Arnold, June Fairfax Davis (1926–1982)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Revised by: R. Matt Abigail

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: January 11, 2017

June Arnold, lesbian feminist activist, author, and publisher, daughter of Robert Cowan Davis and Cad Carter (Wortham) Davis, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on October 27, 1926. After the death of her father in 1938, Arnold's family relocated to her mother's hometown of Houston, Texas. She attended Kinkaid School in Houston and the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and made her debut at the Allegro Club ball in 1947. She attended Vassar College in 1943–44 but returned to Houston and completed her B.A. at Rice Institute (now Rice University) in 1948. She earned a master's degree in literature at Rice in 1958.

June Arnold married Rice classmate Gilbert Harrington Arnold on February 3, 1951, in Houston. The couple had five children before they divorced in 1959. Tragically, their first son, Gilbert Harrington Arnold, Jr., drowned while swimming at the Bayou Club in Houston in 1960.

Arnold remarried on February 26, 1960, to Sarel Henry Eimerl, a native of Chester, England, who also attended Rice. She subsequently moved with her children to Greenwich Village in New York City, where Eimerl worked as a writer and editor. The marriage was short-lived, but Arnold remained in New York to pursue a writing career and study writing at the New School for Social Research. During this time, Arnold also became very active in the women's liberation and lesbian separatist movements. Although she reportedly considered her writing career as secondary, she completed four novels, the last two of which drew high praise. In 1967 her first novel, Applesauce, was published by McGraw-Hill. The book reflected the author's personal experiences, including her life in Houston and the Rice University area, but it also examined changes in personalities that occur when people marry. Following Applesauce Arnold moved to rural Vermont and founded a press, Daughters, Incorporated, with partner Parke Bowman. Daughters focused on publishing works that chronicled lesbian experiences, and featured works by several notable feminist authors, including Rita Mae Brown, Bertha Harris, Monique Wittig, and Joanna Russ. The press also published two novels by Arnold: The Cook and the Carpenter, which appeared in 1973 under the pseudonym Carpenter, and Sister Gin, which came out in 1975. Additionally, Arnold contributed to a number of periodicals, including the Village Voice, Houston Post, Quest, Plexus, Amazon Quarterly, Sinister Wisdom, and Sister Courage. She was also a member of the National Organization for Women and the Texas Institute of Letters.

Arnold was a principal organizer of the first Women in Print conference, which met in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 1976. Drawing together women from publishing houses, magazines, newspapers, bookstores, printing companies, and distribution services, the conference has been credited with significantly advancing the development of media branches within the women's movement. In the early 1980s she returned to Houston to write a novel recreating her mother's life and time. Her efforts resulted in both a compelling story of a mother-daughter relationship and a richly detailed picture of Houston as a small southern city in the first half of the twentieth-century. Arnold died of cancer in Houston on March 11, 1982. Her final manuscript was published posthumously as Baby Houston in 1987. Her second novel, The Cook and the Carpenter, was republished by New York University Press in 1995 and is widely considered a classic of feminist fiction.

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June Arnold, "Feminist Presses and Feminist Politics," Quest 3 (Summer 1976). Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale Research, 1962-). Houston Chronicle, February 26, 1967. Houston Post, March 13, 1982. Janis Kelly, "June Arnold," Off Our Backs, April 1982. Beverly Lowry, "June," in June Arnold, Baby Houston (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1987). Jane Marcus, "Afterword," in June Arnold, Sister Gin (New York: Feminist Press, 1989). Jane Marcus, "Bringing Up Baby," Women's Review of Books 5 (October 1987). Ellen Morgan, "The Feminist Novels of Androgynous Fantasy," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 2 (Fall 1977). New Directions for Women, May-June 1982. New York Times Book Review, July 26, 1987.

  • LGBT
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Women
  • Authors and Writers
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell Revised by R. Matt Abigail, “Arnold, June Fairfax Davis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
January 11, 2017

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