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Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community Hardcover – February 19, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0415902939 ISBN-10: 0415902932 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (February 19, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415902932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415902939
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This first ethnography on the development of working-class lesbian communities from the 1930s to the 1960s focuses on a Buffalo, New York, lesbian community. Unlike gay men, gay women, by dressing the way they wanted, going to bars regularly, being financially independent from their families of origin and from men, and by boldly seeking out the company of other women like themselves, unwittingly created a community of their own. The authors argue that because the women in the community gave one another the support necessary to respond aggressively and "with pride" when facing an often disapproving and hostile society, they effectively built the real foundation of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. The oral histories of 45 women tell of victimization by their families, straight men, and one another but also recount the joys these women experienced by allowing themselves to be who they really were. Conducted over a 13-year period, these interviews contribute a massive amount of original research to the anthropology of American culture as well as to lesbian history. For academic libraries and women's studies collections.
- Patricia Sarles, Brooklyn P.L. , New York
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.


This should be seen as a groundbreaking book a fascinating look at the pre-political support systems, of friendship groups extended to include ex-lovers' families and children that became one of the foundation blocks for building the gay/lesbian communities of our day. -- San Francisco Review of Books
At a time when many lesbian and gay leaders are urging assimilation and moderation, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold recovers a neglected chapter of lesbian and gay history and reminds us of the enduring importance of outlaw roots. -- San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner
. . . the first comprehensive account of a working-class lesbian community. . . -- Ms. Magazine
Conducted over a 13-year period, these interviews contribute a massive amount of original research to the anthology of American culture as well as to lesbian history. -- Library Journal
The book soars on the plain, yet eloquent voices of the women. . . -- Boston Globe
Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold honors all of us; Liz Kennedy and Madeline Davis have produced a work that opens up the heart and mind. Their book breaks new ground in women's history, Lesbian history, and the history of desire as a lived force in a community under seige. Most of all, they have put back at the center a group of women, who without money or traditional power, fought for and won a public place where women queers could celebrate their love. -- Joan Nestle, Co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives and Editor of The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader
While some of this book is a juicy account of who did what to whom, the heart of Boots of Leather lies in its careful, insightful evaluation of the development of the Buffalo lesbian community through its bars. -- Lambda Book Report
This pioneering history of a working-class lesbian community is doubly marked by its scholarly care and its human compassion. Kennedy and Davis have adhered to the most scrupulous standards of serious historical work, yet at the same time have treated the subjects of their scrutiny with profound delicacy and respect. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold is one of the finest works yet to emerge in the burgeoning field of gay and lesbian studies. -- Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor of History, CUNY Graduate `chool, and Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
Rarely does a book break entirely new ground, but this is surely one that does. With love, passion, and empathy, Kennedy and Davis bring to life the history of a working-class lesbian community. A complex, fascinating, and evocative world, it has much to tell us about gender, sexuality, class, and urban life. Above all, this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over horrible adversity. The voices of these women sing on every page. -- John D'Emilio, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold incorporates both academic values of sound scholarship and the lesbian community's need for roots and for affirmation of our identity as woman-loving women. -- The Empty Chest
This very first community study of lesbians will radically advance the state of knowledge in gay and lesbian studies. Nuanced, lovingly researched and provocative, both the description and the argument are food for thinkingpeople. -- Esther Newton, State University of New York at Purchase and author of Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town
...Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy's and Madeline D. Davis's history of the lesbian working-class cummunity in Buffalo. Drawing on oral history as well as records, the authors have represented a microcosmic study of a fascinating and vital community. The importance of class and race and the techniques of survival in the face of oppression marked the historical experience of these women. Kennedy and Davis have written about the specific local development of a consciousness of a kind that is required for a liberation movement and that they show existed before Stonewall in Buffalo. -- The Los Angeles Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "nicole0103" on March 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
The painstaking research and preparation for Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold by Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Kennedy included lengthy and comprehensive interviews of over 30 women who openly participated in lesbian social life in Buffalo, New York, during the 1940s and 1950s. The women interviewed here are quoted at great length; their accounts are informative, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous as they speak of the suffering, frustration, liberation, and delight they experienced. I am profoundly grateful for the authors' decade-long effort and for their decision to quote the interviewees at such length, thereby allowing them to reveal their individual (and very likable) personalities as they speak for themselves. I am even more deeply indebted to the subjects of the book for their candor, courage, and tenacity. They consciously sacrificed their safety, their families, their health, and their jobs so that other lesbians, including those not yet born, might not have to.
