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Olivia on the Record
A Radical Experiment in Women's Music
The burgeoning lesbian and feminist movements of the '70s and '80s created an impetus to form more independent and equitable social and cultural institutions—bookstores, publishers, health clinics, and more—to support the unprecedented surge in women's arts of all kinds. Olivia Records was at the forefront of these models, not only recording and distributing women's music but also creating important new social spaces for previously isolated women and lesbians through concerts and festivals.
Ginny Z. Berson, one of Olivia's founding members and visionaries, kept copious records during those heady days—days also fraught with contradictions, conflicts, and economic pitfalls. With great honesty, Berson offers her personal take on what those times were like, revisiting the excitement and the hardships of creating a fair and equitable lesbian-feminist business model—one that had no precedent.
"In a time when lesbians’ participation in mainstream culture and politics is often taken for granted, we need to recognize the miraculousness of what Olivia achieved. A few years after Stonewall, Olivia not only created the first women’s record label, but in the face of pervasive bigotry and repression carved out a vibrant political space for lesbian freedom."
—Barbara Smith, co-founder of the Combahee River Collective
"The women’s music movement was a revolution for rights and dignity, carving out a space where none existed before: for women to seize ownership of their own narrative, for lesbians who had never been reflected in popular music, for women to write love songs to other women. A small collective of idealistic women with absolutely no experience in the music business created a model that would change the landscape for all women, indeed, for all people."
—Vicki Randle, musician
"Ginny Berson’s important memoir of building Olivia Records into a beloved lesbian institution is a timely narrative from a founding organizer. Ginny walks us through the politics, radical self-discovery, aching romantic tension, and quirky community organizing that characterized an era. In these chapters, we gain a front row seat to the collective “processing” that produced and distributed lesbian records, and meet the first generation of fans to experience women’s music as lesbian liberation."
—Bonnie J. Morris, PhD, author of Eden Built by Eves, The Disappearing L, and The Feminist Revolution
260 pp | Paperback | 2020 | 6 x 0.53 x 9 inches | ISBN 1951874013