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.
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