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Biography

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE AND CHRONOLOGY

Born September 7, 1913, in Aurora, Illinois, Velma Nacella Young received a two-year scholarship to attend Blackburn College, in Carlinville, IL, in 1935. There, she met Ada Mayer and her husband Hank, a socialist labor organizer. They introduced her to grassroots activism and became lifelong friends.

Velma Young taught at various country schools in Illinois from 1937 to 1940. In 1939, she married William Jerry Tate and took the name Velma Tate. They had three sons, Marshall in 1940 and twins Jerry and Jim in 1942. In 1953, she divorced Jerry Tate and worked to support her sons. The same year, she published her first novel, Hired Girl. She published her first lesbian novel, Whisper Their Love, in 1957 using the pen name Valerie Taylor and came to be known widely by that name. Whisper Their Love was followed by numerous pulp fiction classics published during the 1950s and 1960s, including: The Girls in 3-B,Stranger on Lesbos,A World Without Men,Unlike Others,The Secret of the Bayou,Journey to Fulfillment, and Return to Lesbos.

She also contributed stories, reviews and criticism to The Ladder, a national lesbian magazine that debuted in 1956. She published poetry under the name Nacella Young, as well as Valerie Taylor, and romance stories under the name Francine Davenport. Her writing became her career and her means of supporting her family.

Taylor had at least fifty poems published in a variety of venues before Womanpress published Two Women Revisited in 1976, presenting her poetry along with works by Jeannette H. Foster. She continued to write novels and poetry into the 1990s. Banned Books published a revised and expanded version of Two Women Revisited in 1991. Her more recent books include Love Image,Prism,Ripening, and Rice and Beans. Her writing appears in numerous anthologies including Intricate Passions and The Poetry of Sex: Lesbians Write the Erotic. Studs Terkel included an interview with Taylor in his 1995 book Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century By Those Who've Lived It.

An activist for peace and justice, Taylor was a co-founder of Mattachine Midwest in 1965 and of the Lesbian Writers' Conference in Chicago in 1974. She moved to Tucson in 1978 and became active in a Quaker meeting, environmental activities, and advocacy for the elderly. She had also taken part in grassroots organizing of seniors during her years in Margaretville, NY (1975-1978).

In the 1980s and 1990s, although afflicted by health problems, she kept giving public talks and lectures and released several interviews. In 1992, she was inducted into the City of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. She enjoyed the love of several grandchildren.

Taylor was 84 years old when she died on October 22, 1997 in Tucson, Arizona.

CHRONOLOGY

1913 Born in Aurora, Illinois, on September 7, the daughter of Elsie M. Collins and Marshall J. Young
1935 Is granted a two-year scholarship at Blackburn College, in Carlinville, Illinois. She meets Ada Mayer and her husband Hank, a socialist labor organizer, with whom she will develop a life-long friendship. They introduce her to grassroots activism.
1937-1940 Teaches country school in several Illinois school districts.
1939 Marries William Jerry Tate on May 13. With him, she will have sons Marshall in 1940 and twins Jerry and Jim in 1942.
1952 Lives in Oswego, IL, where she works at Pictorial Paper Package Co. as a switchboard operator.
1953 Divorces Jerry Tate.
1953 Universal publishes her first novel, Hired Girl, later republished as The Lusty Land.
1957-60 Lives with her sons at "The Colony" in Chicago.
1957 Fawcett publishes her first lesbian novel, Whisper Their Love, in paperback.
1956-1961 Works at the publishing house Henry Regnery & Sons, Chicago, as Assitant Editor.
1959 Fawcett publishes The Girls in 3-B. Spearman (London) issues Whisper Their Love in hardcover.
1960 Fawcett publishes Stranger on Lesbos. Spearman issues it in hardcover.
1961 Travels to Spain aboard the Saturnia. Intended to relocate to Tenerife, write, and sell novels through an agent in the United States.
1962 Returns to the United States from Spain aboard the Begona.
1962-1975 Writes for Specialty Salesman to support herself while writing and engaging in social and political activism.
1964 JeannetteH. Foster and Hazel Toviner visit Taylor in Chicago, dine at Allerton Hotel (Tip Top Tap gay water-hole at Allerton).
1963 Midwood-Tower publishes A World Without Men and Unlike Others.
1963-4 Begins a ten year old relationship with Pearl Hart, a feminist lawyer.
1964 Midwood-Tower publishes Journey to Fulfillment.
1964-1965 Contributes poems and short story to The Ladder
1965 Co-founder with Pearl Hart and others of Mattachine Midwest
1964-1974? Moves to 540 W. Surf St., the heart of the" gay ghetto" of Chicago at that time, to be close to Pearl Hart. Meets Marie Kuda at the Mattachine Midwest Newsletter meeting in 1968.
1967 Ace publishes her first gothic novel under the name of Francine Davenport, The Secret of the Bayou, reprinted in The Netherlands in 1967, and in Paris in 1968.
1972 Organizes picket against landlord Goulitis.
1974 With Marie Kuda, Susan Edwards, and others founds the first Lesbian Writers Conference held annually for five years, in Chicago's Hyde Park area. Valerie Taylor is first keynote speaker.
1975 Pearl Hart dies in February.
1975 Received the Paul R. Goldman award from the Chicago Chapter of One, Inc.
1974-5 Moves to 3356 N. Claremont Ave, Chicago.
1975-78 Moves to Margaretville, New York, in October 1975 to be near friends Hank and Ada Mayer's Catskills farm. Returns to Chicago annually for the Lesbian Writers Conference. Begins writing The Prism.
1976 Womanpress publishes Two Women: The Poetry of Jeannette Foster and Valerie Taylor.
1977 Naiad publishes Love Image.
1977 Visits New York City as guest of K. Seelman.
1978 In May, Roland Keith Lancaster, a friend from the days of Mattachine Midwest in Chicago, commits suicide.
1978 On December 27 falls on ice and breaks an ankle.
1979 Moves to Tucson, initially at the guest house of Casa Nuestra, a private lesbian club.
1979 Presents a series of eight lectures on Lesbian Literature, "Our Lesbian Roots," at Casa Nuestra.
1980 Moves to 3751 E. Grant Road in Tucson, where she lives until hospitalized after a fall on October 10, 1997.
1980 Initiates a "Sisterhood Fund" to aid Jeannette Foster.
1981 Naiad publishes Prism (which she later called her "geriatric novel").
1982 Has a new lover. Naiad reprints in Volute editions A World Without Men, Return to Lesbos, and Journey to Fulfillment.
1988 Banned Books publishes Ripening.
1990 Son Jerry Tate dies.
1989 Arny Christine Straayer videotapes her remeniscing about Lesbian Writers Conferences with Sandy Szelag. Shown in Chicago at the 15th anniversary party for Lesbian Writers Conference in December.
1991 Banned Books publishes Two Women Revisited, with photos and additional poetry of hers.
1992 Inducted in the City of Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in absentia by Mayor R.M. Daley.
1993 In March falls, breaks right shoulder and damages left leg. Author and columist Lee Lynch launches a fund for her through Antigone Books, Tucson.
1994 Goes through recovery and therapy. Has all her teeth removed, and gets dentures with fund money.
1995 Contributes essays on May Sarton and poet Denise Levertov for the reference book Feminist Writers.
1995 Interviewed by Studs Terkel for inclusion in his book Coming of Age.
1997 On October 10, falls. Found by son Jim seventeen hours later, she is hospitalized.
1997 Dies on October 22 in a Tucson hospice.

(Based on a chronology compiled and kindly made available by Valerie Taylor's biographer Marie Kuda).