Complete Story


Winter 2013, 43:1, pages 22-45

An Archive of Anecdotes: Raising Lesbian Consciousness after the Daughters of Bilitis

Abstract:  This essay attends to the archive as an “inventional site for rhetorical pasts” (Morris, “Introduction”) by examining the construction of a queer archive and its effects on lesbian subjects. Drawing on queer archival theories of ephemera, I argue that Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon’s Lesbian/Woman (1972) constitutes an archive of lesbian experience that functioned rhetorically as a communal and identificatory resource. Martin and Lyon rendered the experiences of women associated with the lesbian homophile organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, in the form of “anecdotes” and strategically curated them into middle-class categories designed in direct contrast to the gender and class transgressions of the lesbian bar scene. I identify the rhetorical effect on readers, “archival consciousness raising,” by analyzing autobiographical letters Martin and Lyon received in response and tracing the limits of this effect for more diverse lesbian readers.

Printer-Friendly Version