Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teach Your Children Well

Texas--Action Alerts (GLC 104 Box 8), [1994]
It's Banned Books Week. And I have a short story about censorship to share. It's tucked inside the folders of the Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records (GLC 104). So it might have escaped your notice.

In 1994 Holt, Rinehart and Winston published the school texbook Holt Health. The Texas Board of Education (BOE) considered it for adoption statewide. After examining the book, the Texas BOE submitted "corrections" to Holt for the book's references to homosexuality, the use of condoms, some anatomical drawings, etc. The BOE felt that the book advocated homosexuality, the use of condoms, etc. They did not agree that such references were simply factual information provided to educate youth. Holt refused to make the changes, refused to censor the book. As a result, Holt, Rinehart and Winston lost a great deal of revenue from the $7.5 million Texas textbook market.

Texas--Action Alerts (GLC 104 Box 8)
Naturally, there is more to this story than the final act. When I looked through the Texas files in the collection, I found clippings, letters and reports that throw additional light on the context of this story. There's a 1991 article about the Texas BOE that emphasizes the importance of accurate information in textbooks. It reminds us that textbooks and curricula lay the groundwork for the next generation. Then there's Robert Birle's letter in early 1992 that describes GLAAD's presentation to the Texas BOE, textbook publishers, and others. The letter captures the excitement of the moment. Taken all together, it is interesting, eye-opening, and well-documented activism.

This story demonstrates the positive effect that can be realized with diligence and hard work. It is just one example of the advocacy that was the hallmark of GLAAD's Project 21 and the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project.

Robert Birle letter to Jessea Greenman, January 16, 1992

The Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records (GLC 104) document the activity of the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project, and its predecessor GLAAD's Project 21. P.E.R.S.O.N. stands for Public Education Regarding Sexual Orientation Nationally. Both projects worked to ensure that the public schools in the United States would present fair, unbiased and accurate information regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and about the nature and diversity of sexual orientation. Jessea Greenman was a principal team member of both projects.

P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Manual, page 1
The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records contain correspondence, reports, newspaper and magazine clippings, and information collected on textbook policies throughout the United States. In addition there are books, training manuals, and audio-visual materials on the subject of GLBT issues. The collection is strongest in its coverage of California, Texas, and the Mid-America Region.

The GLAAD Project 21 series appears to be a combination of Jessea Greenman's and Robert Birle's files. The most voluminous material documents the success of the lobbying and activism for health textbook reform in the State of Texas. In addition, there is research material on numerous subjects that directly relate to the GLBT community and youth. These subjects include AIDS and HIV, the Boy Scouts of America, gender issues, family life, sex education, hate violence, religion and religious opposition, students, and suicide. As I looked through the subject files, I was reminded of the furor caused by Bert and Ernie's cohabitation. It shows that nothing was too small to clip when it concerned youth and their awareness of LGBT issues.

There are additional materials on organizations, such as GLAAD and PFLAG, with a focus on youth and/or GLBT issues, and on the P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's volunteers and organizational manual.  The Jessea Greenman P.E.R.S.O.N. Project Records are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

The James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center is excited to welcome Lillian Faderman to the Main Library on Wednesday, September 30th at 6pm for a talk about her new book, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle.

Lillian Faderman is a historian, educator and award-winning author.  Notable titles in her oeuvre include Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America and To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America--A History.   

In The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, Faderman documents the struggle for gay acceptance and equality in the United States, beginning with the time when all gay people where considered criminals, to the years of bold activism when gay people fought against oppression, and leading up to the recent court victories for gay rights.  Now is the perfect time to learn your gay history and celebrate the gay revolution!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Frederick Rolfe Collection

In December 2014, Barbara (Mrs. Rocco) Verrilli donated a small collection of letters, a book, and some manuscript pages written by English author Frederick Rolfe. Also known as Baron Corvo, Rolfe was a gay writer, artist, and photographer.

His name was initially unfamiliar to us. However, a quick catalog search revealed a number of books written about him and many works written by him. We were intrigued.

Rolfe was born in London on July 22, 1860. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1886 and felt himself called to the priesthood. Though he was never ordained a priest, the desire persisted throughout his life.

From 1895 to 1899 Rolfe lived in Holywell in North Wales, where he painted a number of processional banners for the church. He died in Venice, Italy on October 25, 1913. His life provided the basis for The Quest for Corvo (1934) by A. J. A. Symons.

