From the Index to Marcus Krajewski’s Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs (MIT Press, 2011)
Network imagery and language was prevalent across a range of lesbian-feminist periodicals and newsletters in the 1970s. The names and purpose statements of these publications give a sense of the role mediated communication played in imagining a movement that would, above all, bring into the fold women who were not yet enfranchised as feminists. Countless publications featuring the word “network” in their title stand alongside other names invested in the political possibility of communication, such as the San Francisco-based Telewoman (1977–1986), which attached the Greek prefix “tele,” meaning “over a distance” — telephone, television, telegraph — to the shape of the newsletter form, but also to the idea of woman: Connected over distance are subscribers in need of information for practical reasons, but also for more emotional forms of care, such as to ameliorate isolation or provide access to mental health services. Reads Telewoman’s masthead: “We provide networking services for lesbians who live anywhere through this newsletter… . We connect lesbian mothers. We make referrals to women’s service organizations, lesbian-feminist therapists, and give job/housing information. We connect city lesbians and country lesbians. We serve isolated lesbians and integrate them into the local and larger women’s communities.”
PRIDE week and all the ambivalent feelings it brings. What is the work that we continue to ask queerness to do, in relation to homonational formations like PRIDE? What might we learn from looking back at a longer history of queerness as an idea developed in relation to PRIDE?
This 1973 interview with Rita Mae Brown is now forty years old. Brown’s call for an alternative culture—an “army of lovers” who “shall not fail”—in response to the inadequacies of gay rights for gay whites movements is a popular reference point for contemporary queer subcultures. I especially like her “five or ten” year prediction for this army’s conquest; an army whose arrival we are forever anticipating.
Civil rights is a reformist measure. Revolution is what counts, not civil rights. You’re going to buy people off with civil rights. That’s the lesson of feminism. We got bought off with that vote. Don’t waste any time on civil rights. It’s a big political mistake.
You build an alternative culture within the existing culture. I think people are going to be motivated by an alternate culture instead of civil rights. We’re not going to solve this tonight. I think probably over the next five or ten years if we all do our homework, we’ll come up with something.”
– Rita Mae Brown, interviewed in The Lesbian Tide April 1973, AN ARMY OF LOVERS SHALL NOT FAIL
From “She Who Owns the Press: The Physical World of Early Feminist Publishing” by Barbara Sjoholm (2012):
It’s difficult to convey the sheer butch glamour of printing. This black-fingered, muscle-building blue-collar work was just the sort of thing that many women found we really liked doing in the 1970s and early 80s. The Second Wave had more than its fair share of car mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. Some women went into the trades because the paychecks were much better, and some forced their way up from apprentice to master because they were tough rabble-rousers. Others founded carpentry collectives or car garages so that we women didn’t have to depend on know-it-all men to build our fences or repair our cars.
Some women went into the printing trades for some of the same reasons as women fought to join the United Brotherhood of Carpenters—better paychecks and the love of loud noise. The majority, I suspect, were more like me—strong enough to haul boxes, determined enough to learn how a press worked and to stand on my feet for hours, but not really all that interested in trouble-shooting printing problems and dismantling and reassembling machinery. Like me, they were in printing for the thrill of it, lured by the vision of a process that created words on paper that could be turned into pages, bound into books, placed on shelves, bought and sold, held in hands, and taken into the heart and mind. That could transform the world.
There was often an obstacle between the woman writer and her public. That obstacle was a printing press. In the 1970s, that changed.