“It’s not that I never saw people’s husbands nor boyfriends, I did, but when we were together, we were really together. You know, doing all this stuff. I mean, It was just such a new thing. I guess for women who were in sororities it might not have been. But we weren’t most…I don’t know anybody who was in a sorority…It was just like so energizing and so exciting…But, you know, that was part of my thing, was over the years, like as the years went by, I kept feeling it was like really weird that we were all together and it was so great and then we’d all turn our backs on each other and go home to some man. And that was part of my move towards being a lesbian.” ~Elizabeth Knowlton
Elizabeth Knowlton grew up in New Jersey in a family she described as middle class and “WASPy.” Her family members were Republicans and she was also politically conservative. She graduated high school in 1962. After attending college in New Jersey and New York (New York University) she moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to pursue a Ph.D. in English (a program she dropped out of without getting her degree). She went to her first consciousness raising event on February 27, 1969, a date she remembers because the women she met formed “Group 27″ of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Later that spring, she went to her first feminist protest against a beauty contest in Durham, NC. She recalls other demonstrations, like a “baby-in” at a UNC dean’s office to protest the lack of childcare services for university workers; setting up a literature table once a week outside of the student union where for 5-cents per leaflet people could pick up information about feminist ideas; and at graduation one year handing out cards that pointed out that the women were getting degrees but “what could they get a job in?” She was married briefly, though it was a bad relationship and ended dramatically. Sometime after that relationship ended, she followed a boyfriend to Seattle for a summer. While in Seattle she worked with a group that helped to coordinate out of state women’s visits for abortions. She was familiar with abortion networking prior to arriving in Seattle from work she did with a North Carolina group that helped women to find rides, doctors, and lodging out of state (often in Virginia) while they sought abortions. When she came back to North Carolina from Seattle, she brought a burgeoning identity as a lesbian feminist with her. Back in North Carolina, she helped to set up consciousness raising groups for other women and was involved with a socialist feminist group called Charlotte Perkins Gilman. At the same time that she became more interested and invested in lesbian feminism, Women’s Liberation in the Triangle area had peaked and was dying. She came out in 1971 while living in a women’s commune in Carborro (near Chapel Hill). Her housemates and she worked as editors of Feminary and helped to publish the Whole Woman’s Carologue, a North Carolina specific guide to women’s health. In 1974, after living in the triangle area for six years, she decided to move with her lover to Atlanta, where she knew of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA). She spent many years devoted to ALFA, which would become the longest operating lesbian organization in the country before disbanding in 1994, and has lived in Atlanta ever since.