Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 13 • Spring 2005 • Featured Writer • Prose

Love Between Women in 1928: Why Progressivism Is Not Always Progress

Lillian Faderman

In his 1928 preface to The Well of Loneliness, Havelock Ellis described Radclyffe Hall's book as "the first English novel which presents, in a completely faithful and uncompromising form," a study of love between women. In that same year a number of other fairly explicit novels dealing with lesbianism were also published. It would have seemed to the casual observer in the late 1920s that what had hitherto been a taboo subject was finally, thanks to modern frankness, being treated openly.

By then, as I have observed elsewhere, widespread acceptance of love between women, as manifested in the institutions of romantic friendship and Boston marriage, was long since dead. Only the rare literary historian would have been familiar with fiction such as Charles Brockden Brown's Ormond, Louisa May Alcott's Work, Florence Converse's Diana Victrix, and Sarah Orne Jewett's Martha's Lady. Those works, too, may be said to describe love between women in a "completely faithful" form. But unlike Hall's Stephen Gordon, the women characters of those novels never consider themselves abnormal or pathetic because they love other women. Those 18th- and 19th-century fictional studies were free of the later influences that placed what had long been recognized as normal emotion into the realm of the morbid and the rebellious.

A half dozen fictional works dealing with love between women, by authors of some renown, were published in 1928: Hall's The Well of Loneliness, Compton Mackenzie's Extraordinary Women, Djuna Barnes's Ladies Almanack, Wanda Fraiken Neff's We Sing Diana, Elizabeth Bowen's The Hotel, and Virginia Woolf's Orlando. They all demonstrate, to a greater or lesser extent, that science, sexual revolutions, and liberalism sometimes bring about a specious progress. These works depict love between women as it was seldom depicted before in modern history. They create the fictional lesbian: not a woman who was expressing emotion quite within the realm of the normal, but rather an outcast, a neurotic, a peculiarity.

To be brief, since I have discussed most of these works in Surpassing the Love of Men, each one presents a largely negative view of love between women. Radclyffe Hall was torn in her creation of Stephen Gordon (The Well of Loneliness) between explaining female homosexual love in the terms of the congenitalists, who claimed that an invert was born with her peculiarity, and the Freudians, who said that the lesbian was produced by childhood trauma. As her research notes and her request to Havelock Ellis to write a preface indicate, she leaned finally towards the congenitalists. But although love between women is explained in her novel as being primarily a problem of having been born into the third sex, it is accompanied by devastating disorders. Hall refers, for example, to "the terrible nerves of the invert, those nerves that are always lying in wait, [that grip] like live wires through her body, causing a constant and ruthless torment" and to "those haunted, tormented eyes of the invert.''

In Wanda Fraiken Neff's We Sing Diana, a novel which focuses on an American women's college, love between women is described as "this poison," and Nora, the heroine, witnessing two girls kissing has "a sick memory of the fungi she had studied in botany, the rank growths, forms of life springing up in unhealthy places, feeding on rot." She then observes, "Creation wasn't all clean and pure. Nor human relationships." This novel is especially interesting because it suggests the rise of Freudian consciousness in the 1920s. Nora is first seen at college as a student in 1913. At that time all the freshmen are openly in love with Miss Goodwin, a young professor, and with each other. After World War I, in the 1920s, Nora returns to teach in the same college, where everyone is talking about psychoanalysis, and "the exchange of undergraduate speech was full of psychological tags." Love between women is viewed with a suspicion that was uncommon in the previous decade in America: "Intimacies between girls were watched with keen, distrustful eyes. Among one's classmates, one looked for the bisexual type, the masculine girl searching for a feminine counterpart, and one ridiculed their devotions."

