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William J. Canfield papers

 Collection
Identifier: M069

Scope and Content Note

This collection was assembled and created by William J. Canfield II. It documents homophile groups (most notably the Homophile Union of Boston and Student Homophile League), services, and publications (such as Esplanade, Fag Rag, and Gay Community News) in Boston from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s (Series 1 and Series 3). There is also collected material relating to gay organizations from around the country (Series 2), including materials gathered by Canfield while he lived in Vermont (Series 6).

In addition, the collection includes planning documentation for the Gay Liberation Reunion of 1990 and the Boston Gay Reunion of 1999 (Series 4). Five rolls of microfilm (Series 5) preserve selections from the second Boston Gay Archives, including portions of this collection and the John C. Graves papers (M83), as well as articles on gay topics. Other contributors to the microfilm include John Mitzell, Craig Thiersch, Stan Tillotson, Rich Braun, Lois Johnson, and Jim McCassie.

Canfield extensively documented his own life, and his personal papers (Series 6) include correspondence, schoolwork mainly from his time at Suffolk University during the early years of gay liberation, and records pertaining to Falinge Farm, his home.

Dates

  • 1946-2012 (bulk 1970-1999)

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Biographical Note

William J. Canfield was a gay activist in New England, involved in the Boston gay liberation movement between 1970 and 1975. Canfield was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1946 and lived in Reading before attending boarding school and moving to Boston to attend Suffolk University. He later moved to Vermont to work on restoring a property known as Falinge Farm.

In 1971-1972, Canfield was president of the Homophile Union of Boston (HUB), founded in 1969 by Frank Morgan to broaden awareness of gay lifestyles and seek civil rights for gays and lesbians. HUB disbanded in 1975.

Canfield was also co-founder and business manager of Gay Community News (GCN), in 1973-1974. GCN was Boston's first newspaper written and operated by a collective of gay men and lesbians. The first issue of GCN appeared on newsstands in June 1973.

In 1989, Canfield and several Boston acquaintances decided to organize a reunion for gay activists who had been involved in the Boston gay liberation movement in the early 1970s. This 1990 Gay Liberation Reunion, held during Pride Week, was followed by the Boston Gay Reunion in 1999.

Activists involved in homophile organizations in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s privately maintained records created during these groups' operation. A small group of activists sought to establish a gay community archives to permanently preserve these materials. Records were collected from individuals who had participated in Boston's early gay liberation movement, with the agreement that these papers would be transferred to an appropriate archives when it was established. The first attempt to create a Boston Gay and Lesbian Archives failed when the records were inadvertently destroyed in the 1980s.

Along with John C. Graves, Canfield was a primary force behind the second effort to collect materials for a Boston Gay and Lesbian Archives. In 1990, materials brought together by Canfield, Graves, and others were microfilmed as a single collection (Series 5. Boston Gay Archives Microfilmed Selections). A formal archival repository was never formed, and the collected material was later separated. Graves donated his portion to The History Project, a volunteer organization that seeks to document Boston's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) history, and The History Project donated the Graves materials to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department.

Besides Canfield, contributors to the materials microfilmed in Series 5 include:

John C. Graves, an MIT professor, psychologist, and psychotherapist at Homophile Community Health Services, an organization that provided Boston's gay population with psychological counseling, medical services, draft counseling, and referrals for homeless teens;

Stan Tillotson, who co-founded the Student Homophile League (SHL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969. SHL adopted its constitution in 1970 and changed its name to Gays at MIT (GAMIT) in 1976;

Rich Braun, who was involved in Gays at MIT (GAMIT);

Lois Johnson, who was involved in Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), an organization that sought to broaden awareness of gay lifestyles and seek civil rights for lesbians. The Boston chapter of DOB was founded in 1969;

Jim McCassie, who was involved in the Homophile Union of Boston; and

John Mitzell and Craig Thiersch, who were part of the Boston area's first Gay Community Center, opened in Cambridge in 1971.

Extent

12.50 cubic feet (17 containers)

Overview

William J. Canfield II was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1946. He was a gay activist in Boston and was involved in the Boston gay liberation movement between 1970 and 1975. In 1971-1972, Canfield was president of Homophile Union of Boston (HUB). The Homophile Union of Boston was founded in 1969 by Frank Morgan in order to broaden awareness of gay lifestyles and seek civil rights for gays and lesbians. Along with John C. Graves (MIT professor, psychologist, and psychotherapist at the Homophile Community Health Services (HCHS), an organization that served Boston's gay population, providing psychological counseling, medical services, draft counseling, and referrals for homeless teens.), Canfield was a primary force behind the second attempt at collecting materials for a Boston Gay and Lesbian Archives.

Overview

This collection was assembled by William J. Canfield II. It documents homophile groups (the Homophile Union of Boston (HUB), Student Homophile League (SHL)), services, and publications (Esplanade, Fag Rag, Gay Community News) in Boston in the late 1960s through the mid-1980s. In addition, the collection includes planning documentation for the Gay Liberation Reunion (GLR) of 1990 and the Boston Gay Reunion (BGR) of 1999.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 6 series: 1. Boston and Vicinity Gay Movement; 2. National Gay Organizations; 3. Gay Publications; 4. Boston Gay Reunions; 5. Boston Gay Archives Microfilmed Selections; and 6. Personal Papers.

Technical Access:

Ten of the twenty 3.5-inch floppy disks comprising Falinge Farm: Budgets failed to mount on departmental computers.

Physical Location

65/4, 40/1-2

Bibliography

  • "Multicultural Timeline." The History Project. June 22, 2000. http://www.historyproject.org/timeline/index.php (October 5, 2001)
Title
Finding aid for the William J. Canfield Papers
Author
Finding aid prepared by Michael Blech; updated by Dominique Medal
Date
2002, February 2015
Language of description
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US