UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mystical science in a matriarchal world : Oregon's lesbian separatist communities and female nature, 1970-1990 Young, Kylie


In the mid-1970s, lesbian women across the United States sought solace from patriarchy and ecological destruction by abandoning cities and moving to secluded rural areas. These spaces became lesbian separatist communities, or communities in which no men were allowed. Sometimes called lesbian landers, the women who made up these communities formed part of the larger women’s land movement of the same period. Southern Oregon housed several women’s lands. Although the women’s land movement perpetuated racist, colonialist, and essentialist ideas, it was particularly significant in shaping how one segment of countercultural women understood the intersections between gender and nature. This thesis examines the ways in which southern Oregon’s lesbian separatists rejected what they saw as mechanized, masculine science and blamed it for the world’s social and environmental problems. Lesbian landers understood nature as female; they saw “her” as a caring, nurturing mother and same-sex lover. They connected to “her” both spiritually and sexually. As women, landers sought to heal from patriarchal destruction alongside “her” by living on and loving the land. I argue that in doing so, lesbian landers forged new ways of knowing that combined the biological with the magical, the physical with the metaphysical. I call this way of knowing mystical science, and I argue that this ontological perspective enabled landers to radically reimagine solutions to social and environmental problems. Lesbian separatist communities provide a useful space for historians of science to explore how tensions between scientific and social values affect the intellectual and spiritual creation of alternative cosmologies.

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