In The Hotel, Elizabeth Bowen depicts the same ubiquitous awareness of the morbidity of homosexual love, which was generally absent from earlier English and American literature. "These very violent friendships" between women are described by one character as "not quite healthy." Another states, "I should discourage any daughter of mine from a friendship with an older woman. It is never the best women who have these strong influences. I would far rather she lost her head about a man." Love between women is viewed here as flawed at best. It is either characterized by manipulativeness and coldness, or where it appears to be idyllic, characterized as foolish. For example, two women characters who are pictured at the conclusion as "hand in hand, reunited, in perfect security" are seen both early and late in the book as quibbling with each other and losing patience over trifles. Bowen thus "ridicules their devotions," as Neff observes to be common in a psychoanalytically "aware" society.

Djuna Barnes's Ladies Almanack, which was privately printed and intended primarily for the author's own circle of lesbian friends, shows that even women who loved women in the 1920s internalized the theories of the sexologists, to the point that they could not explain their love as a normal emotion such as their earlier counterparts might have. Even as depicted by lesbian writers in the 1920s, love between women had abnormal causes, and women who loved women during that time were seen to behave like men. When Evangeline's father laments that he perceives in her masculine sentiments, she responds, apparently explaining the genesis as well as the fact of her homosexuality, "Thou, good Governor, wast expecting a Son when you lay atop of your Choosing; why then be so mortal wounded when you perceive that you have your Wish? Am I not doing after your very Desire, and is it nor more commendable, seeing that I do without the Tools for the Trade, and yet nothing complain?" Love between women here is clearly and specifically genital, as compared to the diffuse eroticism and homoaffectionality that was reflected in the literature of other eras. But while it sometimes appears that Barnes believes a woman is born lesbian, at other times she indicates an acceptance of psychoanalytic theories, such as those which explain lesbianism as a form of narcissism. For example, comparing heterosexual and homosexual love, Maisie Tuck-and-Frill, who seems to be a persona for Barnes proclaims, "A man's love is built to fit Nature. Woman's is a Kiss in the Mirror."

Compton Mackenzie's Extraordinary Women illustrates yet another explanation for love between women: It is the result of World War I. Rosalba, the young lesbian of his satirical novel, explains during the war years, "I am not at all interested in men... They have let themselves be enslaved too easily by this war. I have lost my respect for men." Because men went off to the trenches, Mackenzie suggests, some females had to fill their places. Therefore, Rosalba, who is a "pretty young woman," tries "to dress and behave as much like a handsome young man as she could." Mackenzie's is a cautionary tale. This is what happens if men make War Instead of love and force women to carry on civilization without them. By the 1920s, because men had forfeited female respect and thus driven women to independence, Rosalba, Mackenzie says, "would cease to be a precursor and... her boyishness would presently be blurred by myriads of post-war girls affecting boyishness." The rest of the lesbian characters, all of them more or less ridiculous (peculiar fauna, as Mackenzie calls them), make it clear that while he sees the cause of lesbianism and feminism as male neglect, he does not excuse the women who have chosen such ludicrous paths.

Because love between women had fallen into such disrepute by 1928, Virginia Woolf could not treat the bisexuality of Vita Sackville-West, who became her Orlando, with honesty. She had intended to write a lesbian novel just before she embarked on Orlando. Her diary for March 14, 1927 referred to a "fantasy" she was working on called The Jessamy Brides, which she wrote was to deal with "Sapphism." Some months later she began Orlando, but in her diary on December 20th she admitted regarding that book, "I see looking back just now to March that it is almost exactly in spirit, though not in actual facts, the book I planned then." However, Orlando deals not with Sapphism, as Woolf had originally intended, but rather with androgyny and sex changes. Once Woolf decided to model her central character on a living person (and a friend), she could not treat love between women except in a very disguised form.

In fact, homosexual love is depicted often as not existing in the realm of this novel. Although Woolf does say that while in Constantinople the male Orlando "became the adored of many women and some men," much more typically she denies such possibilities. For example, when the male Orlando first sees the appealing figure of Sasha, he despairs lest it be a boy. If Sasha is a boy, the narrator observes, "all embraces were out of the question." In the 19th century Orlando becomes primarily female, yet she enjoys "the love of both sexes equally." Here Woolf is perhaps purposely ambiguous. One who is apparently female can enjoy the love of both sexes only by becoming male from time to time, but it is not clear if maleness refers merely to costume, as it often did in Vita Sackville-West's lesbian exploits, or if costume indicates changed gender, as it generally does in this novel. In any case, Woolf explains that Orlando can enjoy the love of both males and females because she (or he) is sometimes one who wears breeches and sometimes one who wears petticoats. However, that one in petticoats might love another in petticoats is never acknowledged.

