Out Feminist Writer Jill Johnston Dies

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Sep 21, 2010

Jill Johnston, a Village Voice dance critic, free-form cultural columnist and author of the seminal feminist book Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution, has died at age 81.

An Associated Press story reported that Johnson died Sept. 18 following a stroke. She is survived by her wife, Ingrid Nyeboe. The couple lived in Connecticut, where marriage equality has been legal since 2008. The two had married in Denmark in 1993, but married once more in Connecticut last year.

A Sept. 21 obituary in the New York Times recalled that Johnston had been noted for her "avant-garde" writing style. Of her cultural beat with the Village Voice, Johnston later wrote, "I had a forum obviously set up for covering or perpetrating all manner of outrage," the New York Times article recalled.

Johnston's 1973 book Lesbian Nation called for feminists to separate themselves from male-driven social norms and from men themselves. In an interview, Johnston told the Gay and Lesbian Book Review that "a lesbian separatist position seemed the commonsensical position, especially since, conveniently, I was an L-person," the obituary reported. Two years before the publication of Lesbian Nation, Johnston proclaimed in a public address at Town Hall in Manhattan that "[A]ll women are lesbians." Johnston and two female friends illustrated this by embracing and then dropping to the floor together as a flustered Norman Mailer stood by.

According to the New York Times and to a Wikipedia article, Johnston was born in England but moved with her mother to the United States in infancy. Though in her youth Johnston long believed that her mother and father had divorced, she later learned that she had been born out of wedlock.

Johnston's website boasts numerous accolades for Johnston's career and writings. "It is quite possible that Jill Johnston is one of the most important, radical, and innovative writers of her time," a quote attributed to Gregory Battcock states. A snippet from The New York Review of Books praises Johnston's striking literary style, saying, "Johnston comes on like a flood, vivacious, mile-a-minute, with an uncontrollable eloquence."

"Someday, whenever the tangled histories of the interdisciplinary sixties art scene, of new journalism and experimental female/feminist autobiographical writing, or of lesbians and the avant-garde, get written, Jill Johnston's life and work will receive key billing," reads a quote attributed to Liz Kotz.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2010-09-21 19:06:41

    Jill was told from the beginning that her father was dead; when in reality he died, she was in college and she received a clipping of the NYT obit on her father plus a letter from her mother now explaining she was a divorcee. Later Jill, via "East of Eden," realized they had never been married and confronted her mother. I know it’s "much" to ask, but if you write an obit on a writer, the minimum requirement would be that you’ve read her books--and if you had you would know the above. Go buy England’s Child--! Ingrid Nyeboe

  • , 2010-09-22 06:53:39

    A memorial site was created for Jill Johnston! Honor her memory by contributing to her memorial site

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