Lesbian pulp fiction is often cited as the start of contemporary lesbian print culture. Popular during the 1950s and 1960s, the genre emerged as the result of several factors: during World War II, paperbacks were distributed for free to American troops, and the demand for such cheap entertainment remained high after the war. Additionally, there was a new, nationwide interest in homosexuality, spurred by Alfred Kinsey’s reports on sexual behavior. On top of that, printed materials could avoid the censorship laws that governed radio and television.
Lesbian pulps emerged as lurid, erotic, and sensationalized depictions of homosexual life, usually promoting lesbianism as an illicit lifestyle. Over time, however, women and lesbian authors were able to write and publish more realistic glimpses of mid-20th-century lesbian life within the lesbian pulp genre.
Smith College Special Collections houses the Sally Taft Duplaix Collection, which is comprised of mainly lesbian pulp fiction. The Duplaix Collection formed the backbone of this guide.
Explore this LibGuide for more information and secondary resources on lesbian pulp fiction, as well as to find resources within the Smith College Special Collections.
This online resource provides information about the genre and historical era of lesbian pulp fiction.
Under the ‘About Lesbian Pulp Fiction’ tab, you will find definitions of key terms in the genre, an overview of the historical context surrounding lesbian pulp, as well as lists of popular themes within the books, and lists of notable authors, publishers, and cover artists.
The ‘Collections at Smith’ tab will introduce you to relevant archival holdings within Smith College’s Special Collection. This LibGuide was inspired by Smith’s Sally Taft Duplaix Collections, an archive mainly comprising of lesbian pulp fiction. This page has a brief biography on Duplaix. On this page you can also access the search link for the Duplaix collection if you are logged in using your Smith credentials. Additionally, there are resources for other relevant archival holdings in the College Archives and the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History.
The 'Gallery of Covers' is a selection of cover art from the Sally Taft Duplaix Collection to analyze the depictions of lesbianism put forth in the sensationalized covers.
The ‘Secondary Sources’ tab is a bibliography of the resources that helped me in this research. These lists of books, websites, media, articles, and other online databases will tell you everything there is to know about lesbian pulp fiction.
Thank you for visiting!
This Library Guide was created and written by Bena Williams in the Spring of 2022 for her Book Studies Capstone project. Her interest in lesbian pulp began with an internship in Smith College Special Collections where she analyzed the holdings in the Sally Taft Duplaix collection. The work clarified the realities of lesbian life and culture in the 1950s-1960s, and introduced Bena to many notable lesbian authors and activists whose names often get lost behind pseudonyms. The purpose of this LibGuide is to garner wider appreciation and knowledge for lesbian pulp fiction and its authors.
All of the images used in this LibGuide were photographed by Bena Williams from the Sally Taft Duplaix Collection within Smith College's Mortimer Rare Book Collections.
Many thanks to Shannon Supple, Cat Hannula, Jamie Mastrogiacomo, Sika Berger, Kate Long, and Alison Baitz for all their help with this project.
Additionally, thank you to the resources which aided in my research and creation of this project: Sally Taft Duplaix, the librarians at Mount Saint Vincent University, and all those who write scholarship on this topic.