The Beats and Their Women

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While their politics and art were radical and dangerous for their time, the Beat Generation’s views toward women were not that much different than those of the man in the grey flannel suit they rebelled against. Women played an important role in the Beat community, as girlfriends and lovers but also as vital supporters of the artists—they took jobs to put food on the table, cooked, cleaned, typed and otherwise made it possible for the men to create. But only a few women were recognized as artists, and most were not deemed to possess the talent or creative soul required to produce art.

At The Toast, Megan Keeling writes about Elise Nada Cowen, one of the few—and yet mostly unknown—female Beat poets, commonly remembered as Allen Ginsberg’s only straight lover.

Keeling also digs deeper into the relationship between the Beatniks and women, which, despite the revolutionary ideas behind their movement, was definitely orthodox and conservative.


Guia Cortassa was born, lives, and works in Milan, Italy. After working as a Contemporary Art curator, she went back to writing. She is a contributing editor for Ondarock and her writing has appeared on Rivista Studio, Flair and the Quietus. She compulsively tweets @gcmorvern. More from this author →