Boston LGBT History Resources

These resources have been compiled to help you learn more about the history of Boston’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. This list will be continually updated as we continue our research and as we hear from you.

The History Project maintains research files or organizational files on Boston LGBT history from the Colonial Period to the present. These files, representing over 30 years of research, have provided the basis for our exhibits and our book Improper Bostonians.

The History Project special collections consist of materials that have been donated by individuals and organizations that document Boston's LGBT communities.

We hope to begin, over the next several months, to make digitized portions of our collections available online. In the mean time, we will start posting finding aids and descriptions for some of our collections here.

Our collections

  • Coll. 1: The Mike Riegle Papers
    The Mike Riegle Papers contain a variety of printed media, including newspaper articles, magazine clippings, whole newspapers and magazine issues, published essays, bibliographies, advertisements, pamphlets, newsletters, comics, fiction and poetry all related to the research and collective interests of Gay Community News journalist Michael Riegle. Although the collection consists primarily of clippings and other collected materials from various gay and mainstream media from 1973 to 1990, Riegle’s handwritten research notes on a variety of subjects can be found throughout, including those used in preparation for a review of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality for Gay Community News.

  • Coll. 2: David Scondras
    David Scondras, longtime community activist and educator, served as the first openly gay representative elected to the Boston City Council from 1984 to 1994. During his tenure, he advocated tirelessly for the gay and lesbian community, opposing then-Governor Michael Dukakis’ decision to deny gay couples the right to adopt, and supported the candidacy of Virginia Apuzzo for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988 as an affirmation of gay and lesbian political power.

  • Coll. 4: AIDS Ephemera
    The AIDS Ephemera Collection consists of materials gathered over time by various members of The History Project, including board member Libby Bouvier. Designed to be eye-catching advertisements for AIDS awareness events, these items were given out at community activities or picked up from displays in public places. The collection consists of a range of media: cards and flyers, novelty items, stickers and buttons – formats that normally do not lend themselves to easy preservation, as they were primarily meant as disposable reminders to convey information and raise awareness, to announce a program or service, or to induce action. However, because of this they provide a unique sample of grassroots efforts to educate the community about HIV/AIDS.

  • Coll.5: March on Washington - Gay and Lesbian Defense Committee
    The materials in this collection – compiled by Boston-based activist Sarah Holmes – document the work of several national and local (to Boston, Massachusetts) lesbian and gay rights groups from 1977 to 1993, with the bulk of the materials pertaining to organizing efforts and events from 1985 to 1988. The materials in the collection are divided into three main categories: March on Washington (1987), Gay and Lesbian Defense Committee of Boston, Massachusetts, and Miscellaneous. Activist groups central to the collection include the National March of Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights Organizing Committee and its Boston sub-committees, and the Gay and Lesbian Defense Committee of Boston, Massachusetts.

  • Coll. 7: LGBT Youth
    The variety of materials in this collection speak to the long tradition of activism around the rights and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in Massachusetts, and attest to changing societal attitudes both across the state and around the United States concerning LGBT youth. Importantly, this collection shows the central role that LGBT youth have played in activist efforts in both the Boston area and throughout Massachusetts.

  • Coll. 8: BLAGMAR and Lavender Resistance Colection
    Boston Lesbian and Gays Against the Right (BLAGMAR) and its parent organization, Lavender Resistance, were groups formed in the last half of the 1970s to negotiate between issues relating to the LGBT community and the concerns of leftist politics. Lavender Resistance, active from 1976-1979, was primarily a discussion and study group that focused on defining this relationship, and because some members wanted a more action-oriented environment, BLAGMAR was formed to meet this need in 1978. BLAGMAR specifically was a reaction against the emergence of the New Right, a political movement of evangelical Christians, headed by people like Anita Bryant, that actively targeted the gay and lesbian community.

  • Coll. 9: Homophile Union of Boston
    The Homophile Union of Boston grew out of the Boston chapter of the Mattachine Society and was founded in late 1969 or early 1970. The organization’s leadership was male, but there were also women members. The purpose of HUB was to provide a space for gay men and lesbians to talk about political and social issues affecting them and to offer a support network for members. The papers consist of organizational records, publications, and correspondence, and were compiled from material donated by officers of HUB, including Frank Morgan and Dick York.

