Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers

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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers (book).jpg
AuthorLillian Faderman
SubjectHistory of lesbianism
PublisherColumbia University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages373 pp.

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America is a non-fiction book by Lillian Faderman chronicling lesbian life in the 20th century. In 1992, it won the Stonewall Book Award for non-fiction[1] and was selected as the "Editor's Choice" at the Lambda Literary Awards.[2] In September 2011, Ms. magazine ranked the book 99th on its list of the top 100 feminist non-fiction books.[3]


The book describes lesbian history as a pattern of alternately tolerant and intolerant decades for American lesbians between 1900 and 1960, as well as the improvements and adverse developments that the author perceives to have taken place since the 1960s.[4] Faderman wrote that the rises and falls of the social acceptance of lesbianism in the United States coincides with gains and losses in women's economic and political freedom more broadly.[4] She describes the relatively liberated 1920s as a period in which lesbian communities formed and that lesbianism had a certain cachet in some circles,[4][5][6] In the 1930s, a social conservatism driven in part by the Great Depression[4] led to a period of greater repression.[5] The 1940s and World War II brought a greater demand for women's skills and talent, which led to a temporary tolerance of female independence and female homosexuality.[7] The post-war period and the McCarthyist conservatism of the 1950s led to mainstream intolerance of homosexuality. McCarthyist purges resulted in lesbians losing their jobs, and raids on their homes and gathering places.[4] One result of this repression was an increase secrecy in the lesbian community, and Faderman credits this secrecy with the development of multiple lesbian subcultures.[7] By the late 1960s, the stigma associated with lesbianism had lessened. She records the lesbian movements of the 1970s as characterized by separatism[4] and a search for ideal community.[8] The 1980s again saw an increase in acceptance, and more lesbians choosing middle class lifestyles, but also a backlash against homosexuality in the wake of the AIDS crisis as the 1990s dawned (and the books was published).[4]

The material in the book is drawn from a variety of sources, including "memoirs, literary work, personal correspondence, journalism and 186 interviews." [5]

The book looks to the nineteenth century to examine the roots of lesbian identities. She explores the romantic friendships of middle-class, and/or college-educated women such as reformer Jane Addams, feminist leader Carrie Chapman Catt, and Bryn Mawr College president M. Carey Thomas, saying that this form of friendship was considered socially acceptable. She asserts that these relationships were primarily emotional and not necessarily sexual. She argues that although the increase in women's sexual freedom since then has benefited lesbians, it has also "undercut" romantic friendship.[5]


Writing in the Los Angeles Times, novelist Francine Prose described Faderman's book as "full of facts and wonderful details that readers may not have encountered, things that are a pleasure to learn and that seem valuable to know."[9] In The Washington Post, Susan Brownmiller called the book "a remarkable social history" that "attains the depth and evenhandedness of a scholarly classic".[8] Toni McNaron wrote in the Journal of the History of the Behavior Science that "Faderman's ability to paint such a detailed and vivid picture of conditions in lesbian culture makes this book accessible to a general reading audience." [10] Kath Weston says in her Signs review, "I have waited years for a book on lesbians or gay men to devote as much attention to class as Faderman has done in this volume."[11] Leila Rupp says, "Faderman has enriched the story by shining light in corners that had remained stubbornly in the shadows." [12]


  1. ^ Stonewall Book Awards List (accessed 2012-05-18)
  2. ^ 4th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (accessed 2012-05-18)
  3. ^ "Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction Countdown: 100-91", Ms., September 30, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nina Burleigh, "In A Kinder, Gentler Era, Lesbians Had A Different Acceptance", Chicago Tribune, October 13, 1991.
  5. ^ a b c d Escoffier, Jeffrey (June 28, 1992). "Out of the Closet and Into History". New York Times. p. BR1. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  6. ^ Prose, Francine (1991-06-09). "Women Without Men : ODD GIRLS AND TWILIGHT LOVERS: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America, By Lillian Faderman (Columbia University Press: $29.95; 361 pp.)". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  7. ^ a b Kominars, Kathryn (Summer 1993). "Reviews". NWSA Journal. 5 (2): 273–274. eISSN 1527-1889. ISSN 1040-0656.
  8. ^ a b Susan Brownmiller, "Women in Love", The Washington Post, June 23, 1991. Copy available here from HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  9. ^ Francine Prose, "Women Without Men : Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America, By Lillian Faderman", Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1991.
  10. ^ McNaron, Toni, "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America" (Book review) Journal of the History of Behavior Sciences, Vol 31, October 1995. abstract available [1] subscription required
  11. ^ Weston, K. (1993). Book reviews. Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture & Society, 19(1), 235.
  12. ^ Rupp, Leila J. (1992). "Review of Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth- Century America". Contemporary Sociology. 21 (4): 500–501. doi:10.2307/2075881. JSTOR 2075881.