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Description - Sex Variant Woman by Joanne E. Passet

Jeannette Howard Foster was to lesbianism in the mid-twentieth century what out authors such as Gore Vidal and James Baldwin were to gay men. She unapologetically blew the lid off Cold War sexual repression in 1956 with her Sex Variant Women in Literature-the first-ever study of homosexual, bisexual, and cross-dressing characters appearing in more than 300 works, from ancient times to the present. Joanne Passets Sex Variant Woman is a fascinating portrait of Foster, who served as the first librarian at the Kinsey Institute before leaving to publish her controversial book. It is also a riveting look into the pre-Stonewall past, the intense sexual repression and persecution endured by homosexuals, the groundbreaking advances put forth by a cadre of activists, and the rise of feminism and gay and lesbian liberation decades later.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780786718221
ISBN-10: 0786718226
Format: Hardback
(229mm x 153mm x 32mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Avalon Publishing Group
Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
Publish Date: 20-May-2008
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Sex Variant Woman by Joanne E. Passet

US Kirkus Review » Admiring, exhaustive portrait of a pioneering lesbian author.Confidence and the courage of her convictions served as powerful forces against homophobia in the life of Jeannette Howard Foster (1895 - 1981), writes Passet (History/Indiana Univ. East; Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality, 2003, etc.). Growing up in Illinois, Foster accepted with equanimity and enthusiasm the sexual and emotional attractions she felt toward her own sex. She had crushes on female Sunday school and grade-school teachers; at the University of Chicago, she wrote poems with titles like "Sapphics to One Called Helen." Prejudice against homosexuals did, however, steer Foster's life in two significant directions that ultimately proved rewarding. Lacking role models, she became a voracious reader, tracking "coded" lesbian characters in literature. She also sought employment where lesbians felt comfortable, at libraries and all-female colleges. Library work afforded Foster the opportunity to catalogue thousands of printed works about lesbians, crossdressers and bisexuals. For three decades she searched out relevant titles, being careful not to arouse the curiosity of librarians who might have disapproved of her project. In 1948, she signed on as a librarian with the Kinsey Institute, which afforded her further access to sources relevant to her study. Given the repressive climate of the McCarthy period, not even a university press would touch Sex Variant Women in Literature, Foster's richly detailed, landmark study of more than 300 titles written between 600 BCE and the early 1950s. She was forced to pay a subsidy publisher, Vantage Press, for its 1957 release, and it didn't get many reviews. It did, however, electrify a rising generation of lesbian activists. This pioneering achievement gets slightly buried under a surfeit of minimally relevant detail: excerpts from Foster's poems; descriptions of her lesbian-themed short stories; the title of a girlfriend's dissertation; notes on Foster's late-life problems with arthritis, insomnia and constipation.Overly inclusive, but focused and smoothly written - a solid contribution to the history of gay literature. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Joanne E. Passet

Joanne Passet is a professor of history at Indiana University East. Her previous books include Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality and Cultural Crusaders.

Books By Joanne E. Passet

Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality by Joanne E. Passet
Hardback, February 2003