Jeanne Cordova


Reader Reviews of 'When We Were Outlaws'

~~ Great book about the gender and gay/lesbian issues of the 1970's - with a sweet love story thrown in.

~~ Story of a life well lived by a strong woman.

~~ I am a bit biased, but this book is an incredibly well written and fascinating view of the 1970s Lesbian and Women's Rights movement. Jeanne Cordova writes with incredible honesty about her own feelings and reactions to the time period without any hesitation or self promotion. The ugly personal thoughts are open and exposed along side of the hopes and loves of this woman.

The author shares her views on the politics of the time period with a first person account of the hard struggle for equality. For Cordova, the women's rights movement and the Lesbian movement are the same and are fought for the same reasons. The Civil Rights Movement and the anti-establishment are represented in the trenches and on the battlefield of the streets of Los Angeles, California.

The romantic struggle is as real for any gender or preference as it was for her. Torn between loves and making the same mistakes we all have between work, love and friendship.


Recent Articles

Jeanne Cordova: Lesbian nun who “kicked the habit” to become an activist
by Kittredge Cherry | Jan 10, 2017

Jeanne Cordova was a pioneering lesbian feminist activist and ex-nun who shook the world by revealing lesbian life in the convent. She died on Jan. 10, 2016 at age 67.

Cordova told her story as contributor to the groundbreaking 1985 book “Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence” and author of two memoirs “Kicking the Habit” and “When We Were Outlaws.”

“Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence” remains the definitive work on this hidden and forbidden subject more than 30 years after it was first published. It is also one of the best-selling lesbian books of all time ...


The Fourth Demand 
by Alyssa Samek
| QED, 3.1, Spring 2016, published by Michigan State University Press.

"how one 70's lesbian-feminist articulated common challenges facing both groups—  women and GLBTQ people — ... as a potentially productive model for building similar coalition politics today."



Jeanne Córdova Remembered
7/18/48 - 1/10/16



In Memoriam & Press

THE ADVOCATE: Jeanne Cordova Remembered

L.A. TIMES: Jeanne Córdova dies at 67; activist and author chronicled lesbian feminist movement of 1970s

AUTOSTRADDLE: Jeanne Córdova Dies At 67: Goodbye to the Activist and Writer Who Lead The Way We’re Going

LAMBDA LITERARY: In Remembrance: Jeanne Córdova

FRONTIERS: Lesbian Pioneer Jeanne Cordova Dies at 67

EPOCHALIPS: Remembering Jeanne Cordova – Lesbian Outlaw

SF BAY TIMES:  In Memoriam: Jeanne Cordova

VELVETPARK:  Jeanne Córdova and Ellie Conant (* - 2016)

LESBIAN NEWS: Lesbian pioneer Jeanne Cordova dies at 67

EDGE MEDIA: Lesbian Pioneer Jeanne Cordova Dead at 67

THE PRIDE L.A. Jeanne Córdova, pioneering lesbian activist & author, dies

CURVE MAGAZINE: Jeanne Cordova, Lesbian Activist And Author, Dies At 67

BAY AREA REPORTER: Activist Jeanne Córdova dies


ASTRAEA FOUNDATION: In Memoriam of Jeanne Cordova

LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: LA has lost a visionary, fierce, funny and passionate leader!

HRC: A Tribute to Jeanne Cordova: Butch Chicana Lesbian Feminist Outlaw

LA LGBT CENTER: Los Angeles LGBT Center Responds to Death of Pioneering Lesbian Activist Jeanne Cordova

ONE ARCHIVES: Pioneering Lesbian Activist Jeanne Cordova (1948-2016)



BBC RADIO 4: LAST WORD: Glenn Frey, Lord Weidenfeld, Jeanne Cordova, Haskell Wexler, Gilbert Kaplan.

SDPNOTICIAS Mexico: Muere Jeanne Cordova, periodista y activista pro derechos LGBTI

GAY NEWS NETWORK Australia: Lesbian activist and pioneer Jeanne Cordova dies at 67

YAGG.COM France Décès de la militante lesbienne américaine Jeanne Córdova

GAIA MAGAZINE Scotland: Lesbian pioneer Jeanne Cordova dies

SIN ETIQUETAS América Latina: Jeanne Cordova: Muere periodista y activista pionera en la lucha LGBT

STOPHOMOPHOBIE France: Hommage à Jeanne Córdova : la légendaire activiste s’est éteinte après une longue bataille contre le cancer

Interviews & Video Clips

WOMEN & FILM PROJECT: Goodbye to an Outlaw



A Letter About Dying, to My Lesbian Communities

by Jeanne Córdova (written September 8, 2015)

This letter is meant as a notification and thank you to the thousands of members of the national lesbian community whose activism, lives, and loves have touched my own. Especially those dykes who have become family and siblings of choice over the last 40 years. Yes, the rumors are true, I have metastasized to-the-brain cancer. I am dying from it in my cerebellum.

