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The Manuscripts and Archives Sexuality Subject Guide is annotated list of personal papers and organization records in Manuscripts and Archives related to gender, sexuality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives and culture. This page, though not comprehensive, lists the most substantive sources from the early 20th century. As most collections span both the early and late 20th century, researchers should view both lists.
Additional information about each collection is available in the catalog record in ORBIS, the Yale University Library online public catalog, and/or a finding aid. (Finding aids are more detailed than the annotations in this guide. They provide context for the materials described as well as a contents list, usually to the box and folder level and sometimes to the item level.) Click on the highlighted titles to access the finding aid.
Bryant, the left-wing journalist and writer, was a major figure among intellectual circles and bohemian communities in Paris and New York in the 1910s-1930s. An advocate of socialism, woman suffrage, and free love, she consciously sought to transgress conventional gender roles in her personal as well as professional life. She was married three times, to Paul Trullinger from 1909 to 1916; to John Reed, 1916-1920; and to William Bullitt, 1923-1930. Bryant’s heterosexual romances – which were filled with turbulence and emotional intensity – are also extensively documented in the collection. See, particularly, the folders for John Reed and Eugene O’Neill. She also had a long-term lesbian relationship with a sculptor named Gwen Le Gallienne, which led (in part), to the breakup of her marriage with Bullitt. Although this relationship is not extensively documented, Bryant’s papers provide fascinating glimpses into lesbian & gay life in expat Paris during the 1920s – see, especially, the letters of Claude McKay and Richard McAlmon. [For more complete documentation on her relationship with Le Gallienne and her subsequent divorce, see William C. Bullitt papers (MS 112)]
Virginia Louise “Midge” Donaldson (1919-1960) materials include letters from several women including Sarah “Sally” Spock Trueblood, sister of Dr. Benjamin Spock (Series V, Box 11, Folders 11 and 12). Sally’s Vassar letters contain lengthy, detailed discussions of dating, first sexual experiences, masturbation, and sex education; they also richly describe female friendships. Her adult letters, mostly written after she married, discuss marriage, adultery, free love, and divorce; psychoanalysis and couples’ therapy; menstruation, birth control, and gynecological problems; and her dissatisfaction with traditional gender roles, especially her loneliness and boredom at being a housewife. Letters from “Ruth” (Series V, Box 11, Folder 15), whose last name is unknown, appears to have been an actress and lesbian, and seems to have had a romantic relationship with Midge.
Elizabeth Page Harris (1889-1969), graduate of Vassar College, writer, and pacifist, remained single until her sixty-sixth year, when she married Dr. Herbert Taylor Harris. Page Harris had several intimate relationships with women that are well-documented in her correspondence. See, for example, the letters of Hope Avery and Helen Drusilla Lockwood. Hope Avery was one of Elizabeth Page Harris’ childhood friends. Her letters, written while she was touring and studying in Europe, describe the girl-girl crushes known as “raves” in the parlance of the time. Helen Lockwood (1898-1971) was a friend of Harris from the Vassar class of 1912. Lockwood never married, and it is difficult to discern much about her private life from her letters, which tend to be highly intellectual. However, a few examples from 1915-1916 make intriguing allusions to intense desires that need to be repressed. Although it is unclear whether Lockwood and Harris were romantically involved, it does seem that they shared and discussed such desires. Because of their oblique, coded language, these letters are difficult to interpret.
The papers consist of the diaries of Donald Crossley Vining for the years 1932-1958 and for 1971-1997, as well as typed transcripts from his diaries for 1926-1927. The diaries provide a detailed account of the life of an intellectual, homosexual man in the 1940s and 1950s. Vining, who spent most of his adult life in New York, took a great interest in the arts, and his diaries contain descriptions of operas and plays which he attended; outlines of his current writing projects and theater activities; and details of his daily life and personal relationships.
The collection might be of interest to someone writing about sexuality among the mid-20th-century bohemian New York left. Anna’s relationships with Jack London, William English Walling, and Leonard Abbott exemplify many of the contradictions inherent in the New York left’s ideal of “free love” (for one, the fact that free love tended to benefit men rather than women, who were still expected to raise children and adhere to accepted standards of female propriety, at least in public). See, especially, the Leonard Abbott correspondence with Walling in which contain lengthy discussions about the nature of their relationship, especially in relation to the social benefits of marriage vs. free love.
Includes documentation on WWII related projects that studied the effects of military service on Yale and Harvard men and the identification and suitability of homosexuals, psychoneurotics, and psychopaths in the military.