All these depictions of women who love women as congenital inverts, neurotics, products of a failed civilization, as well as the likes of Woolf's disguised depiction which largely denied her subject's bisexuality, were seldom to be found in English and American Fiction before World War I. What were the social and intellectual forces which resulted in these attitudes towards love between women? And why did they reach an apogee in 1928?

I suggested in Surpassing the Love of Men that as a result of the 19th- and early 20th-century feminist movement, women gradually gained significant economic and social independence. Romantic friendships, which might have been viewed as harmless to the heterosexual status quo, thus became increasingly threatening since many women no longer had to marry for the sake of economic and social survival alone. Romantic friendships could potentially take the place of marriage on a scale much larger than what had before been possible.

In addition, the spread of the theories of late 19th-century sexologists created a category of abnormality for women who loved women; what had once been widely viewed as normal became peculiar. Many women learned that they loved other women only because they suffered from some hereditary taint. Therefore, they needed to repress such emotions lest they cause embarrassment, pain, or worse to their families and themselves. While these pressures began to be felt in the late 19th century, they were apparently ignorable for many until after World War I. But as the spate of novels such as those I have discussed indicates, a decade after the war almost no one continued to believe that romantic friendship was harmless to the fabric of society. The lesbian became a well-known category of sexual deviance and an outcast. One writer who was born in 1896 observed in an article written in the late 1920s that the happy innocence of her youth with regard to the "evils" of homosexual love had, "unfortunately" she wrote, disappeared and had been replaced in the 1920s by the pressure on young people to express themselves heterosexually, whether they wanted to or not. When she was young, the writer recalled, "there still remained a genuine and important outlet for eroticism, without any guilty attachment," in the expression of love young females were permitted to offer each other. However, in the 1920s she observed, there had been "a growth in half-knowledge which makes all girlish fondness suspect, so that the door is shut on these minor 'innocent' outlets... or else it is opened wide on the horrendous and fascinating."

While in the 19th century many anti-feminist writers attacked women who agitated for independence by calling them unfeminine, by the 1920s it became acceptable to hurl at such women a more dramatic and frightening epithet: They were lesbians -- and that explained their lack of feminine passivity and contentment. The increasing popularization of Sigmund Freud's theories throughout the 1920s, and particularly the translation at the beginning of that decade of his essay on lesbianism, "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman," made the existence of female homosexuality common knowledge, as it apparently had not been in England and America in earlier eras.

According to writers of the 1920s who promulgated a popular application of Freud, the most important touchstone by which it could be determined whether a child was "growing up" was by observing whether he or she was "becoming more fully heterosexual." And the only way for society to emerge from its "welter of neuroticism" was to accept "the full and passionate love of the other sex as the normal goal of youth." Heterosexuality thus became "mental hygiene" modeled after Freud's discoveries, his followers claimed.

However, it was widely feared during this time that female homosexuality, which as a result of Freud's disciples was no longer thought to be congenital, but rather the result of environmental influences, was rapidly increasing. Many psychologists and sociologists claimed the increase was due to what the modern woman had been permitted to become. Mathilde and Mathias Vaertig pointed out in 1924 that the secondary sex characteristics were by then so modified that differentiation between the sexes was significantly decreasing. The women of the 1920s, they lamented, were developing boyish figures, athletic skills, executive abilities, and were meeting with professional success. Even so, women of the 1920s could not approximate the conventional masculine ideal as easily as they could be feminine. It was feared that the "masculinization" of the female threatened the institution of heterosexuality. Masculinization created women with strong personalities who, according to Dr. Phyllis Blanchard in 1929, found satisfaction in guiding and protecting weaker women. That, she said, could result in the "grave danger" that both strong and weak women would be "unable to adjust to the more natural relationship" of heterosexuality." English and American doctors, female as well as male, expressed alarm at "the increasing role which homosexuality is coming to play in the life of the modern girl." Some claimed in the most Freudian terms that it was "the failure to transfer the libido from a love object of the same sex to one of the opposite sex, which is responsible in part for the increasing number of women celibates and divorces," and that the driving force in many agitators and militant women who were always after their rights was often unsatisfied homosexual impulses. Married women with a completely satisfied libido would rarely take an active interest in militant movements.

