I would have to agree with my fellow poster that the lesbian pulp covers were absolutely amazing! Personally, I’ve never seen a lesbian pulp cover before, so it totally blew my mind.  I obviously had to do a little digging around and find the back story to The Lesbian Herstory Archive and these covers. On the website, Joan Nestle writes:

The act of taking one of these books off the drugstore rack and paying for it at the counter was a frightening and difficult move for most women. This was especially true during the atmosphere of the McCarthy trials…Although tame by today’s standards…these volumes were so threatening then that women hid them, burnt them, and threw them out.

Today if I wanted to go find the latest lesbian fiction I could just take a trip to Barnes and Noble, or better yet Boxcar books. There could still be some fear of homophobia, violence, or simply disclosing something held secret. Today, we live in an age where all it takes is a click and I could purchase literally anything I desire, with my student amazon prime account of course, and have it arrive my house virtually undetected by anyone. However, back in the 1930’s women had to go to these very public places, like drugstores and pharmacy’s, to purchase these novels and fear persecution or possible violence.

Interestingly, while I was looking at the novels at the pop-up museum and online I noticed the language used in the titles of the books as well as the cover art. Many of them contained words such as “odd”, “strange”, “evil”, or other language used to signify these novels as “deviant”.

Also, many of the novels took place in locations such as prisons, or barracks. This is interesting because these areas are traditionally viewed as places were “deviant” activity takes place.

Many novels had an  illustration or photograph of two women in very steamy or sexy positions on the cover.

While these novels are amazing, and not all of them project the lesbian lifestyle as “deviant”, its important to remember that these are historical pieces and while they may have been the “survival guides” for a generation of young lesbian women it’s also important to pay attention to the language and the images used to sell these novels.

By Kristy Wilson