The letters in the Rocco Verrilli Collection of Frederick Rolfe Correspondence and Manuscripts (GLC 97) address the publication and reception of his work, his financial difficulties, Catholics and Catholicism, photography, and the Order of Sanctissima Sophia. There are also a few letters from James Walsh to Rolfe biographer A. J. A. Symons.

Letter from Frederick William Rolfe, Hotel Victoria, Holywell
to the Rev. W. E. Scott-Hall, Staverton Fields, Oxford, Dec[ember] 28, 1898

Frederick Rolfe spent most of his life as a freelance writer and relied on benefactors for support. As we can see in the letter above, Rolfe declines an invitation from Scott-Hall to spend a week with him in Wales, due in part to Rolfe's impoverished state. He discusses his desire for literary fame and his feeling towards Catholicism. "I have no quarrel with the Catholic faith. It is that only which has kept me from slitting my gizzard in sheer despair of solitude." 

Tarcissus cover.
Other materials in the collection include a pamphlet-sized book Tarcissus: The Boy Martyr of Rome (Saffron Walden, Essex, 1880) and a few manuscripts. One manuscript is an autobiographical piece that details Rolfe's literary output and his often-contentious relationships with publishers and co-authors. In it Rolfe refers to Owen Thomas, Barnard and Taylor, the Reverend Robert Hugh Benson, C. H. C. Pirie-Gordon, and their efforts, or lack thereof, on Rolfe's behalf. Rolfe also gives a brief account of his life in Venice (1908-1910) and the writing of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole.

Autobiographical manuscript, page 1, [circa 1910]

In a number of his stories and novels Rolfe himself is the thinly-disguised protagonist. His better known works include: Stories Toto Told Me (1898), later republished as In His Own Image (1901); Hadrian the Seventh (1904); and The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (written 1910-1913, published 1934). His other works include the Chronicles of the House of Borgia (1901), and two books in collaboration with Harry Pirie-Gordon. The library has some editions of Rolfe's books: The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole: a Romance of Modern VeniceHadrian the Seventh; and Stories Toto Told Me, among others.

Based on the letters in the collection and his biographers, Frederick Rolfe seems to be quite a colorful character. For the curious, check out The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography by A. J. A. Symons; Corvo: Saint or Madman? by Donald Weeks; A bibliography of Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo by Cecil Woolf; and Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo: a Biography by Miriam J. Benkovitz.

And for those who would like to peruse some of his original letters and manuscripts, the Rocco Verrilli Collection of Frederick Rolfe Correspondence and Manuscripts (GLC 97) is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Postcards: Notes from Notables

With summer upon us, our thoughts turn to vacations. Beaches, perhaps. Points of interest. Ports of call. And where there's travel, there are often postcards--short notes to let our friends at home know that they are in our thoughts while we're having a fabulous time.
La Tour de la Porte au Prevot, Thouars.
Alice B. Toklas Correspondence
to Donald Frank (GLC 21)

Postcards fall under the general category of correspondence but they are their own enigmatic form of communication. Concise. Often fragmented. Occasionally cryptic.
They are scattered throughout the Hormel Center's archival collections. Here we've selected some examples that offer glimpses into the activities of Alice B. Toklas, Harvey Milk, and Christopher Isherwood.

Alice B. Toklas wrote a handful of postcards and short notes to Donald Frank, the nephew of a close childhood friend. In her characteristic spiky script, Toklas describes her vacation to Thouars, its proximity to the Atlantic and its "delicious" air, her dog Basket, and their dread of the train trip back to Paris.

 Postcard date September 9, 1948
Alice B. Toklas Correspondence to Donald Frank (GLC 21)
In a second postcard Alice describes her 1954 trip to Grasse and Cannes, the markets there, the weather, and cooking on a spit in the garden. She makes comparisons to Portland, San Francisco and New Orleans and notes that her cook book is to be published. I particularly enjoyed her remembrance: "I loved seeing the old Mark Hopkins Institute where I danced at innumerable Mardi Gras balls!"

