Manuscripts and Archives

The division of Manuscripts and Archives at Sterling Memorial Library holds the Yale University Archives and also over 1,700 collections of personal and family papers and organizational records that document a wide range of historical developments. Its collections include nineteenth- and twentieth-century diaries and correspondence documenting same-sex intimacy, the papers of sexual modernists, such as Louise Bryant and Anna Walling, and of lesbian and gay activists, such as David Mixner, Harvey Fierstein, and Candida Scott Piel, and the records of LGBT advocacy and cultural organizations, such as Love Makes a Family, the Glines, and the Bloodroot Collective. The selected collections described below are only examples of the division’s rich resources for research in the history of sexuality.

Address: Sterling Memorial Library, 128 Wall Street
Inquiries about these collections should be directed to Mary Caldera.

Personal Papers

Albert Dodd (1818-1844) transferred to Yale College from Trinity (then Washington) College for his junior and senior years. He later studied law and opened a law firm in St. Louis, Missouri. The diary he kept in 1836-1837, while at Trinity and Yale, describes his intimate relationships with several men.

Edward Chase Sheffield graduated from Yale in 1859. In the diary he kept in 1858, during his junior year, he described sharing his bed with several other students and reflected at length on his intimate relationship with one of them.

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), British author, physician, and social reformer, studied human sexual behavior. His research for Man and Woman (1894) led to his major work, the seven-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897-1928). The second volume, Sexual Inversion, became an influential early study of homosexuality. The collection consists of correspondence and manuscripts.

Annie Beecher Scoville (1866-1953) maintained an intimate friendship with Katharine Lee Bates for most of her adult life. The two women met in the 1880s at Wellesley College, where Scoville was a student and Bates a professor. The material includes correspondence from the 1880s that is filled with emotionally effusive expressions of desire, longing, betrayal, and secrecy. Bates and Scoville’s relationship later evolved into a friendship centered on intellectual pursuits and the shared experience of being single, educated, independent women.

Robert Mearns Yerkes (1876-1956) was one of the most eminent psychologists of his day, noted chiefly for studies of primate behavior and intelligence testing during World War I. His research on sexuality took place under the auspices of the National Research Council’s Committee for Research in Problems of Sex, which Yerkes chaired from 1927 to 1941. He was professor of psychology and psychobiology at Yale University, 1924-1944. The papers contain correspondence, reports, minutes of meetings, research notes, writings, photographs, and diaries.

Louise Bryant (1885–1936) was a left feminist journalist and writer and a “sexual modern” advocate of free love. While married to journalist John Reed (1987 -1920), she won renown for her coverage of the Russian revolution. In the 1920s she moved to Paris and participated in its lesbian subculture. The papers consist of correspondence, writings, notebooks, artwork, photographs, and printed matter.

Elizabeth Page Harris (1889-1969), a graduate of Vassar College, writer, and pacifist, had several intimate relationships with women that are well documented in her correspondence. Her correspondence with Hope Avery, Helen Drusilla, and Helen Lockwood provides especially rich material for analysis.

Virginia Louise “Midge” Donaldson (1919-1960) was an actress in New York City, whose papers include letters from several women who were intimate friends. Sarah Spock Trueblood’s letters from Vassar provide rich descriptions of female friendships and discuss sexual matters at length. Letters from “Ruth,” who appears to have been an actress and lesbian, seem to suggest a romantic relationship with Donaldson.

Donald Vining (1917-1998) published five volumes of excerpts from his diary, which provide an exceptionally detailed account of the everyday life of a gay man in the mid-twentieth-century U.S. The papers consist of his complete manuscript diaries for the years 1932-1958 and 1971-1985 as well as typed transcripts from his diaries of 1926-1927

Anna Strunsky Walling (1879-1964), author and activist, was part of the early twentieth-century left bohemian scene in San Francisco and New York. With Jack London, she co-authored a book on the nature of love. The papers include material on her relationships with prominent male socialists–London, William English Walling, and Leonard Abbott—and on the radical or bohemian circle of friends that surrounded them in San Francisco, New York, England, and Russia. The papers consist of correspondence (1897-1964), diaries, writings, memorabilia, and photographs.

David Mixner (b. 1946) is a prominent civil rights, antiwar, and Democratic Party activist, who is best known for helping mobilize gay support for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and then breaking with Clinton over his “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy.  He was a founding member of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the country’s first gay Political Action Committee, and served on the founding board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. The collection includes correspondence, press clippings, subject and writing files, personal papers, audiovisual material and photographs. [Special note: Permission from Mixner or his estate manager will be required to access the materials before 2031.]

The preeminent medievalist John Boswell (1947-1994) taught at Yale from 1975 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1994. His books Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1982) and Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994) advanced influential and controversial reinterpretations of the place of gay people in the Catholic tradition, whose implications for one of the central religious debates of his time made Boswell the best known gay studies scholar of his day.  The collection includes manuscripts of his major published works, hundreds of letters he received in response to his books, other correspondence, teaching materials, unpublished fiction writings, commonplace books, and files related to his involvement in several gay rights legal cases.