Topics examined in this book include:
- The degree of hostility or acceptance lesbians received from their families.
- The process of initiation into the lesbian bar community.
- Formation of butch/femme roles, including butch modeling or modification of self-expression in imitation of older butches, male relatives, and popular male celebrities.
- Butches' physical fights with antagonistic heterosexual men to defend themselves, their femmes, and lesbian bars; the unending, intense fear and risk lesbians faced.
- Police brutality (particularly against black butches) and other societal hatred, contempt, misunderstanding, and occasional support of lesbians.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "ani529" on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Kennedy and Davis have written an excellent ethnography on lesbian culture in Buffalo in the 1940's and 50's! The authors take great care to give first hand accounts, interpret them, explain their interpretations, as well as place them in the broader context of what was occuring socially at the time. They are careful to point out differences in opinion of the various women from whom the information was gathered; moreover, they attempt to rationalize these differences. The books is also well organized in its chapters with headings and subheadings. Information on specific topics is easily found in the book (despite its 400 pages!), and the juxtaposition of topics discussed is chronological and understandable in its progression. At the ends of the chapters, the authors recap the concluded discussion, as well as place it in a broader context to facilitate its relevance to the broader text. I highly suggest that anyone interested in the history of lesbian identity development read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This compiled oral history gives voice to a group of people that has been largely overlooked in other history books. "Boots of Leather" provides a whole compendium of valuable facts, histories, anecdotes and details about lesbian life in the forties and fifties, and though it covers only one particular community, one can at least get a better sense of what life was life for lesbians during those years. While much has been written about eras and decades in US history - world war II, the home front, the fifties, this book speaks directly to a group that has been around during all those eras but has either been ignored, passed over, or omitted altogether from the pages of history. "Boots of Leather" takes a group that has existed under the radar or on the fringes of society, and shines a light on it, giving us a much longed for glimpse into what life was like for lesbians back before stonewall or gay rights or gay marriage had ever inserted themselves onto the American consciousness.
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Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis' book Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold does everything right! Though the book focuses on the history of one lesbian community in Buffalo, New York from the 30s to the 60s, many of the themes and ideas are more generalizeable. The book is comprehensive and inclusive of every imaginable theme. From societal attitudes and politics to sexual practices and relationship patterns including butch/fem culture and psychology, this book covers it all. My favorite aspect of this book is the way the stories of lesbians of color and lesbians of low socio-economic status flow prominently and smoothly throughout the entire book. In addition, it includes a section just for an even more in-depth analysis and comparison of these cross-sections of the lesbian community. Also the authors find an excellent balance and combination of using the actual words of the women they write about and summary explanation of relevant concepts. This book is a must read!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Hill on May 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is WONDERFUL! There is little information available about the hidden life of Lesbians but the author combined wonderful talent and compassion to telling the story of how women who love women have been around for a long time. It mostly focuses on the daily life of people like us who have fought for the recognition to love whomever they would love! There is a point in the book where myself (& the friends whom I have shared it with) were looking at the pictures and recognizing people like ourselves reflected there. The life stories are acurate and descriptively colorful, the pictures worth a thousand words and the writing style is funny yet serious...Making for a great read! I hope that you enjoy the book as much as I have & continue to be loving and kind to those whom we don't understand-this book certainly was!
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