I have had cancer since 2008. Colon cancer. For the first four years I brushed it off, as I've done many times with physical illness or difficulties. I continued my activism with the Lesbian Exploratory project and I finished my third book, When We Were Outlaws. The cancer came back in 2013. Metastasized first to my lungs and then to my cerebellum. Yes, my head. With brain and back-of-the-neck cancer it has been a downhill experience the last three years, with multiple operations, radiation and Chemo. This February I had Chemotherapy. Among a host of side-effects, it’s given me "chemo brain," which amounts, basically, to “getting stupid.” Just saying. This month's so-called side effect is peripheral neuropathy. That's from Chemo, they say, and it makes your feet, fingers and hands feel tingling and numb like when you fall asleep on your leg or hands. Only, it doesn't go away. I can't stand up without holding onto a wall or background support. I can't feel where my feet are. Yeek! I freak myself out talkin' about it! How about you?

A guru once told me, "We die in increments, one piece at a time." She meant one part of our body suddenly ceases to work, an elbow or a tongue. Seemingly for no reason, like a worn out knee. This came as a surprise. I thought we get old or die...suddenly, and all at once. Not so!

Many of us have gotten cancer and died. I write  publically to the women who  have defined my life  because I want to share this last journey, as I have shared so much of my activist life with you. You gave me a life's cause. It is wonderful to have had a life's cause: freedom and dignity for lesbians. I believe that's what lesbian feminism is really about, sharing. We built a movement by telling each other our lives and thoughts about the way life should be. We cut against the grain and re-thought almost everything. With just enough left undone for our daughters to re-invent themselves. Death should be a part of life. Not hidden, not a secret, something we never said out loud.

Being an organizer and journalist in the lesbian, gay, feminist, and women of color communities—and loving it--has been the focal point, of my life. It has been a wild joyous ride. I feel more than adequately thanked by the many awards I have received from all the queer communities, and through all the descriptions and quotes in history books that have documented my role as an organizer, publisher, speaker, and author. Thanks to all of you who have given me a place in our history.

From the age of 18 to 21, I painfully looked everywhere for Lesbian Nation. On October 3, 1970, a day I celebrate as my political birthday, I found Her in a small DOB (Daughters of Bilitis) meeting. That's when my life's work became clear. Shortly thereafter I became a core organizer for two national lesbian conferences, one of which re-directed my path to create The Lesbian Tide newsmagazine, a national paper of record, as the historians say, for the lesbian feminist generation. And on it went for multiple decades of marches and later online organizing--this time intersectionally, to include all of me and my Latina identity. Somewhere in the middle of all that I, somewhat accidentally, invented the Gay & Lesbian Community Yellow Pages, a first for our by-then national tribe. This Los Angeles 400 page guide that helped us still-half-hidden people to connect, politically I thought initially, with businesses and professionals that spoke to us within our own identities.  That it did, but this directory and lucky timing in life-long real estate, also enabled me to fulfill an early personal vow to give back half of my estate to our movement. I do this with Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (out of New York City) and other organizations. I believe it so critical to our transforming movements to leave our estates to our LBGTQ charities, not some errant heterosexual relation we hardly know! More on this political news and views to follow. (*1)

I believe that cancer or any terminal disease is the luck of the draw. As my mother used to say of my Aunt who was also a nun of ninety years, "At that age, you got to die of something." I have read the obituaries in Lesbian Connection (*2) these last years as they chronicle the passage of my 2nd wave generation. The one message that rings out clearly is that so many, many in these pages were activists who articulated social justice  in their local or regional spaces. Many dykes making change. So many of you or loved ones have gone through death rituals  these last years. It makes me feel like one-of-the gang...again!

I really don't know when or if I can write again. Mental competency and all that. The choice appears to be living with chemo forever off and on, or dying. I will make that choice soon enough. In the meantime, please write or speak  your own truth in living with dying (*3) to your lesbian newspaper or my blog below(*4).

