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March 9, 2024

Vintage Photographs Capture Everyday Life of the Rootworks Lesbian Commune in the 1970s

Ruth Mountaingrove (1923–2016) was a photographer, writer, poet, and artist who moved to Oregon in 1971. She joined the community of Mountain Grove, a lesbian commune where she lived for two years with her partner, Jean. She eventually co-founded Rootworks, a lesbian land in Southern Oregon. At Rootworks, Ruth and others led photography workshops aimed at empowering women through art. Photos were a way for these women to examine the differences between the way men pictures women and the way women saw themselves.

The land was used as a safe, creative, intentional space for women to host events, from retreats to spiritual festivals, a place for women to learn new and useful skills, a refuge from daily patriarchal oppression, and a space for building connections with other women and nature, with an emphasis on personal growth.

Materially, these lands went without amenities, including electricity, bathrooms, running water, and heating. Women on the land struggled with fighting their personal battles with sexual, physical, and emotional violence, internalized misogyny, and finding their own identities, while attempting to create an oppression-free space. This led to endless conversations on racism, sexism, and homophobia, as well as the necessity of navigating a community forum in which all issues could be honestly, openly, and equitably discussed. Through communes like Rootworks, women were able to lead a rural and safe life among like-minded women.


  1. I'm sure the photos of frolicking naked lesbians helped them dispel a lot of stereotypes at the time..

  2. These photos by Ruth Mountaingrove offer a unique glimpse into the daily life of this historic commune. I like it so much!




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