From The Vaults: Chai Labyris rubber stamp

Chai Labyris rubber stamp ©liza cowan for White mare 1978

 

White Mare, Inc. was a feminist Lesbian button company owned and operated by Liza Cowan, co-editor of DYKE, A Quarterly. This image of the Chai inside a Labyris was very successful, so White Mare made it into a limited edition rubber stamp. 

This design combines several powerful words and symbols: the Star of David (a cross -cultural geometric symbol- here indicating Judaism,) the Chai, the Hebrew number 18, which is good luck and other resonating numerology, and the Labryis, the double headed axe, symbol of Matriarchy and Amazons. 

More about White Mare buttons HERE

 


Prototype cover sketch for DYKE A Quarterly. 1975

DYKE A Quarterly  prototype cover drawing by Liza Cowan and Alix Dobkin. September 1975

 

"DYKE The punchy magazine for today's Dyke."

I'm fairly sure that Alix Dobkin, Penny House and I (Liza Cowan)  were sitting at The New York Women's Coffeehouse when we made this sketch, one of several we made as we were beginning to conceptualize the magazine. 


Issue #6, Summer 1978. Lesbians & Animals, Editorial

dyke a quarterly. Lesbians & Animals, editorial by Liiza and Penny. Summer 1978

DYKE A Quarterly #6. Lesbians & Animals, editorial. Summer 1978

 

DOMESTICATION

We love animals. We believe that women traditionally have had, and still have, a special relationship with animals. The relationships between women and animas can be satisfying, healthy, consciousness-raising, productive and life sustaining. We are interested in exploring the biological  emotional and behavioral connections between women and other species. 

Between us we have to geldings (castrated male horses) nine castrated male cats, tow spayed female cats, and one spayed bitch. We love our animas and think they are as important as our lovers and friends. We think that relationships with animals are as mutually viable as our involvements with women. Some people, some Lesbians included, feel the domestic animal is, because of domestication, oppressed; they feel that, “human/animal relationships are power relationships with the human having total say over the course and directions of that relationship as well as over the very life of the other creature.”* A comparison is often made between the relationships of animas and people to those between husband and wife or slave and slave-owner. It is said that people use animals a a substitute for human relationships, to fill out their otherwise emotionally empty lives. 

Certainly it is true that some people, women included, abuse animals. However, we think that animal and pet liberationists make no distinction in their arguments between abuse and care or between coercion and cooperation. Many children are abused, too, but the solutions is not tat no one have children. 

The solution to animal abuse is for people to understand and respect animal’s needs and natures. Animal liberationists make too fuzzy a distinction between domestic and wild animals. To be against domestication itself is, at this point, meaningless. From the beginning of human history animal domestication, the interdependence between people and animals, has shaped our cultures, our architecture, our art, in short, the development of our world. 

Whether we approve of it or not, through human history we have been dependent on animal power and animal products. Fields have been cleared for food production by people and animals working together. Horses, camels, elephants, oxen and dogs, among others, have provided overland transportation. Animals have been eaten, and their hair and hides used to make clothing, shelter, tools and musical instruments. 

Until the Industrial Revolutions, animal labor and human labor were among the main sources of energy in the world. For centuries, war technology was based on animals: horses, camels and elephants. Cats protect people from diseases carried by rodents, and protect food from rodents. In the fourteenth century the bubonic plague killed twenty five million people. This plague was possible because men, associating cats with witches and the devil, killed almost the entire cat population of Europe. This the disease, carried by rodents, spread unchecked.

Life without domestic animals is unthinkable. Nowadays modern technology is dependent on machines and computers. But is this a state to be desired? Agribusiness and centralized food processing has lowered the nutritional value of food in this country and elsewhere. It has also made food into a corporate business, and made small farming untenable. Also, by so extensively removing horses and oxen from the land, we lose one of the best fertilizers that Mother Nature can provide: manure. 

