Valerie Taylor is the pen-name of Velma Nacella Young. Born in Aurora, Illinois, she received a two-year scholarship to attend Blackburn College, in Carlinville, IL, in 1935. There, she met Ada Mayer and her husband Hank, a socialist labor organizer. They introduced her to grassroots activism and became lifelong friends.
Velma Young taught a various country schools in Illinois from 1937 to 1940. In 1939, she married William Jerry Tate and took the name Velma Tate. They had three sons. In 1953, she divorced Jerry Tate and worked to support her sons. The same year, she published her first novel, Hired Girl. She published her first lesbian novel, Whisper Their Love, in 1957 using the pen name Valerie Taylor and came to be known widely by that name.
Whisper Their Love was followed by numerous pulp fiction classics published during the 1950s and 1960s, including: The Girls in 3-B, Stranger on Lesbos, A World Without Men, Unlike Others, The Secret of the Bayou, Journey to Fulfillment, and Return to Lesbos.
She also contributed stories, reviews and criticism to The Ladder, a national lesbian magazine that debuted in 1956. She published poetry under the name Nacella Young, as well as Valerie Taylor, and romance stories under the name Francine Davenport. Her writing became her career and her means of supporting her family.
Taylor had at least fifty poems published in a variety of venues before Womanpress published Two Women Revisited in 1976, presenting her poetry along with works by Jeannette H. Foster. She continued to write novels and poetry into the 1990s. Banned Books published a revised and expanded version of Two Women Revisited in 1991.
Her more recent books include Love Image, Prism, Ripening, and Rice and Beans. Her writing appears in numerous anthologies including Intricate Passions and The Poetry of Sex: Lesbians Write the Erotic. Studs Terkel included an interview with Taylor in his 1995 book Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century By Those Who've Lived It.
An activist for peace and justice, Taylor was a co-founder of Mattachine Midwest in 1965 and of the Lesbian Writers' Conference in Chicago in 1974. She moved to Tucson in 1978 and became active in a Quaker meeting, environmental activities, and advocacy for the elderly. She had also taken part in grassroots organizing of seniors during her years in Margaretville, NY (1975-1978).
In the 1980s and 1990s, although afflicted by health problems, she kept giving public talks and lectures and released several interviews. In 1992, she was inducted into the City of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. She enjoyed the love of several grandchildren.
Taylor was 84 years old when she died in Tucson, Arizona.