Tomboys and Bachelor Girls

>In the late 1950’s Josie Pickering was leading a double life. By day she was a ‘proper’ 1950’s housewife – married and looking after her young children. But at night she visited the lesbian bars and clubs of Manchester. Eventually she left her husband for another woman. As the Woman’s Hour‘s team on BBC Radio 4 discovers, Josie’s story is typical of those examined in a new book – Tomboys and Bachelor Girls 1945 – 71 by Rebecca Jennings – which looks at the lesbian history of post war Britain.

Clare Jenkins has spoken to Josie Pickering at her home in Manchester and Jenni talks to author, Rebecca Jennings, and Lisa Power, Policy Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust who came out in the late 1970’s, about the history of lesbianism in post war Britain.

You can listen to this segment here (opens Real Player).

Using a rich array of oral histories and archival sources, Tomboys and bachelor girls provides the first detailed academic study of lesbian identity and culture in post-war Britain. Described by psychiatrists as immature and neurotic, and widely ignored as taboo by mainstream society, lesbians nevertheless recognised and accepted their same-sex desire and sought out women like themselves.

Challenging the conventional picture of the post-war decades as years of austerity and conservative femininity, this book traces the emergence of a vibrant lesbian social scene in Britain, centred on the metropolitan nightclubs of post-war London, but also developing across the country, through lesbian magazines and social organisations.

Tomboys and Bachelor Girls: A lesbian history of post-war Britain 1945 – 71 by Rebecca Jennings is published by Manchester University Press ISBN 978-0-7190-7544-5

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