In America by 1920, almost half the college population was female (238,000) and over 8,600,000 women were working at paying jobs in diverse areas. It could no longer be stated, as the English writer Harriet Martineau said of the American women she observed several decades before, that "middle class women who wished to work could do nothing but teach school or sew." The result of this sudden proliferation of independent women caused violent reactions, as evidenced in the pages of popular magazines. Sidney Ditzion, author of Marriage, Morals, and Sex in America, points out that one response of the popular magazine was simply to pretend that the new woman didn't exist. Although women had gone through radical transformations, on many popular magazine covers they still retained their old look. They were depicted just as they had been in other decades, holding mirrors, fans, flowers, or babies.

On the other hand, many magazine articles confronted the disturbing issue of the independent woman head-on. Harpers was one magazine that ran numerous articles during the 1920s about the effect of the "New Woman" on the American way of life. A 1928 article, "This Two-Headed Monster -- The Family," pointed out that the divorce rate was so high because of "the new independent ways of American women, who have come to believe that they can win arguments by assertiveness rather than seduction." The author expressed his anger that "public opinion permits the American wife to make money whether or not it is really needed." He blamed the women's movement, which he tried to discredit by suggesting that it would be the ruin of the family."

In another Harpers article which appeared the following year, "A Case of Two Careers," the writer observed that he knew 14 other marriages besides his own in which the wives were pursuing independent careers. The 28 people in those marriages had managed to produce only 7 children. But even worse, as he discovered himself, a woman's pursuit of a career brings about destruction of the men in her life. In his own case, he witnessed the disappearance of all his wife's "womanly" qualities, developed an "inferiority complex," took to drinking, ruined his own career, and finally realized that the only solution to his problems was to get rid of his working wife.

Such cautionary tales which appeared throughout the 1920s may well have had some effect on the decline in female ambitions by the end of that decade. A 1924 study of young women indicated that 61% "reported a career as the thing they would select, if they could choose anything in the world," while only 39% "preferred to be wives and mothers." Five years later, a study of a comparable group of young women showed that only 13% preferred a career to marriage, 38% wished to combine the two, and the rest preferred to be wives and mothers.

It is apparent that many people found female independence extremely disturbing during the 1920s. Since lesbianism had been associated with the desire for independence, and since the sexologists had made it clear that love between women was not normal, to accuse a woman who wanted to be independent of lesbianism was a logical ploy for those who preferred the status quo. It was also logical that the public should welcome explicit discussion of lesbianism in literature as long as that discussion showed love between women to be unhappy and abnormal. Here then would be a clear demonstration of the dangers concomitant with being a new woman.

But there is still another explanation which accounts for the negative views of love between women in 1928: the sexual revolution. By the mid-1920s, contraceptive devices became widely available as a result of Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Center, and birth control clinics had multiplied rapidly. Therefore, the fear of pregnancy, which had been seen as the great danger in premarital sex and which had served as a restraint, probably for men as well as women, was gone. A man could more reasonably -- or less outrageously -- demand that a woman not place limits on the degree of intimacy in which she would indulge with him. Sexual, or rather heterosexual, Puritanism, became passť. Popular arguments from Freud assisted this revolution. If a woman refused to be "receptive" to a man, she was repressing a natural urge, blocking her libido, and that would make her neurotic. In The Natural History of Love, Morton Hunt observes that the leaders of this sexual revolution "sometimes accomplished the almost impossible task of making pleasure seem like medical necessity."

