Dear Carol: It’s been so long! Of all my old friends, you are
one I think of most.
I am reminded of you: you will appear at the Lesbian Oral Herstory
Project symposium this year, Celebrating Our Lesbian Legacies October
10-13, 2013, in Houston Texas (www.olohp.org).
I’ll be on the East Coast those days, officiating, to my amazement,
at a gay marriage, visiting family openly with my spouse, doing
Provincetown Women’s Week book! events, so I can’t be there, but
I’d like to be.
A quiet, thoughtful groundbreaker, you were a Pied Piper we hardly
realized was leading us beyond what we could imagine achieving. The
unbridled excitement of those early years hid the hard, hard work we
all did. I feel it now, the vast exhaustion that threatens to silence
me. I am slow to think, to move, to write. I remind myself of your
cat Chia, who always impressed me with her deliberateness of motion.
I have wondered if the burden of your work in pioneering and
sustaining the women’s print community has led you to retreat to
the shadows in which we all once lived. Or if you are stirring new
concepts in your cauldron of women’s words, concepts that will
build upon the structures we old dykes can claim with pride.
Many women have raised their voices, their pens, their placards to
contribute to these loud and lasting movements of our making: the
women’s movement, gay liberation, lesbian literature. Few have had
your impact. You are best known as a founder of Old Wives Tales in
San Francisco, one of the first women’s bookstores; of “Feminist
Bookstore News” (FBN), the house publication for women’s
bookstores around the world; and “Books to Watch Out For” (BTWOF)
a later publication that continued to spread the word of books by,
for and about women.
What most women are not aware of is how incredibly hard you worked
and the way you lived to accomplish your life’s work. I remember
when you took a job as a FedEx driver with that fledgling company and
stuck with it for years in order to support yourself and FBN. I
remember your small apartment in San Francisco which served as both
publishing empire and your home for many years; papers and books,
computers, periodicals, flyers and a view of a storefront church
across the street. Your apartment and neighboring buildings became
the setting for my book, Sue Slate, Private Eye, and I have many
photographs of your neighborhood that I took in preparation.
I remember how influenced you were by The First Women In Print
Conference in 1977. I believe that’s where you met Barbara Grier
and so many other women who created our lesbian publishing industry.
I knew nothing of all this, voiceless since “The Ladder” folded.
Yet there you were, in the midst of our print revolution, organizing
so women like me could be published. Thank you for making that long
journey to the conference in one of your small used cars – was it
the Subaru named Jane?
You had a story published in “Common Lives/Lesbian Lives” some
years later, when I also was publishing there. I loved your story and
wrote you a fan letter. You answered! Where did we first meet? San
Francisco? Provincetown? New Haven? You stayed with my then partner
and me at our condo. You and I were both so shy. I think I blushed
every time we exchanged words. You were so accomplished and so
fervent and knew everyone in the lesbian writing world and you liked
my work too. I was so glad and proud to have you as a friend always.
I can’t imagine how you made it financially. You had to buy food
and housing and fund the bookstore and your publications. At the
height of the popularity of women’s bookstores you were actually
able to hire a part-time helper – or was she an unpaid intern? But
you were the reporter, researcher, reviewer, distributor and writer
for FBN all those years. It’s a wonder you didn’t get sick or
But I think you came from hardy Midwest stock, though they no
longer wanted you, their lesbian daughter. I remember listening to
your story of leaving home on a little motorcycle and setting out for
San Francisco. On the way you broke down or had an accident. Ever the
exceedingly competent femme, you got yourself to the city of your
dreams anyway and helped put on our revolution. Your work was so
important. I hope you know that.
You drove all over the country in the early 1980s, women’s
bookstore to women’s bookstore, sleeping on couches or in your
little car. You amazed me and I want to thank you for inspiring me,
gently patting me on the back, housing me, accepting my lovers,
introducing me to yours, selling my books, promoting our literature
and our culture and just plain being instrumental in the flowering of
And, Carol, I don’t know if it will reach you, but I am sending
this photograph of us, decades old, because, you know the movie line:
We’ll always have Provincetown.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author of over 13 books. Her
Street, concludes her epic
Morton River Valley trilogy. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2013 Lee Lynch. Photo
credit D. Pascale