I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who have loved another woman-identified-woman, who have loved me, or have loved Lesbian Nation. I wish I could still write about this kind of love more eloquently. Lesbians do have a special love for one another. I have felt it many times when women are with each other. I am happy and content to have participated in it for most of my very full and happy life. Least you be too sad, know that I have this kind of love not only with my family of choice, but with a straight arrow spouse with whom I have journeyed these last twenty-six years.


*1  Lesbian newspaper out of Ann Arbor, MI. Email; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

*2 See press release from Astraea.

*3 Cordova is in the process of a fourth book due out "maybe someday," called Living With Dying.

*4  Cordova's blog;



Recent Writing

• "Anita Bryant's Anti-Gay Crusade"
--- Essay in The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism (Cleis Press, June 2015)
• "Marriage Throws A Monkey Wrench"
--- Essay in Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity (Ooligan Press, Fall 2014)


A Memoir of Love & Revolution

LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD winner: Lesbian Memoir/Biography
PUBLISHING TRIANGLE : Judy Grahn lesbian non-fiction award
STONEWALL BOOK AWARD: Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award Honor Book
2013 RAINBOW LIST : The GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association


    " 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 Cordova's pages; she was thick in the middle of things, as a journalist, as an activist, as a lover." --Joan Nestle, editor of A Persistent Desire, A Femme Butch Reader and GENDERQUEER, Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary.

    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.” --By Patricia Nell Warren, Bilerico Project

    " ...content-rich and driven by a compelling plot. These two things make reading 'When We Were Outlaws' a joy." -Lambda Literary Review by Julie R. Enszer

  • "...such an important addition to the literary canon of LGBT non-fiction. The book manages to be captivating, heartbreaking, and gratifying all at once.” --The Advocate by Diane Anderson Minshall

  • "One of the best reads of the year comes from Jeanne Cordova.  Her memoir  chronicles a time in the 1970s when she was a young lesbian reporter and activist ... fighting for lesbian visibility and equality in Los Angeles, as well as navigating her love life.  The combination of the two, along with some nostalgic waxing on womyn's music and politics of the times makes this a must read" --

  • "...When We Were Outlaws by Jeanne Cordova reminds you why you like being a lesbian in the first place" -

Read the whole list of REVIEWS with links here ....


Interview with an Outlaw!

Pioneering LGBT journalist and activist Jeanne Córdova is back with a third
book, When We Were Outlaws: a memoir of Love & Revolution.
A sweeping memoir, a raw and intimate chronicle of a young activist torn between conflicting personal longings and political goals.
This is a rare view of a radical lesbian activist’s life during the early struggle for gay rights, Women’s Liberation, and the New Left of the 1970s.

Joan Nestle, grande dame femme author, blurbs the book saying it’s "A riveting,
first-hand telling of a dangerous creative time. The lesbian feminist ‘70s with their
messy, sexy, bold social and personal visions live again on Córdova’s pages!"

Former editor of The Advocate, Mark Thompson, calls Córdova “the James Dean
of the lesbian scene.” And Stuart Timmons, author of The Trouble With Harry Hay,
comments “this story discusses the contradictions of feminism, the then real
debate about violent overthrow of the government, and the huge divide and
uneasy alliance between lesbians and gay men.”

In 1975, the twenty-something activist 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.” She becomes an investigative reporter for the famous,
underground L.A. Free Press and finds herself involved with the Weather
Underground, Angela Davis, and Emily Harris of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
At the same time she is creating her own newsmagazine, The Lesbian Tide,
destined to become the voice of the national lesbian feminist movement.

With an introduction by renowned lesbian historian Lillian Faderman, When
We Were Outlaws
paints a vivid portrait of activism and the search for self-identity,
set against the turbulent landscape of multiple struggles for social change that
swept hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets. By turns provocative
and daringly honest, Córdova renders emblematic scenes of the era—ranging
from strike protests to utopian music festivals, to underground meetings with
radical fugitives—with period detail and evocative characters.

For those who came of age in the ‘70s, and for those who weren’t around but
still ask ‘What was it like?’ –Outlaws takes you back to re-live it. It also offers
insights about ethics, decision making and strategy, still relevant today.



Most Recent Blogs

Recent Excerpts and Essays


from "Remembering Jeanne Cordova" March 5, 2016

Get Outlaws: At indie bookstores
Order online at
Skylight Books.  or

Jeanne's blog

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