The automobile, which was affordable by many in the 1920s, became another aid to the (hetero)sexual revolution. In We Sing Diana, Wanda Neff discusses the increase in heterosociality among college women that was made possible by the automobile. When her character Nora had been a student before World War I, suitors were rarely seen around the campus of the women's college she attended, which was located away from a city. Males visited the campus only for rare events such as proms. At other times, Nora observes, "one had peace." Then, in the 1920s, when Nora returns to the college as a professor, she discovers that young men of the middle class all have cars. If a girl doesn't have a swain picking her up for a date her "failure to attract men" is "advertised," and that failure affects her popularity among the other students.

While in past decades it had often been impossible for an unmarried man and woman to manage privacy together in the parlor, where a member of her family might intrude at any moment, in the 1920s the automobile could take a couple miles away from her family. "Petting" became an expected behavior on a date; dating became the "raison d'Ítre" of flaming youth and flapper. Ben Lindsey, a 1920s family court judge and co-author of The Revolt of Modern Youth, estimated, unscientifically but with assurance of his accuracy based on extensive anecdotal evidence, that more than 90% of those young people who rode together in automobiles indulged in petting, and that 15 to 20% of that 90% "go the limit," an estimate which subsequent statistical research proved to be low.

Another social commentator in the 1920s, Lorine Pruette, observed in her essay "The Flapper" that the "new compulsion to be 'free'" impelled many into (hetero)sexual relations without either the "instinct" or the "inclination." She argued that the "older system," while perhaps hypocritical and repressive, at least allowed individuals some chance of living according to their own tempo and inclination. In past generations, she pointed out, those who were most determined and most desirous could find ways to engage in sexual adventures. But in the 1920s "whole groups appear to fall under the suggestion that they must busy themselves with flaming bright red when all they want is to be a mild and more salubrious pink." The 19th-century excesses of heterosexual repression, in the words of still another 1920s sociologist, had been replaced by "the excess of (hetero)sexual expression." Thus, in the 1920s there was pressure to engage more actively in heterosexuality, both socially and sexually. The double standard, as it related to sexual expression, was, if not outmoded, at least weakened. A woman, therefore, could not rely as readily on the hitherto acceptable excuse of "properness," of wishing to be a "good girl," if she wanted to refrain from heterosexuality. At least it appears that fewer women found that excuse efficacious or desirable in the 1920s than did their older counterparts. Women born in the late 19th century were much less likely to have premarital sexual intercourse than those born after 1900. For example, of those born before 1900 and still unmarried by the age of 25, only 14% had had heterosexual intercourse. Of their counterparts born in the next decade, i.e., those women who would have been in their 20s in the 1920s, 36% had had premarital intercourse by age 25, and of those remaining unmarried past 35, 60% had had intercourse, while only about half that number of their older counterparts had had intercourse by the same age.

In her article "Companionate Marriage and the Lesbian Threat," Christina Simmons offers another explanation as to why love between women fell into disfavor in the 1920s. For a variety of reasons including women's increasing independence, companionate marriage, which sought to rectify the most oppressive elements of Victorian marriage and to make marriage "a bond of creative companionship and interdependent cooperation," became an ideal in the 1920s. Because "companionate" marriage was an expressed ideal, the tradition and social structures that separated the sexes came to appear as obstacles to heterosexual companionship and romance. This meant that women's segregation and their solidarity with each other, which had earlier been socially approved, now took on a menacing quality. This was heightened by the new admission that women were indeed sexual creatures. Since sexual relationships were seen as vital to women's happiness, in the 1920s love between women came to be suspected as sexual and, in a phallocentric definition, to be a result of the absence or failure of satisfactory heterosexual experience.

Numerous marriage manuals and other books on how to achieve happiness published during this period pressured men to perform sexually; failure to bring their mates to orgasm was attributed not only to their "performance skills," but also to the woman's failure to transfer the libido from a love object of the same sex to one of the opposite sex. Since in earlier eras "decent" women were generally not expected to respond to men sexually, no such "explanations" for unresponsiveness were sought; thus, it would have been quite unlikely that lesbianism would have been suspected as a reason for heterosexual unhappiness.

