Ozark Land Holding Association
Founded in 1981, the Ozark Land Holding Association (OLHA) is an intentional community—a communal living arrangement based on shared land and common interests—located in Madison County about twenty miles outside of Fayetteville (Washington County). OLHA, which is a community of lesbians, chose the somewhat vague label “intentional community” in an effort to avoid problems with the rest of the broader community. OLHA was one of several women’s land communities created in northwestern Arkansas in the 1970s and 1980s, including Yellowhammer, Sassafras, Whippoorwillow, Arco Iris, and Spinsterhaven.
The community was founded by author Diana Rivers and nineteen other women based upon their efforts on the belief that a community based in land specifically set aside for women offered an opportunity for full autonomy and self-determination. The initial effort to create OLHA was led by Rivers, who, having seen an earlier unsuccessful effort undertaken in the Sassafras intentional community near Boxley (Newton County), was determined to avoid the mistakes she believed had led to its downfall. Using a family inheritance, Rivers put a $30,000 down payment toward the $100,000 full price from an owner who had no problem with selling to an acknowledged group of lesbian separatists. With 140 acres, they hoped to avoid the overly close quarters that had characterized Sassafras. OLHA was, from the start, a property-based community, with each of the original twenty women paying $5,000 for membership in 1981. For their money, they received a five-acre parcel of land on which they could build a home and live as they saw fit.
These initial inhabitants were primarily professionals such as teachers and nurses who continued their work in Fayetteville and did not want to be totally isolated. The separation that OLHA offered to them was a private, independent existence in a community of shared values. As the years have passed, however, communally owned buildings and land have been established.
Neither males nor heterosexuals can become members of OLHA. Men were not allowed on the property until 1998, and even then they not only had to be supervised by an OLHA member, but all members had to be notified in advance. The association has a set of bylaws that guide its actions, while its decision making operates on a “consensus minus one basis.” Decisions are based in what members see as a “triangle of interest,” with all decisions reflecting the interdependent nature of the community as members consider the impact on the individual, the community, and the land.
Over the years, the association’s landholdings grew, and it also opened membership to those who live outside of the homestead. New members are sought whenever others leave, but the new additions must be approved by the whole membership, with the process generally taking about a year. In 2010, OLHA filed the paperwork necessary to establish a cemetery on their land.
For additional information:
Gass-Pooré, Jordan. “Lesbian-Only ‘Intentional Community’ Outlasts Others.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 31, 2015, pp. 1A, 6A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/aug/31/lesbian-only-intentional-community-outl-1/ (accessed February 25, 2020).
McGowan, Morgan Gray. “This Is Lesbian Land: What Family Means for a Lesbian Intentional Community.” PhD diss., University of Louisiana at Monroe, 2020.
Thompson, Brock. “Lesbian Communities.” Arkansas Times, September 2, 2010. Online at https://arktimes.com/news/cover-stories/2010/09/02/lesbian-communities (accessed February 25, 2020).
William H. Pruden III
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