The first novel in the English language recognised as having a lesbian theme is Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness (1928), which a British court found obscene because it defended "unnatural practices between women". The book was banned in Britain for decades; this is in the context of the similar censorship of Lady Chatterley's Lover, which also had a theme of transgressive female sexuality, albeit heterosexual. In the United States The Well of Loneliness survived legal challenges in New York and the Customs Court. A deeper examination of many classic novels and texts reveals lesbian-focused characters.
Lesbian fiction saw a huge explosion in interest with the advent of the dime-store or pulp fiction novel. Lesbian pulp fiction became its own distinct category of fiction, although a significant number of authors of this genre were men using either a male or female pen name. The feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a more accepted entry of lesbian-themed literature.