Julia Penelope (June 19, 1941 – January 19, 2013) was an American linguist, author, and philosopher. She was part of an international movement of critical thinkers on lesbian and feminist issues.

Julia Penelope
Julia Penelope Stanley

(1941-06-19)June 19, 1941
DiedJanuary 19, 2013(2013-01-19) (aged 71)
NationalityUnited States
OccupationAmerican author, linguist, academic, philosopher; LGBT and feminist activist

Early life and educationEdit

Julia Penelope Stanley was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida to Frederick William Stanley and his wife, Frances.[1] A self-described "white, working-class, fat butch dyke who never passed," she started what she called "rabble rousing" early.[2]

In 1959, she was asked to leave Florida State University in Tallahassee because of her lesbianism. She transferred to the University of Miami, where, eight weeks later, investigations of the Charlie Johns Investigating Committee on Communism and Homosexuality led to her expulsion on the grounds of suspected lesbianism. She went on to receive a BA in English and linguistics from City College of New York in 1966, leaving immediately for graduate work at the University of Texas. Having completed her courses for a doctorate in English Linguistics, she moved to Athens, Georgia in 1968, for her first teaching position.[1]

In 1971, she was awarded her doctoral degree and went on to teach for eleven years at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where she was reportedly passed over for promotions because her research on lesbians was deemed "too narrow".[3]


An activist and an organizer, Penelope attended the first conference of the Gay Academic Union in 1973 at the City College of New York. She was a delegate to the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977, and she participated in the planning meetings that led to the founding of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. She founded several activist groups, including the "Lincoln Legion of Lesbians" and "Lesbians for Lesbians."[4] She was one of the first scholars to teach women's studies courses, including Twentieth-Century Lesbian Novels and Feminist Literary Criticism.[1]

Penelope insisted on lesbian visibility in the academy, bringing Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Mary Daly, Pat Parker, Chrystos and others to the University of Nebraska. She encouraged Catherine Nicholson and Harriet Desmoines to bring the lesbian-feminist journal Sinister Wisdom to Lincoln. In 1977 at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Convention in Chicago she organized the Lesbian Languages and Literatures panel with Daly, Lorde, Judith McDaniel, and Adrienne Rich as speakers.[4]

In 1988, she co-edited with Sarah Lucia Hoagland the first and only anthology on lesbian separatism, For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology. As a lesbian separatist, Penelope was controversial among lesbians. According to the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, she became disheartened by lesbian infighting and withdrew from lesbian writing. She eventually settled in Lubbock, Texas, where she pursued her career as a freelance lexicographer and copy editor. She helped to found the Lubbock County Green Party, and she ran for Congress as a Green candidate in Texas's 19th congressional district 2003 special election.[5] Her platform emphasized environmental protection and opposition to war with Iraq as well as support for human rights.[1]

A biography of Penelope ran in the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, Volume 1, edited by Bonnie Zimmerman and George Haggerty (1999). In it, they say Penelope was open about being a kept butch (which was a brief period of her life), "a butch who is supported by another woman, often, but not always, a prostitute, a call girl, or the mistress of a wealthy man." The Encyclopedia also notes that she "was a separatist whose lesbian publications were often controversial, criticizing sadomasochism and other practices within lesbian communities."[4]

In her later years, she worked editing copy for commercial presses. Julia Penelope's papers are in the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.[6]


  • Penelope, Julia; Wolfe, Susan (1980). The coming out stories. ISBN 9780930436032.
  • Penelope, Julia; Hoagland, Sarah Lucia (1980). "Lesbianism, sexuality and power: the patriarchy, violence and pornography". Sinister Wisdom. Amherst, Massachusetts. 15. OCLC 70961358.
  • Penelope, Julia; Hoagland, Sarah Lucia (1988). For lesbians only: a separatist anthology. London: Onlywomen Press Ltd. ISBN 9780906500286.
  • Penelope, Julia; Wolfe, Susan (1989). The original coming out stories. ISBN 9780895943392.
  • Penelope, Julia (author); Grey, Morgan (author); Bechdel, Alison (illustrator) (1989). Found goddesses: Asphalta to Viscera. ISBN 9780934678186.
  • Penelope, Julia; Valentine, Sarah (1990). Finding the lesbians. ISBN 9780895944276.
  • Penelope, Julia (1990). Speaking freely: unlearning the lies of the fathers' tongues. ISBN 9780807762448.
  • Penelope, Julia (1992). International feminist fiction. ISBN 9780895945679.
  • Penelope, Julia (1992). Call me lesbian: lesbian lives, lesbian theory. ISBN 9780895944962.
  • Penelope, Julia; Wolfe, Susan (1993). Sexual practice/textual theory: lesbian cultural criticism. ISBN 9781557861016.
  • Penelope, Julia; Wolfe, Susan (1993). Lesbian culture: an anthology. ISBN 9780895945914.
  • Penelope, Julia (1994). Out of the class closet: lesbian speak. ISBN 9780895947048.
  • Penelope, Julia (1995). Crossword puzzles for women. ISBN 9780895947918.
  • Penelope, Julia (1998). Flinging wide the eyed universe: Poems by Julia Penelope. ISBN 9781884540349.


  1. ^ a b c d "Our Campaigns - Candidate - Julia Penelope". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  2. ^ Brownworth, Victoria (February 1, 2013). "In Remembrance: Julia Penelope, Lesbian Theorist". lambdaliterary.org. Archived from the original on October 22, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  3. ^ Wolfe, Susan J. (2000). "Julia Penelope". In Zimmerman, Bonnie (ed.). Encyclopedia of lesbian and gay histories and cultures. an encyclopedia ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Garland. pp. 577–578. ISBN 9780815319207.
  4. ^ a b c Baim, Tracy (January 24, 2013). "PASSAGES Author Julia Penelope dead at 71". Windy City Times. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Ring, Trudy (January 24, 2013). "Lesbian Author-Scholar Julia Penelope Dead at 71". advocate.com. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  6. ^ "Preliminary Inventory of the Julia Penelope Papers, ca. 1986-1999". library.duke.edu. Retrieved February 22, 2013.

External linksEdit