When We Were Outlaws

by Jeanne Cordova

A sweeping memoir of a young activist torn between her personal life and political goals—fighting at the intersections of the struggle for Gay Rights, Women’s Liberation, and the New Left. Córdova is living with one woman and falling in love with another, but her passionate beliefs tell her that her first duty is “to the revolution”—to change the world for gays and lesbians.

As an investigative reporter for the radical L.A. Free Press she becomes involved with the Weather Underground, Angela Davis, and Emily Harris of the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnappers of Patty Hearst. All this, while creating her own newsmagazine, The Lesbian Tide, destined to become the voice of the national lesbian feminist movement.

For those who ask, “What was it like?” Córdova portrays a compelling search for love and identity, set against the landscape of movements that swept hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets.

Foreword by Lillian Faderman.





In stock

Genre Memoir
Length 456 pages
Publication Date November 1, 2011
Publisher Spinsters Ink
ISBN 9781935226512e


From the foreword by Lillian Faderman:

Jeanne captures so well in these pages the early and mid-1970s, when the movement that she skillfully led in Los Angeles was at its height. Lesbians of that day, particularly lesbian-feminists, were impassioned activists—angry, committed, and bold—who took a page from the Black Power and Anti-War movements. Lesbian-feminists knew with certainty that the powers-that-be were wrong and corrupt, and they were happy to tell them so, and send them to hell. As a leader, Jeanne Córdova had to figure out how to take their wonderful but unruly energy and channel it into constructive action.



Publishing Triangle Judy Grahn Award

When We Were OutlawsWinner.

Lambda Literary Awards

When We Were OutlawsWinner, Lesbian Memoir.

GCLS Goldie Awards

When We Were OutlawsWinner, Essay/Memoir/Biography.

Mary Meriam, Ms. Magazine Blog

This is a riveting ride of a fabulous book!

Robin Tyler, The Advocate

I knew the book would be good. I was wrong. When We Were Outlaws is not a good book. It is a great book. Córdova has a literary gift that mixes a journalist's bold style with smart sociological overview. And the author's lesbian butch perspective carries a rare voice. Outlaws is a riveting fast paced piece of literature that takes place in the early to mid 1970s. This true story weaves in and out of a lighting fast radical time. It goes from Angela Davis to Patty Hearst to radical lesbians to the Weather Underground to a neo-Nazi party hell-bent on blowing up any progressive group within its sight. And Córdova was right in the middle of everything.

Lambda Literary Review

When We Were Outlaws is equal parts a historical look into the feminist and gay/lesbian activism of the 70s, and a personal memoir about a love affair. Jeanne Cordova as portrayed in the book is passionate as well as logical. She can map out how activist strategies will unfold and account for the consequences of this, structuring the plans around this. She is logical and fairly realistic in her activism... When We Were Outlaws does a great job of showing the tension between Cordova's political beliefs and activism, which dominate her life, and her personal relationships, both threatening to overturn the other.

Joan Nestle, Lesbian Herstory Archives co-founder; author of A Restricted Country

A riveting, unique, first hand telling of a dangerous, fractious, creative lesbian time...the lesbian feminist ‘70s with their messy, sexy, bold social and personal visions live again on Córdova's pages; she was thick in the middle of things, as a journalist, as an activist, as a lover. It's all here: the first lesbian conferences, the first women's music festivals, first gay centers, first lesbian newspapers, first gay labor disputes, lesbians in the SLA and FBI witch hunts, Susan Saxe and Margie Adams, sex before and after endless meetings, so many firsts—debates and factions galore. Like reading a stormy and passionate family diary that also speaks of a national time. One version of these times, but what a version! Dramatic, revealing, living history story-telling.

The Bilerico Project, Patricia Nell Warren, author of The Front Runner

...The book takes us there vividly - to a time of protest and change whose effects on the U.S. were deep and transformative - so much so, that ultraconservatives have been frantically trying to undo the past ever since, as a part of their efforts to wreak their will on the country today. When the religious right organized in the late 1970s, they declared war on three big movements: reproductive freedom, feminism and LGBT rights... For LGBT people who care about activism, especially those young enough to have no memory of those iconic times, Córdova's "memoir of love and revolution" should be a must-read.

Sarah Schulman, author of After Delores and Rat Bohemia

Jeanne Córdova's memoir is a love story set between the decay of Sixties radicalism and the rocky but energetic blast-off of the Lesbian Movement. Reacting to women of the Revolutionary Left, Jeanne was both inspired by their commitments and turned off by their rhetoric. The freedom of the independent press, Lesbian and straight, will make contemporary readers swoon with envy.

Mark Thompson, former Senior Editor of The Advocate, author of Gay Spirit, and The Fire in Moonlight

When We Were Outlaws is an important personal witness as well as an historical document, written with a truly brave heart. I have long thought of Jeanne Córdova as the James Dean of the lesbian scene. Now there is also her keen intellectual prowess which captures the history of incendiary times with equal measures of passion and cool. She adds much to our understanding of those times.


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