Green’s Dictionary of Slang

femme n.

also fem
[Fr. femme, a woman; note West Point jargon femme, a young woman]
(orig. US)

1. a young woman [note synon. use in Kendall, Flowers of Epigrammes (1577): ‘Which are three ills that mischief men [...] The fem, the flud, the fire’].

[US]O.E. Wood West Point Scrap-Book 337: Fem. –A woman–girl–young lady.
[US]H.O. Flipper Colored Cadet at West Point 53: ‘A fem,’ ‘femme.’ — Any female person.
[US] in Lucky Bag No. 3 107: Drag –To drag a femme to a hop is to escort her [HDAS].
[US] ‘West Point Sl.’ in Howitzer (US Milit. Academy) 292–5: Drag —To accompany; as, to drag a femme.
[US]Daily Nebraskan 22 Feb. in DN IV:ii 128: Unless the storm lets up cabs will be necessary in many cases to protect the thin wearing apparel of the ‘fems’.
[US]E. Hemingway letter 30 Apr. in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 24: Had me practically married off and entangled with any amount of femmes.
[US]J.P. McEvoy Showgirl iv 52: Eight femmes and a pair of male hoofers take up the burden when she is off.
[UK]P. Cheyney Dames Don’t Care (1960) 67: I was kinda sorry for her an’ I think she is a swell femme.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Twin Lose or Draw’ in Popular Sports Spring [Internet] I never seen him in a barroom or even chasing the femmes.
[US]Billboard 2 Nov. 42/2: Seeing that the featured fem gets speedy service on a hotdog from the chili parlor.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxiv 4/5: fem: Female.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 32: Ads for ‘open-minded fems. with whip fantasies’.
[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 86: Obviously having a thing for that femme in particular.

2. (also femmie) an effeminate homosexual man.

[US]‘R. Scully’ Scarlet Pansy 354: They drew themselves closer together as a femme pushed in beside Clarence and tried ‘to make him’.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 116: Fem [...] Femmie An effeminate male.
[US]J. Rechy Rushes (1981) 78: Was that the cowboy who turned femme so quickly?
[US]K. Vacha Quiet Fire 74: Also [...] the little male prostitute, prick peddler, if you say ‘Hmmm, you’re not what I’m looking for, fella, I like the fems, the ladies,’ they quickly find that maybe they could do that.
[US]Gaymart.com Queer Sl. in the Gay 90s [Internet] Femme – A lesbian or gay man who acts and dresses effeminately.
[UK]Guardian 27 Jan. 22: He was an old-school masculine gay — the kind who embraced physical toughness in travel as an affirmation of character. No ‘fem’ he.
[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) 104: Old Tony Z and Mini-Mac. Are they that way? Little lovebirds? Maybe they’ll be bunkies in Lewisburg. Up there in Section Three, the Femme Tier. Bitch City.
[US]E. White My Lives 282: Butch-femme role-playing might have approximated traditional male-female interactions.

3. a feminine lesbian.

[US] in Katz Gay/Lesbian Almanac (1983) 625: Femme [is] common in gay parlance.
[US]H. Greenwald Call Girl 118: Among female homosexuals the ‘femme’ acts the role of a woman.
[US] in S. Harris Hellhole 62: The bulldykes and the femmes is called the lower and the higher class [...] The wife is the lower class.
[UK]J. Colebrook Cross of Lassitude 266: ‘You gotta be a Butch,’ Stan advises Frankie, ‘a stone Butch.’ ‘I’m no tackhead,’ Frankie evades. ‘You’re no Fem either,’ Stan compliments.
[US]P. Califia Macho Sluts 29: I don’t consider myself a femme – I just turn on to aggressive and strong women.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 59: Fem An individual who takes on the female role in a homosexual relationship.
[UK]Indep. Mag. 30 Oct. 39: Did I perhaps look ‘butch’ in my black jacket and trousers to Lynda’s ‘femme’ in Miyake?
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 242: Talk to Greta, the barkeep. She’ll set you up with two femmes for fifty.

4. the ‘female’ partner of a couple whether hetero- or homosexual.

[US]J.P. Stanley ‘Homosexual Sl.’ in AS XLV:1/2 57: femme, fem n Passive member, male or female, of a homosexual relationship.
[US]Maledicta VI:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 126: They object to […] Butch, French anything, Femme, Stud, Submissive, Dominant, Hermaphrodite, and Soixante-neuf- which is 69, in case you didn’t know; 68 is ‘you suck me and I’ll owe you one’.
[US]R. Campbell Wizard of La-La Land (1999) 210: Straight or gay, it’s usually the femme who plays the tune and the men who dance to it.

In compounds

fem sem (n.)

(US campus) a female-only college.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 34: fem, n. A woman, dame. [...] 34: fem-sem, n.1. A seminary for women. 2. A girl at college or seminary.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 1: He thought he had seen some 24-carat Tizums when he had attended College and hung around the Fem Sem, but the Girl that he now beheld was in a class by herself.
(ref. to 1858)J.L. Kestenbaum (ed.) Making of Michigan 272: I have previously mentioned the ‘Fem Sem,’ a short name for the Michigan Female Seminary, at Lansing [...] There was some visiting of the girls at their college during the summer of 1858.