JANE RULE, Canadian novelist, born, (d: 2007); A writer of Lesbian-themed novels and non-fiction this Canadian teacher wrote several acclaimed works of fiction, including This Is Not For You and Against the Season. But the essential Jane Rule can be seen most directly in her remarkable book, Lesbian Images (1975) in which she attempts to set down nothing less than what it means to be a Lesbian. She realized this aim beautifully by measuring her own attitudes toward the Lesbian experience against the images made by other women writers, including Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, Radclyffe Hall, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Owen and Maureen Duffy among others.
When Rule’s first novel, The Desert of the Heart was published in 1964, a critic complaining of the Lesbian subject matter wrote, “But all the time you keep turning to the photograph of the author on the jacket and wondering how could such a nice looking woman have chosen so distasteful a subject.” Read Lesbian Images not only to discover why she writes on “so distasteful a subject,” but for a compassionate explanation of how any critic could have written anything so terribly terribly sad.
Rule studied at Mills College in California. She graduated in 1952, moved to England for a short while and entered a relationship with critic John Hulcoop; she had a life-changing affair with an older Englishwoman. She taught at Concord Academy in Massachusetts where she met Helen Sonthoff and fell in love with her. Rule moved with Hulcoop to work at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1956, but Sonthoff visited her and they began to live together
Rule served on the executive committee of the Writer’s Union of Canada. She was an outspoken advocate of both free speech and gay rights, included in the various controversies surrounding the Gay magazine The Body Politic. In 1989, Rule donated a collection of her writings to the University of British Columbia. Rule was inducted into the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and into the Order of Canada in 2007. She remarked, “I chose Canada over 50 years ago. So it is very nice to have Canada choose me,” about receiving the honor. Memory Board (1987) and After the Fire (1989) were both nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
Rule and Sontoff lived together until Sontoff’s death in 2000. Rule surprised some in the Gay community by declaring herself against same-sex marriage equality, writing, “To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship. With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.” Rule died at the age of seventy-six on November 27, 2007 at her home on Galiano Island due to complications from liver cancer, refusing any treatment that would take her from the island.