Domestic animals have developed to what they are now because of human intervention. They have been bred by humans to work as animals and companions. These domestic breeds no longer exist in a wild state. Animal liberationists claim that by domesticating animals we are perverting them from their natural, wild state. But there is no wild state of, for example, a Golden Retriever, just as there is not wild, i.e. more true, more natural state of a Yankee farmer. Domestic animals have co-evolved with humans. 

PETS

We think that it is natural and healthy for people to enjoy and want the companionship of animals. It is a further exploration of nature. We know that our lives, and many people’s lives, are enriched by pets. Having close relationships with animals is not an imitation of human relationships. Some people prefer to have relationships with animals instead of people and we consider this an honorable choice. To include animals in one’s daily life can be a mutually gratifying and healthy experience. Recently therapists have been working with domestic animals and mentally disturbed and retarded children with beneficial results for both. 

ABUSE

Cruelty to animals is a worldwide problem. We are going to discuss here the abuse we have seen done by Lesbians. The abuse we have witnessed came not from cruelty, not from neurosis, but from ignorance and irresponsibility. We have seen many Lesbians who are reluctant to discipline and train their dogs. Dog psychology is different from women’s psychology. By not understanding their dog’s nature, some women accord them the same rights they feel women should have: complete freedom of choice, total mobility, not enforced discipline or reproductive freedom. This is s distortion of a dog’s nature. Anthropomorphizing is exactly what Walt Disney does. 

There are too many homeless dogs and cats in the world, and too many animals with hereditary defects, such as diplasia, caused by unthoughtful breeding, so spaying and castrating is a must. 

Unfortunately many women think this is unfair to the animal, which it is not. 

A dog needs to be told what she can and cannot do. In the wild, with wolves for example, one wolf is dominant and in the pack there is a dominance chain. In domestication, the human must be dominant. Women, on the other hand, are not pack animals. Adult women do not need a pack leader. The confusion, and therefor the abuse, stems from women believing that a dog’s needs, and therefore the dog’s rights, should be the same as women’s rights. This is not the case. If a human is not the dog’s leader, then the dog, by her nature, will have to become the leader, a task she is not equipped to handle. Some women feel it is oppressive to discipline their dogs, but cute puppy behavior, if undisciplined, soon becomes obnoxious and destructive dog behavior. 

Is it a dog’s right to chew furniture? Is hist a dog’s right to shit in the house? Is it a dog’s right to run deep and kill sheep? Is it a dog’s right to knock down the neighbor’s garbage and shit on the neighbor’s lawn? Without training, discipline and care, a dog will do all these things and more. The result usually is that the dog will become habituated to obnoxious behavior and will have to be locked up all the time, passed from home to home, or even destroyed. 

Liza and Penny

 

 

End of original article. DAQ.

 

We designed and layed out each issue very carefully. This was before the era of the personal computer, so our production was very very laborious and time consuming. We started with thumbnail sketches, laying out the whole magazine in teensy squares on a grid on paper. Here's the page for Issue #6. You can see the layout for the editorial. 

Dyke A Quarterly thumbnail mockup for issue #6 1978


Flier for DYKE, A Quarterly. 1975

 

We sent out this flier/mailer in 1975. You can read about it here:

 

flier for DYKE, A Quarterly. 1975. New Magazine Begins
Flier for DYKE, A Quarterly. Photo of Penny House reading DAQ #1.

 

Please note that the description of DYKE #2 says "future issues will carry stories on bitch sexuality..." We were talking about dogs. It would never have occurred to us to use the word "bitch" to refer to human females. Today, however, we'd have to be much clearer. And still, we'd never use the word "bitch" to refer to human females.


Side Trip: White Mare Buttons

Buttons from white mare inc. liza cowan archives

DAQ editor Liza Cowan also had a business making and distributing feminist and Lesbian buttons, under the company name White Mare. White Mare advertised in DAQ, of course. These buttons are now collectors' items. If you have any, hang on to them or donate them to an archive. Please. 


