Read about the Furies Collective

At first glance, the demure-looking Capitol Hill rowhouse that stands at 219 11th St. SE doesn’t seem especially radical. But for two years in the early 1970s, the building was home to the Furies Collective, a radical lesbian feminist commune whose publications, like the magazine motive and especially the newspaper The Furies, helped redefine the national discourse around lesbianism and feminism. Many of the members had been rejected from mainstream feminism because of their sexuality, which influenced their political stance against multiple forms of oppression. In motive, they wrote that mainstream feminism “lacks direction now because it has failed to understand the importance of heterosexuality in maintaining male supremacy and because it has failed to face class and race as real differences in women’s behavior and political needs.” In 2016, the house was named the first lesbian-specific site on the National Register of Historic Places, which means there’s now a lot of easily accessible archival material. Start with the NRHP’s nomination form, which takes readers through the ideological impact of the Furies and the ambition of their collective project. Then, try the D.C. Preservation League’s overview and the National Park Service’s short entry on the Furies in a series on “Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods.” Even though separatist ideas are no longer in vogue, the Furies’ ideas and legacy still influence lesbian culture today—notably, members of the collective went on to found Olivia Records, the indie record company that released women- and lesbian-focused music and is now Olivia Travel, a notable cruise company that caters to queer women. For younger readers, it’s maybe better known as the setting for last year’s viral “lesbian cruise article” in Buzzfeed. The information is available at nps.gov and historicsites.dcpreservation.org. Free. —Emma Sarappo