ABSTRACT

Gay and lesbian writers of the post-Stonewall era were slow to document one of the most significant institutions emerging from lesbian separatism: the women's music industry, along with its companion venue, the women's music festival. Beginning with the National Women's Music Festival, first held in Illinois in 1974, the last 25 years of the 20th century saw an explosion of annual women's festivals held throughout the United States, attracting thousands of fans of women's music and lesbian culture. Usually advertised as two to four-day, women-only events featuring a full lineup of lesbian-feminist musicians and comedians, lesbian festivals in the United States have ranged from small-for example, the Gulf Coast festival with 75 to 100 participants-to enormous-for example, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival with 5,000 to 10,000 participants. The politics and people behind this independent lesbian music network have been addressed in half a dozen books, most published by small lesbian-feminist and gay-owned presses. These texts portray the emergence of a uniquely American subculture: folk rock with a lesbian liberation message.