Julia Penelope

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Julia Penelope
Born Julia Penelope Stanley
(1941-06-19)June 19, 1941
Miami, Florida
Died January 19, 2013(2013-01-19) (aged 71)
Nationality United States
Occupation American author, linguist, academic, philosopher; LGBT and feminist activist

Julia Penelope (June 19, 1941 – January 19, 2013) was an American linguist, author, and philosopher. She was part of an international movement of critical thinkers on lesbian and feminist issues.

Early life and education[edit]

Julia Penelope Stanley was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida to Frederick William Stanley and his wife, Frances.[1]

A self-described “white, working-class, fat butch dyke who never passed,” she started what she called “rabble rousing” early.[2] In 1959, she was asked to leave Florida State University in Tallahassee because of her lesbianism. She transferred to the University of Miami, where, eight weeks later, investigations of the Charlie Johns Investigating Committee on Communism and Homosexuality led to her expulsion on the grounds of suspected lesbianism. She went on to receive a BA in English and linguistics from City College of New York in 1966, leaving immediately for graduate work at the University of Texas. Having completed her courses for a doctorate in English Linguistics, she moved to Athens, Georgia in 1968, for her first teaching position.[1]

In 1971, she was awarded her doctoral degree and went on to teach for eleven years at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where she was reportedly passed over for promotions because her research on lesbians was deemed "too narrow".[3]


An activist and an organizer, Penelope attended the first conference of the Gay Academic Union in 1973 at the City College of New York. She was a delegate to the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, and she participated in the planning meetings that led to the founding of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. She founded several activist groups, including the "Lincoln Legion of Lesbians" and "Lesbians for Lesbians." [4] She was also one of the first scholars to teach women's studies courses, including Twentieth-Century Lesbian Novels and Feminist Literary Criticism.[1]

Penelope insisted on lesbian visibility in the academy, bringing Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Mary Daly, Pat Parker, Chrystos and others to the University of Nebraska. She encouraged Catherine Nicholson and Harriet Desmoines to bring the lesbian-feminist journal Sinister Wisdom to Lincoln. In 1977 at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Convention in Chicago she organized the Lesbian Languages and Literatures panel with Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, Judith McDaniel, and Adrienne Rich as speakers.[4]

In 1988, she co-edited with Sarah Lucia Hoagland the first and only anthology on lesbian separatism, For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology. As a lesbian separatist, Penelope was controversial among lesbians. According to the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, she became disheartened by lesbian infighting and withdrew from lesbian writing. She eventually settled in Lubbock, Texas, where she pursued her career as a freelance lexicographer and copy editor. She helped to found the Lubbock County Green Party, and she ran for Congress as a Green candidate in Texas's 19th congressional district 2003 special election.[5] Her platform emphasized environmental protection and opposition to war with Iraq as well as support for human rights.[1]

Julia Penelope's papers are in the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.[6]



  1. ^ a b c d "Our Campaigns - Candidate - Julia Penelope". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ Brownworth, Victoria (February 1, 2013). "In Remembrance: Julia Penelope, Lesbian Theorist". lambdaliterary.org. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Wolfe, Susan J. (2000). "Julia Penelope". In Zimmerman, Bonnie. Encyclopedia of lesbian and gay histories and cultures. an encyclopedia ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Garland. pp. 577–578. ISBN 9780815319207. 
  4. ^ a b Baim, Tracy (January 24, 2013). "PASSAGES Author Julia Penelope dead at 71". Windy City Times. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ Ring, Trudy (January 24, 2013). "Lesbian Author-Scholar Julia Penelope Dead at 71". advocate.com. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Preliminary Inventory of the Julia Penelope Papers, ca. 1986-1999". library.duke.edu. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 

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