Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Blanche W. Cook

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History


feminism, lesbians, lesbians of color, LGBT movement, oral history, queer


This dissertation explores the role of lesbians in the U.S. second wave feminist movement, arguing that the history of women's liberation is more diverse, more intersectional, and more radical than previously documented. The body of this work is five oral histories conducted with lifelong activists and public intellectuals for the Voices of Feminism project at the Sophia Smith Collection: Katherine Acey, former Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Dorothy Allison, author and sex radical; Suzanne Pharr, southern anti-racist organizer and author; Achebe Powell, activist and diversity trainer; and Carmen Vázquez, LGBT activist and founding director of the San Francisco Women's Building. Taken together, their stories dovetail into a new narrative about the relationship between lesbians, feminism, and queer liberation, from the late 60's to the present. In addition to the edited transcripts, this dissertation includes a new chronology of gender and sexual liberation, demonstrating the interconnectedness of late 20th century social change movements, and a chapter on oral history methodology. This work adds to our collective knowledge about lesbian lives by sharing five important life narratives, contributes to a re-imagination of the vast and intersectional scope of second wave feminism and sexual liberation, and attempts to disrupt conventional methods of documenting and sharing history by privileging oral narratives.