On November 18th, the CLAGS Wednesday evening Colloquia Series hosted a talk on the affectional attachments in the life of Eleanor Roosevelt by historian and biographer, Blanche Wiesen Cook. Cook began her presentation by announcing the death of the renowned lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, and read one of Lorde’s poems. Cook dedicated the presentation to both Lorde and to the proliferation of writing and scholarship in lesbian and gay studies which Lorde helped to pioneer.
Cook’s segue into her own work on Roosevelt was achieved by a dramatic, often hilarious reading of her response to Geoffrey Ward’s criticism of her book on Eleanor Roosevelt in The New York Review of Books.
Did Roosevelt’s long-term relationship with Lorena Hitchcock constitute an “official” lesbian relationship? How did Roosevelt’s friends define this “couple”? Why is Geoffrey Ward so horrified at Cook’s gay-identified interpretation of Roosevelt’s liaison with Hitchcock? In dialogue with Cook, the 45 colloquium participants ruminated on these questions — everyone seeking a final word on the boundary separating “romantic” friendship between women from an explicitly (lustful) lesbian affair.
At the December 16th CLAGS colloquium, Gilda Zwerman, who teaches sociology at SUNY, Old Westbury and is also a practicing psychoanalyst, presented her work on women and political violence. Her research deals with 28 incarcerated women of the political left serving long prison sentences. Some of the women are lesbians, some of them are mothers. They are white, African-American, and Latina. Her study is a portrait from both psychoanalytic and sociological viewpoints of the origin, development, and consequences of their participation in political violence.