Lesbian History Exploration, 1975. Part 2

 

Dyke a quarterly,  Blue London and anon woman in photobooth 1950's or early 60's
Blue London and unknown woman. Photo booth photo circa late 1950's. From What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear Slideshow, 1975

 

The Lesbian History Exploration was a small conference, held in the Spring of 1975 at a Jewish camp in Malibu, California. It was organized and produced  by Good Taste Productions, a Lesbian collective in Los Angeles. Among the collective were Alice Bloch, Jan Oxenberg, Evan Paxton, Nancy Poore, Jocelyn Cohen, Jan Aura and Nancy Toder.

I can't remember how Alix Dobkin and I heard about the conference, either it was a personal invitation or we saw a notice about it in one of the dozens of women's publications that circulated around the country in that era. We submitted our proposals, and then spent part of the winter preparing for our presentations, which would take place far from our home in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

DAQ dear exploration anthology collective
Dear Exploration...letter from Liza Cowan 1975

 

The Exploration Collective must have sent out a series of questionnaires, which not only did I anwer quite thoroughtly, but I also managed to keep copies of my letters in my posession until 2001, when I donated some of my papers and collections to The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. 

In September of 2012 I visited the Herstory Archives to retreive the slideshow so I could digitize it, and I did manage to digitize much of it. I also retreived a cache of slides from The Lesbian History Exploration, which I'd also taken, but had no memory of ever having, much less having donated to The Lesbian Herstory Archives. Nonetheless, there they were in a manilla envelope with the letters.   Feeling daunted by the idea of scanning so many slides, I stashed them away for a couple of years, until I recently when I was sorting through part of my office and came across the envelope and peeked in. Et, Voila.

Title card from What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear slideshow. 1975. dyke finery. ©Liza Cowan


 


What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear: The Lesbian History Exploration,1975.

Letter from Liza Cowan to the Lesbian History Exploration collective march 22 1975 about the slideshow what the well dressed dyke will wear Dyke a Quarterly

 

 

Early in the Spring of 1975, I was preparing for my slde show, "What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear" for the upcoming Lesbian History Exploration, a small national conference to be held outside of Los Angeles. 

The Good Taste Collective was organizing the Exploration. Here is some correspondence from me, Liza, to the collective. I only saved my responses, not their inquiries.

Snapshots of Liza Cowan and Alix Dobkin 1975 Potter Hollow NY
Alix Dobkin and Liza Cowan, Spring 1976. Three Maple Farm, Schoharie County, NY


 

White Mare Archive to Lesbian Hirstory Exploration

To: Good Taste Productions

From Liza Cowan 3/22/76

Private correspondence

Page 1

Dear Good Tasters,

My slide show is coming along ok, I guess. I took about 200 pictures at the NY Women’s Music Festival, and none of them came out because I didn’t know that the shutter speed had to be at 60 for the flash to be in synch. So consequently I have lost most of my contemporary Dyke fashion slides. I took some pictures at the Lesbian Feminist Liberation/ New York Radical Feminist Lesbian Speak Out, but there was no picture taking allowed inside so I had to take them outside and didn’t get too many. We are going to Washington, D.C in 2 weeks + I’ll get more there.

I think that my first showing will be at the exploration. I wish I had about another year to finish, because I’ll be taking pictures in California + everywhere we go, and it

Page 2

will get better and better. But anyway, it’s good now, too. I will show slides of the Older Lady Dykes (Gertrude, Alice, Natalie, Romaine, Sylvia, Colette, et al) also before and after (coming out, Dykes in drag (in ladies clothes) and contemporary dyke duds. Also I will play appropriate music, and preface the whole thing with a short talk about the power of clothes.

I don’t know how long it will run. I hope it will be at least 15 minutes (I’m very upset about losing all those contemporary dyke slides.)

It will be light and amusing, fun to watch. I decided not to get into any heavy analysis and history because it’s too talkie. I think a slide show should be more fun.

I will need a screen + cassette play back machine. I have a projector.

I’m thinking of changing the name to “How We Look” or “What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear – how we look 1900-1975.

[I shaved my head yesterday]

See you soon, love, Liza Cowan


What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear: Amazons

Before there was DYKE, A Quarterly, there was COWRIE, Lesbian/feminist. It started off as the publication of a local women's group in New York City, Community of Women, COW. Although Community of Women was not strictly a Lesbian group, COWRIE quickly became a Lesbian magazine, independant of COW, taken in this direction by the editors, Liza Cowan and Carol Hardin. 

