chapter  5
40 Pages

Work and Money

When the idea for this study first came to me in 1997, it was in the context of a brunch held at my house. My partner and I had invited a number of year-round residents, mostly employed by the local university, and second-home owners in northwestern North Carolina, primarily retired and living half the year in Florida. “Retired” and “lesbian” were my group labels for these women, and I found their ability to support themselves in an upper-middle and even upperclass manner fascinating and educational for me, once the details began to be explained. Feminist scholarship and claims about life before the second wave of feminism had led me to think that women had little to no economic savvy before 1970, when many of these women were in their forties. Many of these lesbians had been married (and thus should be ignorant of worldly finance) yet now had handsome homes and cars, lives of leisure, and no husbands. Their stories indicated stock market experience, sophisticated understandings of legal documents and protections, estate planning, insurance instruments, real estate expertise, and salaried lives. I had begun learning about the stock market and actively putting salary money and savings into stocks in 1995, primarily through the example set by my partner. In addition to an academic interest in life histories and gay studies, these women could teach me much about the financial world.