jill Johnston, New York Times, 21 September 2010
- Carol Hurd Green, American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present, The Gale Group, 2000, page 235
- Jill Johnston, Mother Bound: Autobiography in Search of a Father, Alfred A. Knopf, 1983
- The birth name of Jill Crowe is given on the 16 October 1929 passenger manifest of the Homeric, accessed on ancestry.com. The manifest states that Jill Crowe was travelling with her mother, Olive Crowe, a nurse.
- Frances C. Locher and Ann Evory, Contemporary Authors, Volumes 53-56, The Gale Group, 1975, page 320
- Official website
- Panel discussion on Correspondence Artist Ray Johnson featuring Jill Johnston
- Jill Johnston: (Con)Founding Mother of the Lesbian Nation (1999 profile published in LesbiaNation)
- 1999 Interview with Jill Johnston conducted by pattrice jones