Barbara Love, Who Fought for Lesbians to Have a Voice, Dies at 85

Ms. Love’s experiences, typical of so many of her generation, spurred her to write “Sappho Was a Right-On Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism with Sidney Abbott, her partner at the time. A compassionate social history, it is a heartbreaking exploration of lesbian life in the not-so-recent past — “a maze of pseudonyms, gay bars, arbitrary role-playing, petty and grand deception,” as Carolyn See wrote in a review for The Los Angeles Times, “shadowed by the constant fear of being fired from jobs, spurned by parents, doomed to a life of almost total isolation.”

The book also serves as a contemporary account of how lesbians gained acceptance in the women’s movement: “how they have emerged — almost existentially — as women like any others,” Ms. See wrote.

Ms. Love and Ms. Abbott said they wrote the book because their ambition was to be ordinary; people, they joked, seemed to know less about lesbians than they did about Newfoundland dogs. “Our goal is to go about our lives — as human beings, as women, as Lesbians — un-self-consciously, and to be able to spend all of our energy and time on work or fun, and none on the arts of concealment or on self-hatred.”

The book was dedicated “to those who have suffered for their sexual preference, most especially to Sandy, who committed suicide, to Cam, who died of alcoholism, and to Lydia, who was murdered; and to all who are working to create a future for Lesbians.”

Barbara Joan Love was born on Feb. 27, 1937, in Ridgewood, N.J. Her father, Egon, was a prosperous Danish-born hosiery manufacturer (Barbara wanted to join his company, but he didn’t think women were qualified to run a business); her mother, Lois (Ashley) Love, was a homemaker.

Barbara and her two brothers grew up in “upper-middle-class comfort,” she wrote in her 2021 memoir, “There at the Dawning: Memories of a Lesbian Feminist,” with a maid and a chauffeur, and Sunday dinners at the country club.

In her early 20s, she broke political ranks and registered as a Democrat, the first one in her family to do so for generations. In high school, she was a competitive swimmer and won several state championships. She studied journalism at Syracuse University, graduating in 1959.

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