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Green Street Lesbian Rooming House Records, 1977-1999 (Bulk: 1977-1986)
5 boxes (2.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 554

Abstract:
Women's rooming house. The collection consists of house logbooks including announcements, phone messages, minutes of occasional house meetings, and personal messages between residents. The entries are revealing of the women's personal lives, daily life in the rooming house, and the Northampton lesbian community.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The Papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, with the following exception: Researchers must sign an Access Agreement Form before using this collection, agreeing to protect the confidentiality of living persons.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to writings by the donor of the collection only. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to writings authored by others is owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Historical Note

The Green Street Rooming House was a lesbian cooperative started in the Elmhurst apartment house at 66 Green St in Northampton, Massachusetts. It operated from circa 1975 to 1992. From the 1960's on, Northampton had become a haven for lesbian and feminist activity. Some residents of the boarding house were students at the five colleges, and others were lesbians coming out of the closet seeking freedom to express their sexuality. The rooming house was established as a lesbian-only residence with a designated live-in manager who functioned as a liaison between the residents and the landlord. The house operated in a cooperative spirit by rotating cleaning chores and sharing in the preparation of meals. A notebook was always kept in the central hallway for residents to write messages to each other.

The owner and landlord, Michael Cohen and his assistant manager John Knowles, provided basic house supplies, such as toilet paper, soap, light bulbs and cleaning products and also authorized maintenance for heat, electric and plumbing. Initially, the landlord was not told that the current lesbian tenants were starting a lesbian-only household. Eventually, he found out and thought it amusing that a group of women wanted to maintain a cooperative community in a rooming house. In 1992 the building was sold to Housing and Economic Resources for Women and it eventually became a co-ed rooming house. In 2007 it was bought by Smith College and was torn down in 2013.

66 Green Street, 2013

66 Green Street, 2013

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection contains forty-six spiral bound notebooks that were used for communication between the residents, not only to record house meetings but also as a resource for finding new tenants. These house logbooks include announcements, phone messages, artwork, minutes of occasional house meetings, and personal messages between residents. The entries reveal aspects of the women's personal lives, daily life in the rooming house, and the Northampton lesbian community.

Various local women's events and organizations are mentioned repeatedly, such as The Common Womon Club; Lesbian Gardens; contra dances and women's dances at The Hanger and dances in Hartford, Connecticut; Rhythm Queens Softball Team; Eve's garden; Valley Women's Martial Arts School; Queer Disco; WomonFyre bookstore; Lesbian Connection magazine; Izquierda - Shabatu; Valley Women's Voice; Women in Construction program; and a Chris Williams concert at Smith College. Some national events, such as the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, are mentioned as well.

In January 1983 there is discussion of the murder of a resident by another resident outside of Northampton. The accused was incarcerated at Bridgewater State Mental Hospital for fifteen years, at which time she went to trial and confessed. The residents living in the house at the time of the murder were visited by the FBI, newspaper and TV stations, all looking for details to publish and sensationalize the story.

Over the years residents were active in feminist and lesbian causes, including the "Virginia to Vermont Bike-a-thon," a fund for the Lesbians Mother's Defense Fund whose riders stopped in Northampton at the invitation of the residents. Another cause supported the Women's Pentagon Action in October 1980 that resulted in thirty-six women being sent to jail for thirty days. When a Green Street restaurant laid-off three "dykes" in one day, the establishment was picketed. Another boycott involved a window display at "Strut," a shoe store downtown.

Violence against women is a recurring theme in the notebooks. Incidents discussed include a "Peeping Tom," attacks on women in the Green Street area and a "creepy guy" downtown who made lewd gestures to women. A late 1979 logbook mentioned how Springfield experienced thirteen rapes in five weeks.

Resident lesbians worked in non-traditional jobs and had a variety of skills and were adept at such things as car repair, carpentry, painting, and riding motorcycles. They engaged in friendly banter, shared meals and watched out for each other. Communication of common daily issues that emerge in cooperative living, such as late rents, food theft, leaky plumbing, neglect of housekeeping chores, phone bills, and disregard for house rules are peppered throughout the logbooks. There is also a folder of newspaper articles that provide further insight into the murder in 1983.

The donor of the collection provided written summaries for some logs found in box one and two with named residents and topics. The collection also includes excerpts of the mission statement and long term goals and objectives of The Valley Women's History Collaborative (VWHC), a group that formed in 1998.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The Papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, with the following exception: Researchers must sign an Access Agreement Form before using this collection, agreeing to protect the confidentiality of living persons.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to writings by the donor of the collection only. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to writings authored by others is owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Green Street Lesbian Rooming House Records", Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass."

History of the Collection

The Green Street Lesbian Rooming House Records were donated by Paige Bridgens in 2006.

Processing Information

Processed by Wendy Essery (Fraenkel Intern), 2012


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English

Contents List
SERIES I SERIES



Valley Women's History Collaborative: printed materials,
1998-1999, n.d.

Box 1: folder 1
General: clippings,
Jan 1983

Box 1: folder 1
House logbooks



Feb 1977 - Mar 1980

Box 1: folder 2-9
Mar 1980 - Aug 1981

Box 2: folder 1-13
10 Aug 1981-19 Nov 1982

Box 3: folder 1-9
Nov 1982 - Sept 1984

Box 4: folder 1-7
Mar 1985 - Aug 1992

Box 5: folder 1-8

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Communal living -- Massachusetts -- Northampton
  • Female friendship -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Feminism -- Massachusetts -- Pioneer Valley -- History
  • Gay rights -- Massachusetts -- History
  • Green Street Lesbian Rooming House (Northampton, MA)
  • Housing, Cooperative -- Massachusetts -- Northampton -- History -- Sources
  • Lesbian communities -- Massachusetts -- Northampton -- History -- Sources
  • Lesbians -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Lesbians -- Political activity -- Massachusetts
  • Lesbians -- United States -- Social life and customs
  • Lesbians -- Violence against women -- Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Women in sports -- Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century -- Sources


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