Maxine Feldman ("Max") (December 26, 1945 – August 17, 2007) was a lesbian, transgender [1] American folk singer-songwriter and pioneer of women's music. In 1969 Feldman made what was now acknowledged as the first openly distributed out lesbian song ("Angry Atthis") of what would soon become the "women's music" movement. Feldman described themselves as a "big loud Jewish butch lesbian".[2]

In later years Feldman embraced a publicly masculine transgender identity. Many who knew Feldman well from their early days in the women's music movement were unaware of this change. Feldman's complex gender identification was described by loved ones as "both/and" as opposed to "either/or."[1]

Maxine Adele Feldman was born on December 26, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. Feldman had a stutter and asked their parents for lessons in acting when they were young. Feldman had a bit part as a Girl Scout Brownie on the The Goldbergs. They were accepted at the High School of Performing Arts and performed in children's theater productions.[3]

Following high school, Feldman moved to Boston to attend Emerson College and study theater arts. School officials asked them to leave the college after they learned Feldman was lesbian and told them they could come back after a year of psychiatric treatment. Feldman's parents sent them to a doctor who used electroshock therapy and but Feldman refused to follow through with the treatments. They worked and performed in the Boston area from 1963 until 1966, emceeing at the Oasis Coffeehouse and other venues, at one point introducing a then-unknown José Feliciano.[3]

"Angry Atthis", of course, is a play on words. I was "angry at this" lesbian oppression. My brainy girl side wanted to call my piece "Sappho's Song", but then I read that Atthis was the name of one of Sappho's lovers. And "Atthis" began to appear to me as a better statement of all I felt. The song just spewed out of me.

M. Feldman

In 1968, Feldman moved to Manhattan and then to Los Angeles where they attended El Camino College.[4] At El Camino they helped to found a campus women's center.[3] Feldman wrote the consciousness raising song "Angry Atthis" in May 1969, prior to the Stonewall Riots. The debut of the song in Los Angeles has been credited as the first performance of a lesbian song.[5]

During the 1970–1971, Feldman met the feminist comedy duo Harrison and Tyler, who had come to perform at the college. After hearing the performancw of "Angry Atthis", Patty Harrison and Robin Tyler invited Feldman to open for them during their tour of the United States.[3] They performed for colleges and once at a state penitentiary, the California Institute for Women. During one show at Ventura College, Feldman was introduced as a lesbian performer. The stage manager insisted that the audience be informed that they were not invited by the college.[4]

A record of "Angry Atthis" was produced by Harrison & Tyler Productions in January 1972.[6] Feldman worked off and on at The Back Room AKA Alice's Restaurant for their friend Alice M. Brock.[3] The National Review, covering a 1974 show at the Town Hall in New York, called Feldman "Jonathan Winters in drag".[3]

Feldman performed at the first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 1976 and returned to the festival 14 times. Feldman's womyn's anthem, "Amazon", was traditionally performed during the opening festivities of the Michigan festival.[7] In 1986, Feldman gave the rights for the song to the Festival owners.[8] Feldman recorded the album Closet Sale in 1979. They were recognized in Dee Mosbacher's 2002 documentary film, Radical Harmonies.[3]

Feldman didn't have health insurance and became ill in 1994. They died on August 17, 2007 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c Kiritsy, Laura (August 30, 2007). "Lesbian trail blazer Maxine Feldman dies". Edge Providence. 
  2. ^ Anderson, Jamie (2008). "Maxine Feldman Folk Musician, Lesbian Activist 1945 – 2007". Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine. Jewish Women's Archive. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cullen, Frank (2007). "Maxine Feldman". Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York [u.a.]: Routledge. pp. 372–375. ISBN 978-0-415-93853-2. 
  4. ^ a b Morgan, Stacey (January 1973). "Angry Atthis". Lesbian Tide. 
  5. ^ Mockus, Martha (2000). "Music, Women's". Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. New York: Garland. p. 522. ISBN 978-0-8153-1920-7. 
  6. ^ St. John, Martin (April 11, 1973). "Liberation music, angry and proud, enters gay life". Advocate. 
  7. ^ Hayes, Eileen M. (2010). Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music. University of Illinois Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-0-252-09149-0. 
  8. ^ Kendall, Laurie J. (2008). The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival: An Amazon Matrix of Meaning. Baltimore, MD: Spiral Womyn's Press. pp. 91–94. ISBN 978-0-615-20065-1. 

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