Lesbian history

From my Twitter thread:

I’ve been working on research projects looking at lesbian magazines since second year of undergraduate study. That’s oh god, it’s 20 years. Today something kind of magical happened and I want to tell you about it.

Most of my magazine’s research has focused on DIVA magazine, which started in 1994, but I’ve always tried to contextualise that in terms of the magazines and newsletters that preceded it – in Britain, that’s basically Arena Three (1964-1971) and Sappho (1971-1982).

When DIVA reached its 200th (?) issue, I wrote a feature about that history, and a little while later, they had a letter from a woman called Doris. She was 88 and not your typical DIVA reader, but she was thrilled to see Arena Three and its ed, Esmé Langley, get a mention.

She had worked as Langley’s secretary, typing out the magazine for copying. She met her life partner in the group. We talked about meeting up so she could share with me her stories, but I think I scared her off by asking if I could bring a tape recorder.

That was seven years ago. Recently I’ve been expanding my work on the history of lesbian periodical publishing, and thinking about Doris again. She would be 95 by now (and maybe moved house!). I sent a letter with my return address on the envelope, expecting it to be returned unopened.

I’ve just opened an envelope containing a letter of several pages, from Doris, telling me all about her life. The tenderness with which she remembers her partner of 28 years, is, well, I don’t even know the words. She’s had such a life, but is now largely stuck indoors.

She’s thrilled to hear about the book I’m working on, and wants me to send her a copy when it’s out. She wants me to send her a letter telling her my life story too. When people on the internet say “I am crying”…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s