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Gearhart, Sally Miller

GEARHART, Sally Miller

Born 15 April 1931, Pearisburg, Virginia

Daughter of Kyle M. and Sarah Gearhart

A feminist utopian novelist and professor of speech and communication studies, Sally Miller Gearhart describes her politics as lesbian-feminist and her religion as Philogyny. She received her B.A. in English from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia (1952) and continued her education at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where she received an M.A. in public address in 1953. In 1956 she was awarded a Ph.D. in theater from the University of Illinois and completed additional study at the University of Kansas from 1969 to 1970.

In 1974 Gearhart edited and coauthored with William R. Johnson a piece entitled Loving Women/Loving Men: Gay Liberation in the Church. Her only novel, The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women, was published in 1978 and has been reprinted several times. Wanderground depicts a lesbian utopian society of "hill women"—a group of antiviolent people who have escaped "in City" in a revolt against technology and male domination. Offering an essentialist portrayal of men and women as polar opposites, Gearhart writes of the hill women's relationships to each other and to the planet Earth, which is depending on them for its survival. Critic Bonnie Zimmerman calls the novel "an extreme example of the idealization of the lesbian myth of community." She regrets the occasional artistic lapses that result from Gearhart's idealism, but notes the strength with which Gearhart "and those inspired by her revere the virtues of equality, balance, harmony, and complete respect for all entities."

Gearhart has held a variety of teaching positions, including assistant professor of speech at the Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas (1956-59) and associate professor of speech and drama and department head at Texas Lutheran College from 1960 to 1970. She became a lecturer and associate professor at San Francisco State University before becoming a professor of speech from 1972 to 1992. She is now retired and a professor emerita at San Francisco State.

Gearhart has contributed short stories and essays to numerous anthologies. She has also served as a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Family Service Agency; as cochairperson of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual; as lecturer and consultant for the national Sex Forum; and as a member of the San Francisco Women's Centers, PETA, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the San Francisco Women's Centers.

Other Works:

A Feminist Tarot: A Guide to Intrapersonal Communication (1977). Questioning Technology: Tool, Toy, or Tyrant (1991).

Bibliography:

Rosinsky, N., Feminist Futures: Contemporary Women's Speculative Fiction (1987). Zimmerman, B., Safe Sea of Women (1990).

Reference works:

CA (1976). CANR (1998). FC (1990). Feminist Writers (1996). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).

Other references:

Alternatives (Oct.-Nov. 1989).

—MARY E. HARVEY,

UPDATED BY LEAH J. SPARKS

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