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Sex Variant Woman: The Life of Jeannette Howard Foster
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Sex Variant Woman: The Life of Jeannette Howard Foster

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  33 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Jeannette Howard Foster was to lesbianism in the mid-twentieth century what out authors such as Gore Vidal and James Baldwin were to gay men. She unapologetically blew the lid off Cold War sexual repression in 1956 with her Sex Variant Women in Literature-the first-ever study of homosexual, bisexual, and cross-dressing characters appearing in more than 300 works, from anci
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Da Capo Press (first published June 9th 2008)
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Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inspiring-lives
Looking for queer heroes? Consider the life of subversive librarian Jeannette Howard Foster. If you want daring, there’s plenty in this account of how she came to write Sex Variant Women in Literature, the first book to show that lesbian, bisexual and cross-dressing women could be traced back at least 3,000 years through more than 300 texts. As a self-supporting woman at a time when homosexuals were often fired from their jobs, Foster risked her livelihood by self-publishing this cornerstone of ...more
Arra K. Williams
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-books, queer
The first biography I have actually read cover to cover. It is written in a way that doesn’t feel… bibliographical? It carries a tone more like a novel, more personal, more captivating. It draws you in and makes you love and feel for Jeannette Foster, a woman who was so integral to lesbian literature and lesbian scholarship. She is a foremother of these fields and has influenced and aided in the triumph of lesbian literature even before her book’s [Sex Variant Women in Literature] first appearan ...more
Elevate Difference
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
The problem with biographies is that they all too often end with the death of a person you’ve come to like and admire. Sex Variant Woman is just such a biography. Jeannette Howard Foster is just such a person. Born in the late nineteenth century, in an era when women had no political or economic rights to speak of and gay people were deemed either irredeemably sinful or pathologically mentally ill, Foster managed to find no shame in being either a woman or a lesbian. For a woman of her time, thi ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Well-known to seventies lesbians seeking visions of themselves in literature, Jeannette Howard Foster's "Sex Variant Women in Literature," was actually the work of a lifetime, originally published in the 1950s. Born in 1895, Jeannette was aware early on of her feelings for other girls, and with the help of psychologist William Sadler, who she consulted in early adulthood, came to accept herself as a lesbian.

Passet details Foster's education, loves (often unrequited), her creative writing, the r
Erika Nerdypants
Very good biography on Jeanette Howard Foster, who wrote the first really comprehensive lesbian history in fiction. I enjoyed learning about her life, but reading about the challenges that lesbians of her generation faced, was eye-opening. As a contemporary lesbian, whether I decide to come out of the closet is more or less a personal choice. For women of Foster's generation, loving women really was the love that dare not speak its name. Public shunning and humiliation were only relatively minor ...more
Louise Chambers
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: LBGT and women's history
Recommended to Louise by: The Gay and Lesbian Literary Review
Wonderful book! Fascinating, well researched. I had the feeling that the author had interviewed Dr. Jeanette Foster in person because the narrative read almost like a conversation (all the interviews occurred after Foster's death). I had never heard of Dr. Foster, one of the first women to receive a doctorate in Library Science, and a lifelong Lesbian. Foster worked with Kinsey at the Sex Institute, and many other places during her long career. Her Sex Variant Women in Literature is a classic wo ...more
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a well researched biography of a woman born in the early 20th century who meticulously documented references to lesbian women, activity and inclination in history. Her list of such works was the only source of literature with lesbian content until the 1970's. A truly brave woman. A woman driven by her own need to find others like her stretching back through the centuries, and then share her knowledge with other women with the same need.

She really is one of our heroes.

A fascinating read.
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about a PhD in Library Science, who wrote one of the first books on lesbians in publishing. Foster helped many women find a way to validae their sexuality and also contributed an important work to scholarship. In fact, her work began as a way for her to validate her own sexuality. Also interesting was that Foster was Kinsey's librarian.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
A bit dry at times, but I loved learning about a lesbian hero I knew nothing about.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbt
An excellently researched and dynamic biography. I loved the meticulous but engaging retelling of Foster's story.
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Oct 11, 2008
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Jun 12, 2013
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Tricia Scully
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The research for this book is absolutely remarkable!
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Sep 12, 2008
Lori Taylor
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