Carol And Edna | Lesbian History In The Early-To-Mid-Twentieth Century

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Q. What is the historical overview of this book?

A. For 45 years, Carol (born 1930) and Edna (born 1913) lived together in a Catholic, blue-collar neighborhood near downtown Oklahoma City. Both died in 2005.  

Carol and Edna were a lesbian couple, but their "secret" life was shared with only a few lesbian friends. For outward appearances, they presented themselves as heterosexuals. Carol, in particular, lived in terror of being called a "queer." 

Edna was born and reared in a small, rural Oklahoma town. Her mother worked as a midwife for a local doctor, cleaned houses, took in washing and ironing and had a large garden. Due to finances, Edna graduated from grade school and went to work chopping and picking cotton. 

In 1930, Carol was adopted into an upper-middle-class, Chicago family. Carol's father was a professor of engineering and her mother taught piano and classical music at Chicago's Conservatory. Carol was reared to be a "lady," took dancing and piano lessons and was groomed to follow in her mother's footsteps at the Conservatory. 

In the early 1950s, as an ultimate act of rebellion, Carol joined the Marine Corps.  It was the heyday of McCarthyism, when women could be discharged from the military or other governmental posts on the accusation of being a lesbian. These women did not have the benefit of a hearing or knowledge of the evidence or their accuser. It has been said that the 1950s were the worst time in history for women who loved women. 

By the time the 1960s rolled around and "women's liberation," most women Carol and Edna's ages had been traumatized sufficiently by society, that for them to be visible as a lesbian couple was very difficult, if not impossible. However, in her last one-to-two decades of life, Edna participated in the local lesbian community. Carol was unable to allow herself to do so.

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