Making Community in the Wilderness: A Case Study of Women's Land's Throughout the United States

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Virginia Tech


Over the summer and fall of 2018, I spent time at nine of the lands and two women's-only music festivals and interviewed 39 women. This dissertation is the result of those interviews and my copious field notes. Chapter one frames the question of community sociologically and examines why the lands often remained homogenous even though their goal was that every woman was welcome to come visit and live. It contrasts the lands to women's-only music festivals, which often included diverse women. Chapter two shows how lands not designed to support old women slowly, and unintentionally, become retirement communities. Families of choice, often consisting of the other women living in the community, help the women who need extra assistance, but within limits set by an unaddressed ageism. The lands are at risk if they fail to attract younger members. Chapter three explores the mutual mistrust between the women's land members and the academic community that I found myself navigating as I completed this project. It details the compromises all feminist communities must make to sustain themselves, and explores how the tension caused by my participation in both the women's lands and academic feminist communities yielded insights into both.



Lesbian, Gender, Aging, Diversity, Organizations, Care, Fieldwork, Intentional Communities