"To Justify Our Existence": Exploring the Struggles and Successes of Smith College's Lesbian Alliance, 1975-1985

Files

mandicahart_thesis.pdf

Citation

Mandica-Hart, Olivia, “"To Justify Our Existence": Exploring the Struggles and Successes of Smith College's Lesbian Alliance, 1975-1985,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed April 4, 2020, https://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/269.

Title

"To Justify Our Existence": Exploring the Struggles and Successes of Smith College's Lesbian Alliance, 1975-1985

Creator

Mandica-Hart, Olivia

Date

2013

Description

As a whole, the field of lesbian history tends to disregard the importance of women's colleges as a cultural site of homosexuality, although other female homosocial spaces such as prisons, brothels, and bars have received scholarly attention. Conversely, most historians of women's colleges have chosen to ignore the undeniable and persistent presence of same-sex desire among students on their campuses. I use the knowledge of historical secondary sources to contextualize the events at Smith College, as documented within the primary sources of the Smith College Archives. By studying archival documents created by Jill Ker Conway's administration, the student records of the Lesbian Alliance, and articles from student publications, I have attempted to piece together a narrative that explores lesbian life at the college during the 1970s and 1980s. Of course, this study is not exhaustive, and represents only one perspective; mainly, one focused on the interests and experiences of the Lesbian Alliance.

The Lesbian Alliance had two main priorities. First, its members wished to carve out a safe space for themselves to learn, explore, and enjoy each other's company without the outside pressures and biases of the Smith community at large. They planned academic and social events that were designed specifically for the lesbian community. In contrast to this desire, however, the Alliance members also had a very concerted and dedicated interest in gaining the acceptance of the straight majority, which they attempted to achieve by educating their heterosexual peers, through both formal and informal discussions. Its house educational workshops, although not without its problems and criticisms, helped to bridge the gap between Smith's heterosexual and homosexual students.

Publisher

Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (85 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses