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In Memoriam
 
In Memoriam: Rosemary Curb Keefe (1940-2012)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/26/12
Last updated on: 06/16/12
 
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Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, the book for which Keefe is best known.

Professor and author Rosemary Curb [Keefe], co-editor with Nancy Manahan of one of the bestselling lesbian books of all time, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, died of complications from lung transplant surgery on May 25, 2012.

As Tracy Baim reports in an obituary in Windy City Times, Lesbian Nuns was both popular and controversial.

The book achieved national attention through media appearances by Curb and Manahan, including a national book tour and a segment of the Phil Donahue Show. Its sales also increased because it was banned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Its publisher, Naiad Press, gained visibility through publishing the book, which went through four printings before the mass distribution and paperback rights were sold to Warner Books in 1986. Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence was translated or reissued in Australia, Brazil, English, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, and Spain.

It aroused controversy within the lesbian community when Naiad sold syndication rights to Forum, a men's magazine. While Naiad had the legal rights to do so, many feminists criticized the move. Naiad's owners, Barbara Grier and Donna McBride, defended the sale, saying it was one way to get the stories out to more women across the country.

Curb's co-editor Nancy Manahan explained the impact of the book to Windy City Times: "for the first time the word 'lesbian' and the concept of lesbianism was discussed openly on TV, very widely, on radio, in newspapers, in the mainstream, and the gay press, here as well as abroad, because it was published in so many countries," Manahan said. "It really was a silence-breaking book, just like the title said."

Manahan described Curb as "an incredible and remarkable woman."

Curb also edited Amazon All-Stars: Thirteen Lesbian Plays, with Essays and Interviews (1996), which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

After receiving her Ph.D. in English from the University of Arkansas in 1977 Curb taught and held administrative positions at Rollins College until 1992, then at Missouri State University (1993-1999). She served as Dean and Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Superior from 2000 to 2007, when she retired and moved to Albuquerque.

Curb Keefe is survived by her partner Doris Burkemper; her daughter Lisa DeVore; her granddaughter Cheyenne; and a brother.

 
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