Begins Publication Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In 1974, a feminist collective called Ambitious Amazons began publishing Lesbian Connection, the longest-running lesbian periodical in the United States. The periodical is a reader-driven source for not only information—such as where to stay when traveling—but also for the exchange of ideas on society, culture, and politics. Its letters section is one of the periodical’s most popular sections.

Summary of Event

In May of 1974, approximately three hundred women attended the Midwest Lesbian Conference Lesbian Conference, Midwest and Music Festival in East Lansing, Michigan. Many women at the conference had never been part of such a large gathering of lesbians, and the experience led to the formation of several politically conscious feminist groups in the Lansing area. One group banded together as the Ambitious Amazons, Ambitious Amazons with the goal of creating “a network of communication that would unite all lesbians on this continent.” Their communication network would take the form of a national, bimonthly, lesbian newsletter called Lesbian Connection. [kw]Lesbian Connection Begins Publication (Oct., 1974) [kw]Publication, Lesbian Connection Begins (Oct., 1974) Lesbian Connection (periodical) Publications;Lesbian Connection Media;Lesbian Connection [c]Publications;Oct., 1974: Lesbian Connection Begins Publication[1060] [c]Feminism;Oct., 1974: Lesbian Connection Begins Publication[1060] [c]Organizations and institutions;Oct., 1974: Lesbian Connection Begins Publication[1060]

LC, or “Elsie,” as Lesbian Connection is also called, was established during the heyday of the lesbian-feminist movement. Several other lesbian-feminist publications also started at this time, including Lavender Woman, Amazon Quarterly, and Lesbian Tide. Although these periodicals did not survive for long—generally because of a lack of adequate funding—LC remains in circulation, and it celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2004.

When the Ambitious Amazons decided to publish a national lesbian newsletter, they placed an advertisement in Ms. magazine (which was founded one year before, in 1973), and mailed flyers announcing their new publication to hundreds of lesbian, feminist, and gay groups across the United States. In their introductory letter, dated August 3, 1974, the Ambitious Amazons explained that they were a group of nine lesbians in their twenties, with political views ranging from separatism to integration. Their goal from the beginning was to create a free publication that enabled lesbians across the country to discuss their lives.

“LESBIAN CONNECTION means communication,” the Ambitious Amazons wrote in their introductory flyer. “We need feedback. Your ideas and reactions will comprise the most important part of this publication. Our purpose is to create a network of communication between lesbians in this country and in Canada; the rest is up to you. We are not yet in sight of a national lesbian community…but we are on our way.”

The first issue of LC, published in October, 1974, was a ten-page, double-sided, 8.5 x 11 inch, mimeographed, and hand-stapled newsletter mailed to about four hundred addresses. The return address, to ensure anonymity for the recipient, was the fictitious “United Ministries in Higher Education”; the return address was later changed to the “Helen Diner Memorial Women’s Center.” LC’s premiere issue included reviews of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle and the now-classic women’s music album Lavender Jane Loves Women. Articles included a review of sodomy laws across the United States, an interview with a lesbian mother, and a report from a lesbian writers conference.

Advertisements and announcements in the first issue included an advertisement from the new Olivia Records introducing their first record, a 45 rpm record featuring Meg Christian and Cris Williamson. Like all future issues of LC, this first issue included numerous letters from readers, many expressing hope that the venture would be successful.

By the second issue, LC’s circulation tripled to twelve hundred and financial costs quickly became a concern, although the Ambitious Amazons remained committed to distributing the publication for free. Their budget for 1975 totaled $865.80 and was based on an expected eventual circulation of twenty-five hundred. Within one year, however, LC had five thousand subscribers, and rising printing and labor costs forced the Ambitious Amazons to ask for donations of $8 from each reader, “more if you can, less if you can’t.” By 2003, LC had reached a circulation of about twenty-five thousand, with production costs of approximately $70,000 per issue. LC still remains “free for lesbians,” although the suggested subscription donation has now risen to $27.

From the beginning, LC was organized on feminist principles, including collective decision-making that remained exclusively in the hands of women, and a reliance on word-of-mouth and assistance from other women in advertising the publication. LC was staffed entirely by volunteers for the first seven years, and began to pay a few regular employees in 1981, with each worker receiving the same wage; in 2004, all paid staff still received the same hourly rate.

LC is now a journal-sized, twenty-eight-page publication with glossy covers and some color advertisements, and it continues to include readers’ letters and responses, articles, and reviews. The “Festival Forum” provides a space for readers to discuss the dozens of women’s music festivals that take place every year, and the “Contact Dykes” directory lists hundreds of women around the world who are willing to act as liaisons for lesbians traveling to their areas.

Significance

LC has made a significant impact on the lives of tens of thousands of lesbians living in North America, particularly those who live in areas where lesbians lack a visible local community. One of LC’s most important contributions to creating a national lesbian community has been its Contact Dyke network, which has established a network of lesbians around the world. As scholar, writer, and archivist Joan Nestle explained, “’Contact Dykes’ became a wonderful service because it offered us ’safe houses’ virtually everywhere in the country. It opened the whole country up to us!”

LC also provided a space for lesbians to create a virtual community for themselves well before the age of the World Wide Web. The articles, letters, and responses published in LC—all written by readers—make up a forum in which lesbian identity and meaning are created, challenged, and constituted through lively debate. Topics that have been discussed in the pages of LC include alcoholism, health issues, lesbian pregnancy and parenting, legal issues, sexuality, and transgenderism. As LC enters its fourth decade, it continues to be funded largely from donations and is still published by the Ambitious Amazons and the Helen Diner Memorial Women’s Center, both under the aegis of the nonprofit Elsie Publishing Institute. Lesbian Connection (periodical) Publications;Lesbian Connection Media;Lesbian Connection

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Steiner, Linda. “The History and Structure of Women’s Alternative Media.” In Women Making Meaning: New Feminist Directions in Communication, edited by Lana Rakow. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Zimmerman, Bonnie, ed. Lesbian Histories and Cultures. New York: Garland, 2000.

June, 1947-February, 1948: Vice Versa Is Published as First Lesbian Periodical

1967: Los Angeles Advocate Begins Publication

1970: Amazon Bookstore Opens as First Feminist-Lesbian Book Shop

May 1, 1970: Radicalesbians Issues “The Woman Identified Woman” Manifesto

1971: Lesbian Tide Publishes Its First Issue

Categories: History Content