Postcard date [month unknown] 13, 1954
Alice B. Toklas Correspondence to Donald Frank (GLC 21)

Two years later, in 1956, we have a few postcards from Harvey Milk to his friend Sue Davis. The first message simply says that Harvey has arrived in Miami Beach, Florida. But the front of the postcard has a beautiful color image of the Parada Hotel, complete with the yellowed marks left from when it was taped up on a wall or refrigerator.

Parada Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19)
Postcard date March 19, 1956
Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19)

In a later postcard Harvey notes that he had to return to New York and will probably stay there for the summer. He writes "New York is a wonderful town. No place like it." The front of the postcard features a snapshot of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and surrounding area from the mid-1950s and more yellowed tape marks.

Postcard date May 5, 1956
Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19)
Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City
Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch (GLC 19)

And, finally, ten years later we have a postcard from Christopher Isherwood to Bill Upton. Isherwood was a British author known primarily for his autobiographical works and Upton was a friend who lived in San Francisco. In this chatty card, Isherwood mentions his own upcoming visit to Upton and the hope that they can rent a seaplane. Chris also describes a visit from the film director Tony Richardson and refers to his film The Charge of the Light Brigade, which would be released in 1968. We found these postcards and a letter inside a copy of Isherwood's Exhumations that was inscribed to Upton and which he donated to the Hormel Center.

Postcard dated [November 5, 1967]
Christopher Isherwood letters to William Upton (GLC 86)
Postcard dated [November 5, 1967]
Christopher Isherwood letters to William Upton (GLC 86)

The Hormel Center's archival collections contain many different formats of material: diaries, correspondence, audiotapes, videotapes and photographs, among others. The examples above are just a sample of one format.

The Alice B. Toklas Letters to Donald H. Frank, the Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch, and the Christopher Isherwood letters to William Upton are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marriage Equality

Yesterday's ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of same sex marriage provides the perfect opportunity to highlight a new collection in the Hormel Center Archives. In addition, there are two related collections in the San Francisco History Center that are worth mentioning.

Scrapbook 1 (inside front cover), June 1998,
Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski Marriage Scrapbooks (GLC 96),
San Francisco Public Library.

In October 2014, Molly McKay Williams donated the Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski Marriage Scrapbooks (GLC 96). These 22 scrapbooks document McKay's and Kotulski's joint and individual efforts to attain marriage equality in California from 1998-2012. The volumes contain clippings, correspondence and email, photographs, speeches, event programs, flyers, notes and ephemera. There is significant material on the organizations Equality California and Marriage Equality USA, and there are copies of legal documents relating to marriage equality.

Davina S. Kotulski, a clinical psychologist, and Molly B. McKay, an attorney, met in 1996. They decided to get married in September 1998 and, in June of that year, participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade, fully clad in wedding attire.

Scrapbook 1 (inside front cover), June 1998,
Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski Marriage Scrapbooks (GLC 96),
San Francisco Public Library.

A photograph of the couple appeared on the front page of the following day's San Francisco Examiner and would be featured on news outlets worldwide in the following fourteen years they spent together. Although both had been marriage equality activists since 1996, this feature marked the beginning of the pair's role as a "poster couple" for the fight for marriage equality in California in the 2000s. In February 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. McKay and Kotulski were the seventeenth same-sex couple to be married on February 12th.

The photo below was taken in February 2004 at San Francisco's City Hall. Although we do not know who the married couple is, the shot captures their joy as well as the bustle of media and other activity in the background.

San Francisco City Hall, February 2004,
Shades of LGBTQI, Shades of San Francisco,
San Francisco Public Library

The image was collected during the Shades of LGBTQI photo day at the Harvey Milk Eureka Valley Branch. On Shades photo days, held in different San Francisco neighborhoods, community members are invited to bring in historic photographs of their families, workplaces, and neighborhoods so that these photos can be copied and added to the San Francisco History Center's Photograph Collection. The Shades of LGBTQI albums are available to view in the San Francisco History Center and in the  Harvey Milk Eureka Valley Branch.

Nearly 4,000 applications and licenses were issued to same-sex couples from February-March 2004. The California Supreme Court halted the marriages on March 11, 2004, and invalidated the licenses on August 12. On August 28, 2013, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu transferred these licenses to the library. The San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder Same-Sex Marriage Records (SFH 89) are available through the San Francisco History Center.