William Silver (1947-2007) received a Masters of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary in 1973 and requested ordination as an openly gay man in the Presbytery of New York. His request sparked a two-year national debate within the denomination about the ordination of gays and lesbians. The papers, which document the debate and his coming out process, consist of a journal, correspondence, photographs, newsletters, news clippings, and printed material.

Philip M. Sarrel (b. 1937), professor at Yale University School of Medicine, and his wife Lorna, psychiatric social worker, both trained by Masters and Johnson in sex therapy, founded the Yale Sex Counseling Service. They also instituted the first non-credit sex education course at Yale, which annually drew hundreds of students, and produced a student booklet, “Sex at Yale” (1974). The papers include files documenting the establishment of the Young Mothers Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital; sex education courses at a New Haven high school, Yale College, and the Yale University School of Medicine; audiotapes of Philip Sarrel’s lectures; films, mostly commercially produced, depicting aspects of human sexuality; and related writings by Philip Sarrel and others.

Candida Scott Piel (b. 1952), who moved to New York City after graduating from Yale in 1974, ran Heritage of Pride, which organized New York’s annual Gay Pride March, in the 1980s, and also worked with the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and Friends and Advocates for Individual Rights (FAIRPAC), a political action group. Her papers include writings, ephemera, subject files, photographs, and printed and audiovisual materials documenting lesbian and gay culture in New York since the 1950s, with particularly rich material on gay clubs, “circuit culture,” the Jewel Box Revue, and AIDS.

Harvey Fierstein (b. 1954), playwright, actor, and gay activist, wrote the Tony Award winning plays Torch Song Trilogy (1982) and La Cage aux Folles (1983). His papers include scripts, professional correspondence, publicity materials, clippings, legal documents, scrapbooks, photographs, audio recordings, and videotapes.

Thematic Collections

The collection consists of videotaped interviews conducted by Douglas Conrad (in English and various European languages) with LGBT people living in Eastern and Central Europe from 1992 to 2009. The collection also includes video footage of LGBT demonstrations and other events in Eastern and Central Europe and a small collection of printed material. Germany, Hungary and Russia are particularly well represented in almost 200 videotapes and DVDs of interviews and location footage.

The Transgender Collection includes illustrated publications and printed ephemera from the 1940s to the present documenting transgender communities, performances, and identities.

The AIDS Collection consists of medical reports, organizational newsletters, educational pamphlets, and political flyers concerning the prevention, treatment, and status of AIDS across the globe.

The collection includes flyers, newsletters, posters, ephemera, and other material produced by gay and lesbian liberation movement activists, primarily in the 1970s. It also includes related materials concerning bisexual, transgender, and queer movements.

Organizational Records

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), founded in 1978, is New England’s leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.  Its precedent-setting legal victories include winning the right of same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts in 2004 (for the first time in the United States) and Connecticut in 2008.  Covering all the major social changes and legal developments in contemporary LGBT history – from the HIV epidemic to marriage equality, from transgender rights to the “gayby boom” – GLAD’s records include correspondence, legal documents, research materials, photographs, meeting minutes, reports, publications, press releases, and financial records.

The Arts Project of Cherry Grove has organized art shows, theater productions, balls, casino nights, and fundraising events since it was founded in 1948 by summer residents of Cherry Grove, a predominantly LGBT resort community on Fire Island, off the coast of Long Island. This collection includes posters, photographs, scripts, correspondence, scrapbooks, and minutes documenting the activities of the Arts Project and the social world of Cherry Grove since 1952, with particular strength for the years since the mid-1970s.

Bloodroot, a vegetarian restaurant and feminist bookstore in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has been an important meeting and performance space for lesbians and feminists since its opening in 1977. The records of the Bloodroot Collective consist of correspondence, feminist writings and creative works, photographs, oral histories, event flyers, legal and financial records, and other materials that document the operations of the bookstore and restaurant, the lives of the collective’s two remaining members, Selma Miriam and Noel Furie, and the development of a lesbian feminist “women’s culture” in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Glines was founded in 1976 by John Glines, Barry Laine, and Jerry Tobin in New York City. Its mission is the production and promotion of gay art, including theater, the visual arts, and poetry. One of its most notable successes was the production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. Other notable projects include Stamp Out AIDS (1985), a precursor to Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS, and the Gay American Arts Festival. The collection consists of topical files, correspondence, publicity materials, scripts, photographs, audiotapes, and memorabilia. The bulk of the records documents productions and projects.

Love Makes a Family was an advocacy and assistance organization working for same-sex marriage and LGBT family rights in Connecticut, which dissolved in 2009 after marriage equality was achieved for same-sex couples in Connecticut. The records consist of organizational records and related materials documenting the organization’s history and activities. Acquired in 2010, this collection is in the process of preparation for public access.