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To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History Paperback – June 8, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (June 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618056971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618056972
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,482,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Taking up where her 1981 classic, Surpassing the Love of Men, left off, Lillian Faderman reveals that many of the early leaders who fought for women's suffrage, higher education for women, and women's entrance into "male" professions would in today's parlance be called lesbians: "women who lived in committed relationships with other women." Unencumbered by the duties of marriage and motherhood, they were more likely to have the time, energy, and freedom to work for women's rights. In fact, they were more or less obliged to try to better women's lives, Faderman argues, for there was no man to represent them at the polls or support them financially. (Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton's husband and seven children failed to distract her from the cause, her friend Susan B. Anthony used to help her with the children and housework before they settled down for political strategy meetings.) During the Depression, when women's social and economic gains began to dwindle, it was these "single" women who kept professions open while married women were being fired in favor of men. Faderman gracefully surveys a century of advancement and retreat, shedding light on America's debt to women-loving women. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Faderman continues her work in lesbian studies with an analysis of how nineteenth-and twentieth-century women whose lives can be described as "lesbian" pioneered civil rights movements because "lesbian arrangements freed" them to do so more than "heterosexual arrangements" would have. The book breaks no new ground, including assessments of Susan B. Anthony (who "chided" black activist Ida Wells Barnett for dividing her energies by getting married and having children), Carrie Chapman Catt (who used her "great personal attractiveness to women to the advantage of the suffrage movement"), and Eleanor Roosevelt (who found sanctuary and sustenance in a cadre of lesbian political activists in Greenwich Village). Because lesbian identity per se is a modern concept and Faderman's sources are thin, believe may be the operative word. Faderman is more successful in interweaving women's leadership and participation in various social activisms with a mainstream story that has focused primarily on men and in showing the gradual shift from closeted lesbian activism to feminism's second wave, when "love between women was an expressly political statement." Dale Edwyna Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I own a copy of all her books; each gets better than the last.
Dot James
A heterosexual feminist ally, I picked up this book at the suggestion of a friend, and was entranced by the premise of the book and meticulously researched evidence.
Robin Orlowski
She explores not only these womens' accomplishments, but their failures and setbacks, as well.
pirie@aol.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By pirie@aol.com on July 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I don't ordinarily write reviews; rather, I read them. But I must take issue---and I very much disagree---with the two-star review (above) given Faderman's newest book `To Believe In Women'. Faderman's work, from the classic `Surpassing the Love of Men', through `Scotch Verdict', `Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers' (and the great, sprawling anthology `CHLOE plus OLIVIA' which she edited and for which she wrote the prologue to each section), stands far away and above the work of almost any other scholar of lesbian history; indeed, the great bulk of work by contemporary scholars in the field of lesbian history has not only been based upon, but legitimized by her efforts. She was *the* pioneer, and continues to be the foremost lesbian historian of our time. And while Faderman is a scholar of tremendous erudition, as a writer she manages to walk a line between the academic and the accessible with all the wit, grace, and agility of a cat. In `To Believe In Women', she is, as ever, at her best.
Taking on the task of interweaving the political, social, and educational impacts of American lesbians of past generations on American culture is no easy job; in `To Believe In Women', Faderman handles that job with style and finesse. She explores not only these womens' accomplishments, but their failures and setbacks, as well. She examines not only successful lesbian relationships, but those that fail or compromise (a form of failure in itself) because of social fear, financial insecurity, or simply a change of heart.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on June 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
A heterosexual feminist ally, I picked up this book at the suggestion of a friend, and was entranced by the premise of the book and meticulously researched evidence.
Precisely because they were not bound by unintended pregnancy (which continued to be a problem until the early 70's)Lesbians were the vanguard of the women's movement on everything from equal employment to the vote and birth control, and had an obligation to work towards policies that would benefit all women regardless of sexuality.
Granted some readers of the reviews will decide that this book attempts to glorify lesbians at the expense of straight women, but I have read this book repeatedly and simply find the truth as it existed in historical context. Faderman simply points out the important role that Lesbians have played---a contribution that gets over shaddowed in many straight women's and gay men's focused history books.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Wow! I'm just amazed at how many important people and events have happened that I've never heard of. This book is fun to read,is inspiring and it is only just that people should know about lesbians contributions that benefitted all women. We all owe them a debt. And to who ever wrote the 2 star review...."frustrated"? didn't sound too frustrated to me, sounded like they were having a pretty good time, no evidence? come on, I mean, what straight women write letters like that in ANY era? Buy this book and read it. Its another of the pieces of the puzzle to the past that have been lost or ignored.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Thompson on June 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is not a comprehensive review.

I just wanted to announce that this book will open up a persistent mental line of inquiry in all of one's historical surmising thereafter, like it or not. Having read To Believe in Women for a graduate course on women in US history, this book above all others not only provided for me new historical data, but actually changed my thinking permanently. Several of my classmates identified this work as a game-changer. Now, I constantly query whatever historical thesis, data, or explanation I'm reading for the "hidden transcript" of lesbian sexuality, fraternity, and the unique professional opportunities an aversion to heterosexual partnership affords a women in normative heterosexual society.

While I know there is often a great deal of ridicule and trauma associated with components of what we now term a "lesbian lifestyle," it also has the potential to push particularly strong women into areas of power normally reserved for men. Unfortunately, Faderman has considerable trouble positively identifying early 20th century women as belonging to this demographic before it is recognized by society as such (and therefore, to a certain extent, created). Using a historical Lesbian lens would be even more problematic the further back in history one considers. Nonetheless, this book will forever after have you doing exactly that.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Fantastic book. Really a must read! Provides an accurate interpretation of the impact of lesbians in leading and creating social movements in the USA.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dot James on September 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lillian Faderman is, hands down, THE best researcher and writer of lesbian American history EVER. I own a copy of all her books; each gets better than the last. And this one continues the trend -- it is simply wonderful. A great read and an important historical document.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The author has presented a well-researched and fascinating view of important American women leaders who happened to have as commited life-partners other women. The information presented here in a most readable fashion will provide inspiration for women-identified-women of all ages. Lesbians young and old need to know there are role models worthy of emulation in our history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Lillian Faderman is the author of "My Mother's Wars" (Beacon Press, 2013). She is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as of ethnic and immigrant history. She is the author of such acclaimed works as To Believe in Woman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Surpassing the Love of Men, I Begin My Life All Over, and her memoir Naked in the Promised Land.

Photographer Photo Credit Name: Phyllis Irwin, 2012.

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To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History
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