These three collections provide glimpses into the events of the past two decades. Together they broaden our understanding of the issues, challenges, and emotions that have affected the marriage equality movement.

The Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski Marriage Scrapbooks (GLC 96), the Shades of San Francisco photograph albums, and the San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder Same-Sex Marriage Records (SFH 89) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Gay Freedom Day Parade on Montgomery Street, taken between 1972 and 1978 (GLC 35 Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection)

In anticipation of the Pride parade at the end of the month, we're highlighting some materials from years past. We've drawn from the ephemera collections in the library's Hormel and San Francisco History centers, and we've included some photos from the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection.

1974 Gay Freedom Celebration (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The first thing you notice is that the event has been called by many names: Gay Freedom Day, Gay Liberation Day, San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration and Parade, and SF Pride are just a few of the variations.

1975 Gay Freedom Day Parade route (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The next thing you'll see is that the parade routes and final locations have changed over the years. Many of the early parades started in the Financial District, continued to Polk Street and ended at Civic Center. The SF Pride website has a nice history of Pride events in San Francisco with a link to additional information on the grand marshals, parade line up, maps, and photos.

1975 Gay Liberation Day program cover (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The programs usually include the parade route, a notice of the events and entertainment schedule, and, increasingly, advertising. The early programs are quite slender, often a single newspaper-sized sheet folded into fourths. By 1975 there are over 35 pages, and by 2000 the programs are hundreds of pages long.

1975 Gay Liberation Day program, p.35 (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

The programs provide wonderful snapshots of the time and include notices for events, businesses, political races, and organizations. I particularly like the announcement of the Gay Liberation Rally on the same page as the Jockey Short contest.

1977 Gay Freedom Day Parade business suit flyer (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades)

Later files include flyers as well. Mind you, what you wore to the parade in 1977 was just as important as it is today. What's in fashion may have changed, but being fashionable never goes out of style.

Gay Pride Postcard to Anita Bryant (GLC Ephemera Collection: Parades, 1977)

The 1977 parade was well attended and well photographed. This was largely in response to the attack on LGBT rights that took place in Dade County, Florida. Anita Bryant led the well publicized Save Our Children campaign which sought to overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance. She proved to be a lightning rod for the LGBT community and its allies.

San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade on Market Street with signs of Fascists and Anita Bryant (GLC 35 Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection, June 1977)

We limited the scope of this post to pre-1982 events but there is a wealth of material from 1982 to the present. Let me leave you with a photo of the crowd filling Civic Center plaza with the old Main Library behind. Wishing you all a very happy Pride!

On Parade! August 1981 (SFHC Ephemera Collection: Homosexuals. Gay Freedom Day Parade)

The San Francisco History Center Ephemera Collection and the GLC Ephemera Collection are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Christopher Hewitt Papers

Christopher Hewitt
(Credit: Richard Kanuck)
Christopher Hewitt was a gay poet, disabled activist, recovering alcoholic, editor, and college teacher. His writing is often autobiographical and addresses the issues of disability, discrimination, and communication, among others. The Hewitt Papers (GLC 67) document his life and work. The collection includes poetry, prose, correspondence, journals and diaries, photographs, sketches, drawings, and audio-visual materials.

Mightier Than The Mouth
Born on February 2, 1946 in Nottingham, Hewitt grew up in the villages of Welland and Upton-on-Severn in Worcestershire, England. He was born with a brittle bone condition called osteogenesis imperfecta and used a wheelchair from the age of nine. He came to the United States for university and lived and worked in the U.S. until his death in 2004.

Hewitt received an M.A. in English from the University of California, Davis in 1976, and an M.F.A . in Poetry at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1981. He taught creative writing and English at Fordham University, John Jay College, and University of San Francisco.

Love's Fool
He was also Associate Editor of Art & Understanding, a magazine in which writers and artists respond to the AIDS crisis. One folder contains writing by others that Hewitt considered for publication in The James White Review, Able-Together, or Art & Understanding.

Hewitt was gregarious and had the ability to engage people he did not know in conversation. A frequent denizen at Cafe Flore in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, Chris titled one of his poetry cycles "Cafe Society." He published chapbooks of poetry, including The Careless Days, and The Infinite Et Cetera, and his poems appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Salmagundi, and Cimarron Review.