Fear of the ramifications of the feminists' success, the concomitant popularization of the theories of the sexologists, the sexual revolution and the concurrent availability of the automobile which pressured women to become more heterosocial and more heterosexually active, the idealization of companionate marriage -- all of these factors help to account for the negative social attitudes towards love between women and their reflection in the fiction of 1928. But as the historian Carl Degler has pointed out in another context, there is sometimes a difference between "what ought to be" and "what was." It is true that public attitudes militated against love between women, but how did women behave when they were alone together?

The two studies which consider female homosexual relationships in the 1920s are Katherine Bement Davis's "Factors in the Sex Life of Twenty-Two-Hundred Women" (1929) and Gilbert Hamilton's "A Research in Marriage" (1929). Davis's study included both married and unmarried women, all of whom were assumed to be heterosexual when selected for interview. However, 50.4% of her sample indicated that they had experienced "intense emotional relations with other women." About 26% of the sample said that those relations were accompanied by sex or were "recognized as sexual in character." These were not childhood experiences that most of the women were describing: 77% of those who had had "intense emotional relations" with other females, and 79% of those who recognized those relations as "sexual in character," had had their experiences when they were over 30 years of age."

Hamilton's sample was smaller (only 100 women, all married), but his results appear to have been similar. This is somewhat surprising, since the statements with which he queried the women's experiences were quite negative, and may even have encouraged some women to suppress information about that aspect of their lives. For example, while he points out in his comments prefacing the questions that young girls often have crushes on other girls, he also states:

A girl who has had such experiences with her girl chum (may) learn that there are perverted girls and women who make a regular practice of using girls or women as sex objects, and whose sex feelings are exclusively aroused and satisfied by persons of their own sex. The girl who finds this out may then be much terrified lest she be regarded as sexually unnatural in this respect...

A girl, having found this out by "fooling" in one way or another with a girl or a woman (may grow) into womanhood with a strong tendency to love girls and women in a sexual way, and to have sex feelings for them rather than for men. Such a girl may carefully conceal her desires and preferences in the matter, or she may form a kind of sexual alliance with another person of her own sex. Cases of this kind are comparatively rare, but cases of girls and women who are really quite normal, but who have a morbid fear lest they feel sexually toward a person of the same sex, are quite common.

Perhaps no woman reaches maturity without having experienced more or less discomfort from the thought that she may have a "holdover" from her girlhood in the form of an inclination towards girls and women as sex objects. Groundless fear of this aspect of human sex life probably does serious damage to a thousand personalities for every one personality with the actual development of the most feared tendency. It is therefore quite important that you have this part of your mental anatomy examined.

Despite such descriptions as "the much feared tendency" regarding love between women, there were 43 positive responses to the question asking whether the women had had "crushes" on other females "not involving conscious sex elements" (although, significantly, the average age in which the "crush" occurred was much lower than in the Davis sample). There were 15 positive responses to the question asking whether they had experienced feeling for females "involving conscious sex attraction but not involving sex organ stimulation.'' But most astonishing, there were 31 positive responses among these married women to the question asking if they had experienced such attractions "which involved sex organ stimulation." (NB: Hamilton groups his responses by age of experience and does not indicate whether the groups are mutually exclusive. Therefore, 43 positive responses does not necessarily mean that 43% of the women admitted having had crushes on other females. Some of the women who responded positively may have had crushes while in more than one age group.) Most of those experiences (50) occurred after the age of 18, i.e., for the most part, these were not childhood experiments that were being described. Also, 27% of these married women admitted that even at the time of the study other women were attractive to them "in a sexual way."

