The Flying Lesbians were a seven-woman German music group that existed from 1974 to 1977 and released an eponymous album in 1975. The album was successful, with about 17,000 LPs sold. They were one of the first women's rock groups in Europe.
The Flying Lesbians functioned as a co-operative, wrote lyrics in German and English, and composed all songs by themselves. They also did all their own set up and transported all the equipment for their shows, part of their goal of "being liberated from male assistance." For copyright purposes they worked under the joint pseudonym of "Emily Pankhurst." Their logo was a labrys, a double-headed axe. Their website explains that this is an ancient symbol of women's power throughout Europe.
After forming "over night," according to keyboardist Cillie Rentmeister, they rehearsed twice before they performed their first show to an audience of 2,000 at the first German women's festival in Berlin in 1974:
On May 11, 1974, the Berlin Women's Center organized the first public women's festival in West Germany. The Rockfete im Rock (Rock Party in a Skirt, in German, the word Rock also means skirt) was a politically significant event at the time, and men were not admitted. A popular UK band cancelled its performance, and a newcomer band played in its place: The Flying Lesbians had formed a few days earlier and consisted of seven women from the amateur music scene. Their performance was a hit.
The Flying Lesbians produced an LP and toured West Germany and Europe in the years that followed. They rocked fiercely through the summer of 1974 - for women only - including a show at the legendary women's camp on the Danish Island of Femø. The band became a role model for several other women bands, including Lysistrara, UnterRock, Schneewittchen, Les-Be-Ton, and Ausserhalb."
This 1974 international women's camp on the Danish island of Femø - with participants from Europe and the US, including Diana E.H. Russell - and the adjoining, big open air women's festival in the Danish Capital Copenhagen were a milestone for the European women's movement. It was here that the impetus and concepts were created for the first "International Tribunal on Crimes against Women" following the "International Women's Year" in Brussels, Belgium in 1976. The Flying Lesbians actively engaged and played in both events, in Copenhagen they played in front of 30,000 festival visitors - this only three months after their founding as a band in Berlin.
During the International Tribunal in Brussels in March 1976, the Flying Lesbians performed twice. Diana E.H. Russell describes the special social function and atmospheric effects of their music for the Tribunal:
For many women the most enjoyable events of the Tribunal were two parties on Saturday and Sunday nights. Some coordinating committee members felt that it was important to have some good social times together, and so we had invited The Flying Lesbians, an extremely popular feminist seven-piece rock band from Germany, to play once or twice during the Tribunal. While they were willing to play for free, as they always do for feminist events, they did need their transport costs. Because of our financial situation, we had delayed too long to rent a large enough hail for a party. So we ended up having two parties over the weekend in the far too small women’s center, Maison des Femmes. Hundreds of women, gay and straight, danced exuberantly to The Flying Lesbians’ music, and the crushed conditions didn't seem to bother anyone. In situations where language and cultural differences can so obstruct communication and feelings of solidarity, music, singing, and dance can be much more effective. The Matson [sic; i. e. Maison] des Femmes will never be the same after its first all women dance, and the same is true for some of the partying women.
In the years from 1974 until 1977 the Flying Lesbians became the musical "voice of the women's movement". In 1977, Miriam Frank stated in "off our backs":
Flying Lesbians is wonderful German, women-made music… The Flying Lesbians are the German women’s movement expressed in music. Each song reflects an important idea, criticism or problem that is being worked out now in the project collectives and women’s centers of West Germany, or that is being argued about in women’s Kneipes (bars) and around communal tables. The record is alive…not only because it is popularly distributed and widely played, but also because it successfully synthesizes ideas and action through music – Rock music… The blatantly lesbian songs by the Flying Lesbians are surely different from the cozy sweetness of the last few years in American Lesbian music. They’re refreshingly aggressive and controversial. The first song, I’m a Lesbian, How About You is a tight boogy woogy, very danceable, with especially nice piano and guitar work. It’s a lot of fun, and then come the two hard ones... The Flying Lesbians really take off with Frauen kommt her. This song, Women, come on, let’s get it together, united we are strong (transl.) has been sung in the women’s movement for years now, in small groups, at demonstrations, in ever-widening circles, and the Rock setting gives the song a special richness, openness and happiness. It’s the showpiece of the record...