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The Power of Women's Voices
65th Anniversary Conference of the Sophia Smith Collection
at Smith College, September 28-29, 2007

Joan E. Biren [JEB]

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project

JEB in Dyke, Virginia, 1975 © JEB (Joan E. Biren), from Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians.

Joan E. Biren (b.1944) grew up in Washington D.C., graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1966, and pursued graduate training at both Oxford University and the American University. Biren joined the women's liberation movement in D.C. in 1969. One of the first out lesbians in the movement, Biren and others (including Rita Mae Brown and Charlotte Bunch) formed a lesbian-separatist collective, the Furies, in 1971. Though the collective was short-lived, it had, through its publications, a significant impact on the strategies of the women's movement.

Biren is best known for her photographic portraits, some of the earliest documents of late 20th-century lesbian life. Realizing the need for affirming images andself-expression

outside of traditional patriarchal language, her work has appeared in off our backs, The Washington Blade, Gay Community News, and on countless album and book covers. Biren has published two ground-breaking collections of her photography: Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians (1979) and Making a Way: Lesbians Out Front (1987). In the 1990s, Biren turned from photography to filmmaking. She documented the 1987 and 1993 gay and lesbian marches on Washington and recently completed an award-winning film on lesbian pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

The Joan E. Biren (JEB) Papers are part of the Sophia Smith Collection.

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