Since so large a number admitted to having experienced homosexual attraction at some time in their lives, on the surface it would appear that whatever bad press love between women had received during the 1920s, and however negative Hamilton's prefacing comments were, they had not substantially affected women's lives or their views of homosexual love. But another statistic in Hamilton's study is extremely revealing in this regard: 34% of the women admitted to being uncomfortable if another woman merely "put her arm" around the respondent or "made other physical demonstrations of friendliness." The implication is obvious. Since women were taught from a myriad of sources that lesbianism was morbid, many of them responded as one might even to the slightest signs of morbidity, despite experiences which, if these women were like the women of Davis's sample, for the most part "promoted health and happiness."

There is also evidence that the growing social fear of homosexuality finally had a significant effect on women's lives after the period under consideration. Alfred Kinsey's study, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," shows the number of women who admitted to "psychological arousal" by another female to be substantially lower than the 1920s studies: only 28% of the Kinsey sample, compared to 50.4% of the Davis sample. There appears also to be fewer women who admitted to physical arousal in the 1953 study, although absolute comparison is difficult because the breakdown of figures is not as clear in Davis and Hamilton as it is in Kinsey. Of Kinsey's sample, 19% said they had homosexual physical contact "which was deliberately and consciously... intended to be sexual," and 13% said they had sexual contact to orgasm with other women. Hamilton did not ask his respondents about orgasm, but he indicated 15 and 31 positive responses to the question of homosexual feeling "involving conscious sex attraction but not involving sex organ stimulation," and 31 positive responses to the question regarding homosexual attractions "which involved sex organ stimulation." (However, these figures do not necessarily indicate 15% and 31%, since the same women may have responded positively in several of the age group categories.) Davis placed 26% of the women in a category of those whose homosexual relations either involved sexual expression or were "recognized as sexual in character."

These figures, particularly those regarding psychological arousal, suggest that after the 1920s women were less likely to admit to, and perhaps engage in, affectional relations with other women. One would also venture to guess, however, that they were more likely to engage in specifically sexual activity together in the post-World War I decade than in earlier times, since women were told so insistently after the war that they were sexual creatures. Therefore, if they permitted themselves to experience a "homoaffectional" attachment, with increased "sophistication" regarding sexual matters, it was more likely that they would be forced to see the attachment as homosexual as well. But since female homosexuality had by then become a well-known category of sexual perversion, many women would be less likely to admit to "homoaffectionality."

Even casual, public behavior reflects the relatively new taboos regarding love between women. In the 19th century, a decent woman would never be seen kissing a man in public, though she might display all manner of affection towards another woman. In our era, which is generally considered open-minded with regard to sexual matters, especially when compared to the previous century, a decent woman may certainly kiss a man in public, but she had better not display affection toward another female in public, such as holding hands with or sitting very close. If she does she will be considered queer, as the experiment conducted by the Palo Alto, California, school girls in 1973 indicated. Relations between and within the sexes have reversed themselves. One taboo has been exchanged for another.

In 1798, Charles Brockden Brown allowed the very admirable female narrator of his novel Ormond to observe with regard to herself and her female friend: "I would not part from her side, but ate and slept, walked and mused and read, with my arm locked in hers, and with her breath fanning my cheek... O precious inebriation of the heart! O preeminent love!" And the two women live happily ever after together. A hundred years later, as reflected in Florence Converse's novel Diana Victrix (1897), very admirable heroines could still say the same sorts of things about each other and end by living happily ever after together. A few decades later, however, with the advent of "modern views," "sophistication," and the "sexual revolution," such happy utterances were no longer possible in fiction, and were probably made with difficulty or agony in real life. With regard to love between women, which for so long was a joyous and healthy possibility in women's lives, progressivism has not meant progress.

Lillian Faderman

Lillian Faderman has published numerous books about lesbian history and lesbian literature, including Surpassing The Love Of Men, Lesbians In Germany, Scotch Verdict, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Chloe Plus Olivia, To Believe In Women, and her memoir, Naked In The Promised Land. Her work has been recognized by four Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, the American Association of University Women's Distinguished Senior Scholar Award, and several lifetime achievement awards for lesbian/gay scholarship, including Yale University's James Brudner Award, the Monette/Hurwitz Award, and the Publishing Triangle Award. She teaches literature and creative writing at California State University, Fresno.

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