What’s Her/Story? History and Living Herstory

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 9:20 AM
Washington Room 2 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Amy Washburn, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York

 What’s Her/Story?: History and Living Herstory

--Amy Washburn

Joan Nestle states, “To live with history is to have a memory not just of our lives but the lives of others, people we have never met but whose voices and actions connect to our collective selves. [. . .] Every present becomes the past, but caring enough to listen will keep us all alive.” In this passage, I hear the echoes of voices as I continue to create my own critical voice and share it with colleagues, students, and activists. I have been thinking about the dialogues we have, those with and between intergenerational dykes, queers, gender nonconforming, non-binary, genderqueer, and trans folks, both as unliving and living herstory. Herstory is nonlinear, memory is asymmetrical, and testimony is an ongoing queer feminist project, but how do we create a world that bridges then and now and where we are traveling on our own without a map?

While I have done work in numerous libraries and archives as a historian of social movements and culture in the United States and in Ireland for more than a decade, as an archivist and coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives for the last three years, I have learned to reconceptualize herstory from a new angle of vision. This presentation will focus on legacies of queer feminists who have given the youth permission and the authority to be. Herstory will continue in the future through memory and witness work. Who else can tell our stories besides us? Many voices have been lost because of erasure of queer feminists in hetero-patriarchal culture, or as LGBTQ struggles remain anchored in white, class, and male privilege. The next step, present in my work, is the necessity for doing intergenerational work together.