It was here that Liza Cowan's series, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear originated. Vol. 1 #4 was the Amazon issue, with cover of Amazons and inside, the essay on Lesbian Clothing. Here it is, the original text and graphics: 

 

COWRIE LESBIANFEMINIST VOL 1 #4 FRONT COVER ©LIZA COWAN
COWRIE, Lesbian/feminist. Vol 1 #4, December 1973. Cover design ©Liza Cowan

 

 Look at Greek vase paintings in a book or at a museum, you can always spot an Amazon by the way she looks. Greek patriarchal women are very femme, they wear loose, flowing chitons and are very nice to the men who share their space on the vases. The Amazons wear bold, striking pants, tunics and weapons, and are busy killing the men.

 I spent a lot of time last week tracking down Amazon clothes. The Metropolitan Museum Clothing Institute had nothing. No hints, no leads. A curator at the American Museum of Natural History told me that Amazons never really existed. Katherine Springer of the Greek and Roman department at the Metropolitan Museum was helpful. She told me about a book called Amazons In Greek Art by Deitrich Von Bothmer, which I got at the library and had to spend an hour just figuring out how to read it.  I called her back to ask a question, which she answered, and handed the phone over to her boss, none other than Deitrich Von. B. He told me he wouldn’t do his homework for me, that I obviously wasn’t an expert at anything, etc. etc. So here I am, back where I started, with a few feminist sources and some pictures of Amazons painted by Greek men.

 It is incredible the way our heritage is denied us. I never studied about Amazons in school. My twelfth grade Ancient History textbook never even mentions them. In order to write about Amazon clothes I first have to bust my ass trying to find information about Amazons themselves, information which isn’t readily available, and what is available is mystified, obscured and held by men who don’t want to part with their precious knowledge. Information Imperialism! (There is one excellent book, Mothers and Amazons, by Helen Dinar) We should have learned about our Amazon foremothers before we learned about George Washington. We are never taught about women. Every book that mentions Amazons (excluding Dinar) says they were a mythological race of women. The concise English Dictionary calls them “ A fabulous race of women warriors, masculine women” Men cannot stand the idea that women preferred to live without them.

 The Amazons were a strong, powerful group (or groups) of women identified women who lived according to their own determination, without men. They were forced to fight for survival against a growing patriarchy. Their existence has been documented as early as 1760 BC, when Queen Euripyle captured the Amorite capital in Babylon. They lived in many different places, migrating frequently, conquering new lands. There were Amazons all around the Mediterranean area, in southern Russia, north of the Black Sea, in Asia Minor and in northern Africa. There were two major groups, the Libyan (Libya being the place we now refer to as Morocco) and the Thermodontines. The only pictures of Amazons are those on Greek Vases (and some sculptures,) usually depicting the great war between the Athenians and the Thermodontine Amazons, whose territory extended from the Saramatian Planes to the Aegean Sea (which is roughly southern Russia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Asia Minor. This is the story of that war:

 

COWRIE MAGAZINE VOL 1 #4 WHAT THE WELL DRESSED DYKE WILL WEAR ©LIZA COWAN 1973
COWRIE, Lesbian/Feminist. Vol 1 #4, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, ©Liza Cowan

 

In the 13th century BC, a group of Greek men (Heracles and Theseus, according to one version) sailed to Themiscyra, the Thermodon capital on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, to steal the belt of Hippolyte, the Queen. It was a gold and crystal sword belt, one of the Scythian insignia. It symbolized virginity, which meant unmarried rather than unfucked. It was more than the belt they were trying to steal. Patriarchy was trying to conquer and dominate Matriarchal authority. Stealing the belt was a symbol of this intended domination. If Amazons surrendered their virginity, they surrendered their independence, as every Lesbian/feminist knows.

 At any rate, the Greek men fell upon the undefended city and its Queen, while the other Queen was away defending the borders with her army.

