Lillian Faderman

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Lillian Faderman
Born (1940-07-18) July 18, 1940 (age 78)
The Bronx, New York
OccupationWriter, professor
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
SubjectLesbian history, LGBT history
PartnerPhyllis Irwin[1]

Lillian Faderman (born July 18, 1940) is an American historian whose books on lesbian history and LGBT history have earned critical praise and awards. The New York Times named three of her books on its "Notable Books of the Year" list. In addition, The Guardian named her book, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, one of the Top 10 Books of Radical History.[2]

Early life[edit]

Faderman was raised by her mother, Mary, and her aunt, Rae. In 1914, her mother emigrated from a shtetl in Latvia to New York, planning eventually to send for the rest of the family. Her aunt Rae came in 1923, but the rest of the family was killed during Hitler's extermination of European Jews, and Mary blamed herself for not being able to rescue them. Her guilt contributed to a serious mental illness that would profoundly affect her daughter.[3]

Mary and Ray, Faderman's mother and aunt, worked in the garment industry for very little money. Lillian was her mother's third pregnancy; her mother (unmarried) aborted the first two pregnancies at Lillian's biological father's request, but insisted on bearing and raising the third. Mary married when Lillian was a teenager and died in 1979, continuing to have a profound influence on her daughter’s life.

Coming out[edit]

The family moved to Los Angeles where, with her mother’s encouragement, Lillian took acting classes. She began modeling as a teenager, discovered the gay bar scene, and eventually met her first girlfriend. Before she graduated from high school, she married a gay man much older than herself—a marriage that lasted less than a year.


Faderman studied first at the University of California, Berkeley and later at UCLA. She was a professor of English at California State University, Fresno and a visiting professor at UCLA. She retired in 2007.

Private life[edit]

She lives with her partner of forty years (as of 2012), Phyllis Irwin. She has one son, Avrom, who earned a PhD from Stanford University.[4]

Awards & Honors[edit]


  • Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (1981)
  • Scotch Verdict : Miss Pirie and Miss Woods v. Dame Cumming Gordon (1983)
  • Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (1991)
  • Chloe Plus Olivia: An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the 17th Century to the Present (1994)
  • I Begin My Life All Over : The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience (1998)
  • To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History (1999)
  • Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir (2003)
  • Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, And Lipstick Lesbians (2006, co-authored with Stuart Timmons)
  • My Mother's Wars (2013)
  • The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)
  • Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death (2018)


  1. ^ "Finding Aid for the Lillian Faderman papers, 1976-1989". Online Archive of California. Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  2. ^ "Lillian Faderman". Retrieved 2018-04-10.
  3. ^ Marler, Regina (February 18, 2003). "Naked History". The Advocate. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  4. ^ Wall, Alexandra J. (October 31, 2003). "A life exposed: From student stripper to respected professor, lesbian historian bares her own secrets". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  5. ^ "Lillian Faderman". Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  6. ^ "Golden Crown Literary Society Names 2017 Trailblazer Award Recipient". GCLS Press Release. April 30, 2017.

External links[edit]