  • Coll. 10: Student Homophile League
    The Student Homophile League was a self-described “service group organizing social and political action for the college age community” and was active between 1969 and 1980. First organized by MIT student Stan Tillotson in 1969, the organization became official in April of 1970 with Harry Phillips as the president. SHL was disbanded by the Vice President and the Secretary in December of 1970, and then started with a new executive board and constitution in January of 1971, as described in the letter of the new president William J. Canfield II. The reason given for the rearrangement of the organization was a need for improved structure and communication. Along with its political function, the SHL also served a social function, as reflected by the numerous dance flyers and lists of other activities.

  • Coll. 11: Boston Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis
    The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) was a lesbian organization founded in 1955 in San Francisco by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon for the purpose of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, public education, involvement in research, and lobbying to change the laws criminalizing homosexuality. The Boston chapter was founded in 1969 during a period when many homophile organizations were forming in Boston. Early leaders of the Boston DOB included Lois Johnson, Shari Barden, and Laura Robin/McMurry, who were prominent promoters of the group and its activities.

  • Coll. 17: Laura McMurry Collection

  • Coll. 20: Papers of Albert Wakefield and Marshall Belmaine

  • Coll. 21: Bob Wheatly

  • Coll. 22: The History Project's Marriage Collection

  • Coll. 23: Know Thy Neighbor

  • Coll. 24: Janet Dendy's Lowell High GSA Collection

  • Coll. 25: Beantown Bowling League

  • Coll. 26: Howard Berman Archive

  • Coll. 27: Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry

  • Coll. 28: Project 10 East Collection

  • Coll. 30: Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth

  • Coll. 32: Boston Gay Men's Chorus

  • Coll. 33: Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders

  • Coll. 34: History Project T-Shirt Collection

  • Coll. 37: History Project Bar Collection 2

  • Coll. 44: AIDS Action Committee

  • Coll. 48: Dorchester GALA Collection

  • Coll. 51: Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
    The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) was formed in 2001. The organization focused initial efforts on adding a gender identity clause into the City of Boston’s non-discrimination ordinance in 2002. The group expanded to include a satellite chapter in Western Massachusetts that pushed for a similar clause in the City of Northampton. While the major focus of MTPC is political, the group and group members participated in conferences, advocacy and community projects, and co-founder Gunner Scott was elected the Boston Pride Parade Marshall in 2003. The group still exists at present.

  • Coll. 57: Above and Beyond Collection

  • Coll. 58: Fenway Community Health

  • Coll. 63: Gender Crash
    Gender Crash Open Mic for poets/spoken wordsters/literary geeks/journal writers/queers/transgender/gender queers was a spoken word and performance event held at Spontaneous Celebration in Jamaica Plain from 2000-2009. Gender Crash, created by Gunner Scott, was the longest running open mic for queer/transgender/gender queer folks in Boston as well as the country's first spoken word event to be hosted by a transgender person and to feature transgender poets/spoken word performers. It was known for being a welcoming place for people to try out material, and a favorite venue of first-time performers.

  • Coll. 64: International Foundation for Gender Education
    The International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), founded in 1987 in Massachusetts, is a leading advocate and educational organization for promoting the self-definition and free expression of individual gender identity. IFGE is not a support group, it is an information provider and clearinghouse for referrals about all things which are transgressive of established social gender norms. IFGE publishes a leading magazine, Transgender Tapestry, providing reasoned discussion of issues of gender expression and identity, including cross-dressing, transsexualism, FTM and MTF issues spanning health, family, medical, legal, workplace issues and more. [Excerpted from]

Questions, inquiries and donations for THP’s archives can be addressed to The History Project / 29 Stanhope Street / Boston, MA 02116. Call (617) 266-773 for more information, or email us at info [at] historyproject [dot] org.

Bibliography of books and periodicals set in Boston and/or by Boston based authors prepared by Martha Stone and Michael Wofsey, members of HQ76.3/New England, the LGBT library professional association.

Photographers with extensive photo collections of Boston’s LGBT community:

Craig Bailey: Photographer of Boston cultural events with special focus on African American gay and lesbian community. 1990-present.

Marilyn Humphries: Photographer of greater Boston political and cultural events with special focus on feminism activism, and the lesbian and gay community. 1990-present.

Ellen Shub: Photographer of greater Boston political and cultural events with special focus on feminism, activism, and the lesbian and gay community. 1974-present.