CLAGS Conference on 70s Lesbianism Spotlights "Dykes in Amerika"

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CLAGS Conference on 70s Lesbianism Spotlights "Dykes in Amerika"

Prof C interviews Sarah Chinn, one of the organizers for the much-anticipated 70s Lesbianism conference that begins October 8th in New York City. The three-day conference is entitled, In Amerika They Call Us Dykes: Lesbian Lives in the 1970s, and will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center. You can register for the conference here, or access the website here.

Prof C: Hi Sarah, There is a lot of excitement about the conference at this point. What has the energy felt like from the organizing end?

Sarah Chinn: It’s been fantastic.  I’ve been getting emails and phone calls from women who experienced the 1970s saying that they can’t wait for the conference.  And younger women are really hungry for information about the ‘70s—it’s a decade that has fallen off the map in terms of lesbian history.

Prof C: Can you highlight a few events of the conference for our readers? Were there things you’d hoped to include that didn’t pan out? What criteria did you use to determine which events to include?

Sarah Chinn: It’s hard to single out one or two events, but I’ll try.  The conference is anchored by three plenary events, one to kick off each day.  We’ve brought together an amazing roster of speakers for the plenaries, from Charlotte Bunch who was one of the founders of The Furies, a crucial radical feminist group in the 1970s and went on to found the Center for Global Women’s Leadership, to Gayle Rubin, a major sex radical activist and feminist thinker to lesbian musician Linda Tillery (and that’s just a small sampling of our plenary speakers).  There’s also a performance festival and video screenings, which are running concurrently with the conference.  We’re hosting a poetry reading on Friday night and a dance on Saturday.  One thing I’m really pleased about is that we’ll be displaying Ellen Shumsky’s amazing photographs of Radicalesbians and other lesbian activists, as well as early Gay Liberation marches.  And of course we have dozens of panels, roundtables, and workshops.

For me, the biggest disappointment is that Adrienne Rich wasn’t able to attend.  We were really hoping that she could participate in the poetry reading, but it’s hard for her to make it out to the East coast.  We had also invited Barbara Smith, who’s such an important figure in black women’s organizing in the 1970s, but it didn’t work out, which was tough

Comments [2]

patricia's picture


If only these workshops happened on a quarterly basis. You know, everywhere!

barbarac's picture

70's Conference

Great to see this conference happening. I was actually there in NYC in the early 70's, and was a part of radical lesbians and the whole shebang. It was a fantastic time in NYC. Mostly, we were just living to create a culture that reflected the amazing dynamic lefestyle of being a conscious woman...

The Lesbians at that time really pushed things forward. Just the reality that we didn't acknowledge mens needs etc was very radical at that time. We organized consciousness rasing groups and insisted it was for women only.The same with dances and concerts. We werent really thinking about men at all!!!

 There was a tremendous innocence, and a feeling of discovery about ourselves and our heritage. Women like Jill Johnson{ who recently passed away} were movers and shakers in the media...