Young, Velma (Valerie Taylor)

Tee Corinne, photographer. Valerie Taylor Papers, #7627. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Title

Young, Velma (Valerie Taylor)

Birth Date

September 7, 1913

Birthplace

Aurora, Illinois

Death Date

October 22, 1997

Occupation

Writer
Editor
Teacher
Activist

Pseudonyms

Valerie Taylor, Nacella Young, Francine Davenport, and Velma Tate

Biographical Text

Born Velma Young, she used the name Valarie Taylor in all her correspondence and public appearances as an author. Taylor married William Tate in 1939. She attributed her marriage to being “a victim of conventional sexual morality”. In 1953, she sold the rights to her first book, Hired Hand for $500.00. Taylor recounts that with the money she bought a pair of shoes, two dresses, and a divorce to end a fourteen-year marriage that had been marked by poverty and her husband’s alcoholism. She identified as both bi-sexual and lesbian, which she did not see as mutually exclusive. She considered Pearl Heart, a Chicago lawyer, the love of her life.

Taylor was an activist from a young age, working on the issue of land reform in the 1930s. She was also involved in the early LGBT rights movement. She was a member of the Daughter of Bilitis, a founding member of Mattachine Society’s Midwestern branch, and the Lesbian Writers’ Conference in Chicago. In her later years, she was a member of the grey panthers. Both Taylor and Hart have been inducted into the City of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

Taylor included social commentary on issues such as sexism, violence against women, and poverty in all of her novels. She repeatedly stressed in interviews that her aim as an author was never to write to a particular convention, but rather to realistically tell the stories of the lives she saw around her. 

"There was suddenly a plethora of [gay novelsj] on sale in drugstores and bookstores and most were absolute trash – many written by men who had never knowingly spoken to a lesbian . . . I wanted to make some money, of course, but I also thought that we should have some stories, about real people – women who had jobs, families, faults, talents, friends, problems; not just erotic mannequins "

Her first lesbian novel Whisper Your Love followed the conventions of the time complete with a preditory older lesbian seducing a young girl who at the end rejects lesbianism for marriage to a young man. All her other books provided positive lesbian characters though she never shied away from the harsh realities of the lesbian lives in the mid-20th centuary with her characters dealing with the impact of isolation, discrimination and alcoholism. She continued to write poetry and novels long after the pulp fiction era was over. In the 1980s she wrote Ripening, a sequel to Return to Lesbos with the characters middle aged and out of the closet.

Sources

Cornell University's Valerie Taylor Collection http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/RMM07627.html

D’Emilio, John. “Valerie Taylor: A Woman for All Generations.” In a New Century: Essays on Queer History, Politics, and Community Life. University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

Taylor, Valerie and Walker, Lisa. "Afterword."  The Girls in 3-B,  New York: Feminist Press, 2003. pp. 179–206.
Wolt, I. (1998). "An Interview with Valerie Taylor." The Lesbian Review of Books, Vol. 4, No. 3, p. 3
Photo credit:
Tee Corinne, photographer. Valerie Taylor Papers, #7627. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Wikipedia Entry

Goodreads Entry

Profile Contributor

Denyse Rodrigues

Item Relations

This Item Creator Item: Whisper their love
This Item Creator Item: Girls in 3-B (The)
This Item Creator Item: Stranger on Lesbos
This Item Creator Item: Return to Lesbos
This Item Creator Item: World without men (A)
This Item Creator Item: Unlike others
This Item Creator Item: Hired girl
This Item Relation Item: Fawcett Publications
This Item Relation Item: Midwood Tower Publications
This Item Creator Item: Journey to fulfillment

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Collection

Citation

“Young, Velma (Valerie Taylor),” The Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection @ Mount Saint Vincent University, accessed January 17, 2021, https://msvulpf.omeka.net/items/show/826.