Happy July, everyone!! Today we want to talk about Sinister Wisdom, the oldest surviving literary
publication made by lesbians for lesbians, which published its very first issue on this day in 1976!
In early 1976, Catherine Nicholson and Harriett Desmoines
began to be troubled by the sense of social and psychological isolation they
felt as lesbians living in Charlotte, North Carolina. They began asking themselves questions like, How does a woman
survive when she steps out from the death process of patriarchy? How does she
think without thinking ‘their’ thoughts, dreaming ‘their’ dreams, repeating
‘their’ patterns? This internal interrogation resulted in the creation of
Sinister Wisdom – a publication dedicated to sharing different ideas of lesbian
consciousness through poetry and short fiction! Catherine and Harriet garnered
an audience by handing out flyers in their local LGBT community, but that audience
soon spread nationwide and those who read popular lesbian magazines The Ladder and The Furies also began to pick up Sinister Wisdom.
The cover of the very first issue of Sinister Wisdom as it was published in 1976; illustrated by Marianne Lieberman (x).
Catherine and Harriet operated Sinister Wisdom out of Charlotte,
North Carolina for five years before selling it to Adrienne Rich and Michelle
Cliff in 1981, who moved the headquarters to Amherst, Massachusetts. This began a long tradition of handing the editorial mantle down every
couple of years and it is this tradition of bringing in new blood which has kept
the magazine fresh and alive for over 40 years! After its second issue, the magazine
began publishing thematic issues. Some of the themes from throughout the years
have been “A Gathering of Spirit: North American Indian Women’s Issues” in 1982
and “The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology” in 1986. In 1991, Sinister Wisdom officially became a nonprofit
organization and began providing free subscriptions to incarcerated and
institutionalized women. Today, the magazine is operated out of Berkeley,
California and publishes four issues every year. You can find out more about Sinister Wisdom’s history at OutHistory.com or purchase the latest issue, “Sinister Wisdom 105: Passion Fruit and Wet Flowers,” on their website!