Radical Relations

Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II

By Daniel Winunwe Rivers

312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 34 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2645-1
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4307-4
    Published: September 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0719-1
    Published: September 2013

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2014 Lambda Literary Award, LGBT Studies

2014 Ohio Academy of History Book Prize

2014 Grace Abbott Prize, Society for the History of Children and Youth

In Radical Relations, Daniel Winunwe Rivers offers a previously untold story of the American family: the first history of lesbian and gay parents and their children in the United States. Beginning in the postwar era, a period marked by both intense repression and dynamic change for lesbians and gay men, Rivers argues that by forging new kinds of family and childrearing relations, gay and lesbian parents have successfully challenged legal and cultural definitions of family as heterosexual. These efforts have paved the way for the contemporary focus on family and domestic rights in lesbian and gay political movements.

Based on extensive archival research and 130 interviews conducted nationwide, Radical Relations includes the stories of lesbian mothers and gay fathers in the 1950s, lesbian and gay parental activist networks and custody battles, families struggling with the AIDS epidemic, and children growing up in lesbian feminist communities. Rivers also addresses changes in gay and lesbian parenthood in the 1980s and 1990s brought about by increased awareness of insemination technologies and changes in custody and adoption law.

About the Author

Daniel Winunwe Rivers is assistant professor of history at The Ohio State University.
For more information about Daniel Winunwe Rivers, visit the Author Page.


"Rivers explores how lesbian and gay parents have worked to expand the cultural and legal definitions of family since the 1950s."--Stanford Magazine

"In this deeply researched social history of six decades of gay fathers, lesbian mothers, and their children, Rivers seamlessly blends legal materials, oral histories, personal correspondence, and archival materials of grassroots organizations. . . . Essential. All levels/libraries."--Choice

"Opens up a largely unexplored history."--Women's Review of Books

“An important history of lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children.”--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“[Rivers’s] engaging and well-researched social history argues that the history of lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children challenges a foundational American belief that the family is heterosexual and that gays and lesbians are childless. . . . A necessary corrective.”--American Historical Review

"A terrific book. In Rivers's skillful hands, 'family' becomes far more than the longstanding bulwark for conventional American values--it becomes instead a vibrant site of resistance to the racist, sexist, and heterosexist hierarchies foundational to such values."--Leisa Meyer, College of William & Mary