 Amazons always had two Queens, one to administer and one to lead the armies. The men stole the belt, killed the remaining townswomen, and abducted Antiope, Hippolyte’s sister. When Oriethia heard the news, she came rushing back, but the men had already left, so she led her army to invade Athens.

They besieged the Acropolis, but were not victorious. Antiope (and maybe Hippolyte) fought alongside the Greek men, and the war ended with a compromise. Oriethia died of grief and shame. Few of the remaining Amazons every reached home again. They were discouraged and almost totally defeated.

 This war is the one that is usually portrayed on the Greek vases. Some others show the Amazons, led by Penthesilea, fighting the Greeks in the Trojan War. The earliest vase paintings were done in the 7th Century BC, most were done in the 5th Century BC, eight hundred years after the Thermodontine-Athenian War. But clothing styles didn’t change as rapidly as they do now, so there’s a good chance that the Amazon clothes depicted on the vases are accurate.

 There is no one Amazon clothing style. The clothes change with place of origin, but there was much migration and communication between locations. The most striking clothes are those that come from Asia Minor, around modern Turkey, near the Amazon capital, Themiscyra. They wore an outfit that looked like a body suit covered by a tunic. The front and back pieces were oblong, sewn together on the shoulders and down the sides, with openings left for the arms. There was a single seam in the arms sewn on the undersides. These coats were usually made of leather, and sometimes wool. They wore tight fitting knit hose with bold geometric designs, checkerboards, stripes, circles, stars and zigzags. 

COWRIE LESBIAN FEMINIST VOL 1 #4 WHAT THE WELL DRESSED DYKE WILL WEAR P.2 ©LIZA COWAN
COWRIE, Lesbian/feminist. Vol 1 #4, 1973. What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. Text and image ©Liza Cowan

 

Some sources say that the Amazons were tattooed on their arms and legs, but this is unlikely. The shirts and tunics had tight sleeves, close fitting at the wrists, and were also boldly patterned with geometric designs. They frequently wore long soft red leather boots. The toes of the boots were often curled up, indicating a northern origin. Shoes like this are usually worn in snowy, rocky climates.

 They wore a variety of hats and helmets. One popular hat was from Phrygia (150 miles due east of Lesbos.) This was a tall conical cap, knitted in one piece or made of felt. It had a broad flap which hung over the nape of the neck and two other flaps which came to the shoulders and could be tied.

 In battle the Amazons carried crescent or double crescent shaped shields, emblems of the Moon Goddess, and they frequently wore the crescent emblem on their helmets. They carried bows and arrows, darts, javelins, nets and, of course, the Labyris, double-edged axe, symbol of the matriarchy. They wore armor made of red leather, and sometimes were greaves, armor for the shin area. Some pictures show them wearing no trousers, though I doubt that any self-respecting Amazon would ride into battle without her pants. She would be too vulnerable.  Some pictures show them wearing earrings. Their hair is shown tied back, or is hidden by the helmets.

There are no pictures of Amazons alone with each other, having fun, making love, eating, sleeping, building houses, training horses, playing with the children, or doing anything else but fighting. After all, men were not allowed to hang out with the Amazons so the only way they would have been able to see them was in combat. There are no remnants of Amazon art or artifacts (that I have found, anyway.) Probably everything was destroyed.

 Amazons were our great, great, great grandmothers. The patriarchy almost defeated them, but not quite. Here we are, the North American Amazons. Long live the Amazons.

 

Bibliography

Mothers and Amazons – Helen Dinar (available in paperback) The best book about Amazons so far.

 Amazons In Greek Art – Deitrich von Bothmer. Complete collections of Amazon pictures.

 Les Guerilleres,  Monique Wittig (paperback) not specifically about Amazons but gives, I think, a sense of an Amazon Community. 

COWRIE LESBIAN FEMINIST VOL. 1 #4  WHAT THE WELL DRESSED DYKE WILL WEAR P3 ©LIZA COWAN
COWRIE, Lesbian/Feminist Vol. 1 #4, 1973. What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. Amazons. Text and illustration ©Liza Cowan