Interview with Armistead Maupin
Hewitt wrote the libretti for two song cycles, Metamorphosis and Amours, music by Benton Hess, which were performed in New York City and Oberlin, Ohio. He also wrote the libretto for a cantata Cantata V: Raggedstone Hill, music by Dennis Riley, which was performed in New York City. Hewitt was asked to provide an introductory poem for The Great Spangled Fritillary by Andrew Thomas. The collection includes an audiorecording of Seeing with the Heart, with music by Richard Maltz and text by Hewitt.

"Of Course I Have My Regrets"
drawing by Hewitt
Often Hewitt's writing draws from his own experience. There is a notebook with drafts of Hewitt's memoir Brittle Bones, a more final version of the same in the typescripts, and an audiotape with a reading of Chapter One in Series 7. Some of Hewitt's writing touches on his recovery from alcoholism, his work with people with HIV and AIDS, and interviews with writers such as Armistead Maupin, Paul Reed, and Ruth Felt.

The papers contain sketches and drawings by Hewitt, a small mounted painting by his mother J. M. Hewitt, and some printed posters by others. Several of the drawings by Hewitt have satirical captions. Many of the drawings are unsigned.

The Lifting Team
The collection contains three VHS tapes: one is a portrait of Hewitt, another is a reading by Hewitt. The third, Crip Shots, is a short documentary film with portraits of artists with disabilities. It features Judy Smith, Greg Walloch, Chris Hewitt, Bill Shannon, and Terry Galloway. There are also audiocassette tapes of readings and interviews by Hewitt. These include performances of The Blaspheming Moon and Seeing With The Heart.

Hewitt died due to complications from pneumonia on July 13, 2004 in San Francisco. He was survived by his mother Joan Hewitt. Hewitt's Papers were donated to the library by Robert Guter, September 29, 2005.

"Chris typing" (uncredited photo)
The Christopher Hewitt Papers (GLC 67) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Puttin' on the Ritz

Kreemah Ritz, 1970 (c) Fayette Hauser
Kreemah Ritz, that is! Born Daryl Simmonds in 1947, Kreemah Ritz was his stage name when he performed with the San Francisco-based theatrical troupe The Cockettes (1970-1972). His Papers are now available for research.

Ritz is probably best known for his parody of Richard Nixon in the cult film classic Tricia's Wedding. He also played Bald-Headed Sally who is eaten by a giant lizard in the film Elevator Girls in Bondage. He helped write and direct over twenty of the Cockettes' shows, which ranged from unscripted reviews to scripted productions.

Tricia's Wedding, 1971

The Kreemah Ritz Papers contain flyers, posters, scripts, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, and audio-visual materials that document the performances of The Cockettes, and of Sylvester, a singer who performed with The Cockettes and then pursued a solo career.

Diary of a Cockette in...New York, 1971

The Subject Files series contains clippings and ephemera about The Cockettes and the members of the troupe after it disbanded. Of special note are the Cockettes history and the Diary of a Cockette. There are also materials about Sylvester, such as concert tickets, posters and flyers, bumper stickers, and biographical information.

The Ritz Papers have a fairly complete collection of the posters and announcement cards produced for Cockettes shows, Nocturnal Dream Shows presentations, and various performances and events by troupe members after the group disbanded. Early posters are often hand-drawn. The posters are organized by size and then by date, and run the gamut from purely informational to beautifully detailed artwork by Todd Trexler, Pristine Condition, John Flowers, Steven Arnold and others.
March 1972
Miss de Meanor, July 1972

Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma (Dani Gray, artist)

The photographs of Cockettes performances and of particular performers primarily cover the years 1970-1972. The photographers include Scott Runyon, Fayette Hauser, David Wise, Rink, Clay Geerdes, Cheese Dream, and Puck Perkins. One folder contains images taken by San Francisco Art Institute students in 1970. There are some later photographs by Daniel Nicoletta.

The collection contains an audiotape of the Cockettes' November 26, 1971 performance of Pearls Over Shanghai, and stage song highlights from 1972. It also includes a videotape of Sylvester's concert at Dreamland on June 20, 1980.
Prissy, Kreemah, Sebastian & Miss Bobbi at UC Davis, 1970s
To find out more about Kreemah Ritz and the Cockettes, please come see The Kreemah Ritz Papers (GLC 79) which are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.