Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the June Mazer Lesbian Archives: Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection

Materials from the Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection 
include photos, newspaper clippings, articles, writings, and correspondence 
from their life together.

Working with the collections at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives is a unique experience, each collection has its own sense of itself, serving as a window into individual lives, formative political moments and the growth and development of the lesbian community. One of the first collections that I processed was the Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde collection. Ruth and Kent were both writers, lifelong intellectuals, weavers and lovers. Their collection covers the duration of their relationship of over forty years. 

What makes this collection so rich is the breadth of materials which includes a large amount of correspondence between Ruth and Kent and an array of their friends and family. These letters range in subject matter and through their reading one can get a sense of each woman’s particular sense of humor, specific interests and professional tone.

Throughout their relationship, Kent passed as a man, working in research laboratories and hospitals. Ruth took care of Kent’s mother and kept writing. Their political consciousness evolved as they reacted to the dramatic changes in political and social realities in the United States. Also included in the collection is an illuminating interview, conducted by volunteers at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives upon Ruth’s donation of the collection. After reflecting upon her and Kent’s life together, she also delves into the relief and sense of belonging she found once she actively sought out a lesbian community. Turning her efforts to activism in her later years she seems surprised at her and Kent’s own aversion to gay and lesbian life. Their collection serves to witness the intricate emotional, political and intellectual lives of these women while simultaneously reminding us that in order to understand the impact of change, we must look to the words of the people who weathered that change themselves. The Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection has already been requested by researchers and Ruth herself used the interview done by the June L. Mazer Archives as an aid in writing her autobiography, which mainly focused on her relationship with Kent.

– Stacy Wood

Stacy Wood is a graduate student in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA and a graduate student researcher.


This research is part of an ongoing CSW research project, "Making Invisible Histories Visible: Preserving the Legacy of Lesbian Feminist Activism and Writing in Los Angeles," with Principal Investigators Kathleen McHugh, CSW DIrector and Professor in the Departments of English and Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA (on sabbatical from April to June, 2013) and Gary Strong, University Librarian at UCLA. Funded in part by an NEH grant, the project is a three-year project to arrange, describe, digitize, and make physically and electronically accessible two major clusters of June Mazer Lesbian Archive collections related to West Coast lesbian/feminist activism and writing since the 1930s. This project, which continues CSW’s partnership with the June Mazer Lesbian Archives and the UCLA Library, grew out of CSW’s two-year “Access Mazer: Organizing and Digitizing the Lesbian Feminist Archive in Los Angeles” project, which was supported in part by the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships. For information on the project, contact Dr. Julie Childers, Assistant Director, UCLA Center for the Study of Women,

The Mazer Archives is the sole archival repository on the West Coast dedicated to preserving lesbian and feminist history. Its holdings include over 3500 books, 1000 unique video and audio recordings, and close to a hundred unprocessed. This project will process and make accessible paper collections and recordings documenting lesbian political acts and effects in their communities, and materials documenting the lives and literary imagination of this burgeoning community. In addition to providing crucial materials to humanities scholars and historians, the project will also grow the Mazer’s infrastructure, preserving content that exists now while ensuring the future of the Mazer and its collections. Currently, the Mazer does not have the physical space to grow. Moving collections to the UCLA Library gives the Mazer the capacity to collect new materials and will enhance UCLA’s holdings in two significant areas of interest: LGBT archives and Los Angeles collections. Scholars and historians throughout the world will benefit directly from the primary research materials this project will make available.

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