Ode to a Gym Teacher: Tomboys and the History of the Crush

Feminist Conversations Spring 2014

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Allison Miller will discuss the connections between girls' crushes on teachers in the first decades of the twentieth century and lesbian erotic heritage. Professor Jack Halberstam will respond. Lunch provided; RSVP required.

Crushes: sudden, intense bursts of desire, often silent, often on a being that seems superior. They are memorable and custom-tailored for everybody who experiences one, yet common enough so as to be unexceptional. But crushes have a history. This talk explores girls’ crushes on teachers in the first decades of the twentieth century, demonstrating that these feelings were caught in a period of overlapping interpretations of same-gender, intergenerational eroticism. Arising from particular historical circumstances, this feeling of in-betweenness formed part of an important lesbian erotic heritage. Tomboys of the early twentieth century shaped this heritage more than other actors, whether or not these masculine girls were lesbians. Professor Jack Halberstam will be responding to the talk.


Dr. Miller, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History, received her Ph.D. from Rutgers in 2012. Her book manuscript, Boyhood for Girls, analyzes the impact of feminism and youth culture on the generation of tomboys born in the U.S. between 1900 and 1920. Before pursuing graduate study, Allison worked for ten years as a writer and editor in New York. Her reviews and essays have appeared in The Nation, Newsday, The Village Voice, Dissent, In These Times, and Lingua Franca.

  • Center for Feminist Research
  • University of Southern California
  • Mark Taper Hall of Humanities
  • Room 422
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Los Angeles, California
  • 90089-4352 USA