Drawing on letters and essays written by teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s, and building on my historical research on same-sex desiring girls and girlhoods in the postwar United States, I ask how teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s pursued answers to questions about their feelings, practices, and identities and expressed their subjectivities as young lesbian feminists. These young writers, I argue, recognized that they benefitted from more resources and role models than did earlier generations, but they objected to what they saw as adult lesbians’ ageism, caution, and neglect. In reaching out to sympathetic straight and lesbian public figures and publications, girls found new ways to combat the persistent isolation and oppression faced by youth whose autonomy remained severely restricted by familial, educational, and legal structures.
Amanda Littauer is an Associate Professor of History and in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Northern Illinois University. Her research and teaching focuses on twentieth-century sexual culture, the history of women and girls, and LGBTQ studies. Her first book, Bad Girls: Young Women, Sex, and Rebellion before the Sixties, was published in 2015. Her current research addresses the social, cultural, and political worlds of queer youth in the twentieth-century United States. ORCID: