Lesbian Hospitality: Southern Feminist Networks and New Left Consciousness, 1972–95

Friday, January 4, 2013: 10:30 AM
Bayside Ballroom A (Sheraton New Orleans)
Pamela C. Edwards, Shepherd University
Breaking away from the mainstream feminist organizations of Atlanta, the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) sought to pursue a more pointedly lesbian political agenda and to provide safe woman space for lesbians coming out in the American southeast between 1972 and 1995. This brought ALFA into close association with both local and national and regional gay rights organizations that were becoming more active in 1970s and 1980s Atlanta.  While their dedication to lesbian and gay rights loomed large, ALFA communicated with and participated in a much wider array of left political activities.  While these activities included actions taken in conjunction with Atlanta’s and the nation’s wider feminist communities and organizations, they also involved multiple other left wing causes, organizations and interests.   As ALFA’s leadership sought to engage with and assist multiple civil rights causes and to cut across barriers between American left organizations, they also nurtured individual lesbians and sought to politicize lesbian communities. ALFA’s broader New Left activism and its support for individual lesbians and lesbian community intersected when the organization sought to enhance awareness among its membership of related issues, such as racism, anti-Semitism, anti-nuclear and anti-Apartheid campaigns and when it encouraged participation in marches and other forms of protest.

ALFA and many of the organizations that ALFA leaders corresponded and collaborated with in pursuit of a more democratic and just American society are part of this history of the American left in all its myriad variety, diversity, tension and controversy.  While much has been written about the New Left era, attention to not-so-separatist lesbian organizations have not received as much attention as they might.  ALFA’s strong archival record takes us inside the organization, recording their efforts to nurture lesbian community while they simultaneously sought common ground with other New Left strategists.

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