“I don’t know much about leaving town
just that the wooden handle that pumps that well
keeps going up and down inside of me.”
-Ali Liebegott, The Beautifully Worthless
I’ve just started doing some research into lesbian- and woman-centered communities in the US for a project that I’m working on. One of the references I’m using is the itinerary of a woman who completed a 6,000 mile motorcycle trip across the US, visiting 27 such communities as she went. She completed this journey in the first half of 1996, less than 20 years ago. And yet, as I start to look up the places that she visited, I’ve already found that many of them no longer exist.
Earlier this year, while working on an article on queer literature, I had the pleasure of exchanging a couple of emails with Carol Seajay, founder of a lesbian feminist bookstore on the West Coast, and, also, the founder and publisher of Feminist Bookstore News. During that exchange and my subsequent research I learned that in the 1990s there were over 100 feminist bookstores in the US and today there are less than 10.
This post isn’t about nostalgia, nor is it a post lamenting change. I think change can be good and necessary, but more than anything, I know it to be inevitable.
This is more of an observation that places that allow you to see exactly how much change there has been, and what it has actually meant to individuals and communities, are rare and remarkable. Archives are amazing.