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92 Snell Library
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-2351

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Collection Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note

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Collection
Title:Bromfield Street Educational Foundation records
Dates:1963-2003 (bulk 1985-1993)
Call Number:M64

Historical Note

Between 1973 and 1999, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation of Boston was one of the oldest and most progressive voices in the gay community. The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation advocated for gay rights and promoted awareness of gay lifestyles, most significantly through the publication of the Gay Community News. The Gay Community News was widely known as the most liberal newspaper in the gay community and often dealt with controversial issues not covered by other publications. The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation also sponsored other projects, including the Prisoner Project, a means to assist gays and lesbians in prison; OutWrite, an annual conference of gay and lesbian writers; the Queer Progressive Organizing School, an attempt to better organize the progressive gay community; and Off-the-Page, a series of readings by gay and lesbian writers.

The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation was originally established as the Gay Community News in 1973. From the Charles Street Meeting House, the first edition of Gay Community News was published on June 17, 1973. The paper was founded by a group of eight Boston gays and lesbians who were looking for a better way to communicate with the local gay community. In less than a year, Gay Community News developed from a two-page mimeograph to an eight-page, tabloid-style newsprint, and moved its office to 22 Bromfield Street. On March 8, 1975, two major changes were made to the paper. First, the newspaper was printed in color. Second, the distribution of Gay Community News expanded, and it became a regional voice for the gay community in the Northeast. In the summer of 1978, the membership of Gay Community News voted to become a national newspaper in both its focus and distribution.

The Prisoner Project began in 1975, as a result of the efforts of staff member Mike Riegle, who responded to letters sent by prisoners to Gay Community News and gave them free subscriptions. The project soon expanded, with the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation F sending prisoners books, providing legal reference, and receiving and publishing letters and writings about homophobia, sexism, and racism in prisons. In 1977, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation and the National Gay Task Force successfully sued the federal prison system and won the right for prisoners to receive gay publications. Despite this verdict in 1980, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation spent subsequent years arguing on behalf of prisoners who were denied copies of the Gay Community News and other gay and lesbian publications. Beginning in 1981, a regular prisoners column was published in the Gay Community News.

In 1979, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation began a five-year battle to gain non-profit status from the IRS. The paper believed that it would not receive non-profit status until it had removed the word 'gay' from its business title. The Foundation changed its business name from the Gay Community News to the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation on July 1, 1982. On March 2, 1984, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation received non-profit status. The Foundation was organized with three decision-making bodies: the board of directors, the paid staff, and the membership, which consisted of the board, staff, and volunteers. On July 7, 1982, the office at 22 Bromfield Street was gutted by a fire. The fire was eventually linked to a string of arsons. On August 11, 1982, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation moved its operations to the fifth floor of 167 Tremont Street, after almost nine years at Bromfield Street. In 1983, the paper acquired its own typesetting machine and began printing the paper in-house. On June 17, 1983, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation celebrated its tenth birthday. The date was preceded by a year filled with events and benefits leading up to the birthday celebration.

By 1991, the Gay Community News was the oldest, continuously published, national gay newspaper. The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation was then operating with a paid staff of ten and publishing the paper in a 20-page format. Despite its popularity, the Gay Community News continuously experienced financial difficulties. On July 3, 1992, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation ceased publication to restructure the organization. As part of the reorganization, the position of foundation director was established, and each of the Foundation's projects was assigned separate personnel with distinct responsibilities. The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation also formulated a new goal to publish the Gay Community News bimonthly as a 28 to 32-page tabloid. In April 1993, a pilot of the new edition was distributed at the Gay Pride March on Washington.

In the 1990s, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation became involved in OutWrite, an annual conference that offered lectures and workshops for gay and lesbian writers and non-writers. It promoted the writings of gays and lesbians, and encouraged other gays and lesbians to write. The first two conferences in 1990 and 1991 were sponsored by OUT/LOOK magazine in San Francisco. In 1992, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation became a co-sponsor with OUT/LOOK. After OUT/LOOK went out of business, the Foundation became the sole sponsor and held the 1993 OutWrite in Boston. When they moved the conference from fall to spring, the fifth annual OutWrite did not take place until 1995. In 1997, OutWrite was cancelled when the scheduled hotel backed out of its agreement. To make up for the cancellation, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation held OutWrite Lite '97, a one-day, regional conference in the fall. OutWrite resumed in 1998 and 1999.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation sponsored Off-the-Page, a semi-monthly reading and writing series. They invited gay and lesbian writers to Boston to give readings of their works at local restaurants. The readings were free and open to the public. Believing that the queer movement had become too conservative, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation organized the Queer Progressive Organizing School in order to create a more organized, progressive queer voice. The school took place on July 4-6, 1997 at the Craigville Conference Center in Craigville, Massachusetts. It involved 30-35 grassroots activists from the greater Boston area.

In its last decade, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation moved repeatedly. In 1987, the group moved from their Tremont Street location to Berkeley Street. Five years later on June 30, 1992, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation moved again to 25 West Street. For financial reasons on September 1, 1995, they moved into the Boston Living Center at 29 Stanhope Street. In 1999, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation ceased operations.
Chronology
6/17/1973The first edition of the Gay Community News published on a two-page mimeograph sheet.
7/8/1973Gay Community News switches to a four-page, printed format.
10/20/1973Gay Community News becomes eight pages.
3/30/1974Gay Community News moves office to 22 Bromfield Street.
1-1974Gay Community News switches to newsprint and maintains a paid staff.
1975Mike Riegle begins the Prisoner Project.
3/8/1975Gay Community News adds color and expands commercial distribution.
Summer 1978Membership votes to become a national power.
7/10/1979Official business title becomes the National Gay News.
4/20/1982Bromfield Street Educational Foundation is organized under the authority of Massachusetts as a non-profit corporation.
7/1/1982Gay Community News changes its official business name to the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation for federal tax purposes.
7/71982Gay Community News offices at Bromfield Street are destroyed by fire.
8/11/1982Offices are moved to the fifth floor of 167 Tremont Street.
6/17/1983The paper celebrates its tenth birthday.
3/2/1984Bromfield Street Educational Foundation receives tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization from the IRS.
11/17/1986The Commonwealth of Massachusetts dissolves the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation's charter for failing to file annual reports.
10/21/1986The Commonwealth of Massachusetts revives Bromfield Street Educational Foundation's charter.
1991Bromfield Street Educational Foundation expands to a 20-page format with a staff of ten paid employees.
6/30/1992Bromfield Street Educational Foundation moves its offices to 25 West Street.
7/3/1992Bromfield Street Educational Foundation temporarily suspends publication of Gay Community News to restructure its administration, with the goal of publishing a bimonthly paper.
Fall 1992Bromfield Street Educational Foundation co-sponsors the OutWrite Conference in San Francisco with Out/Look magazine.
4/1993Gay Community news publishes a pilot issue in its new format for the Gay Pride March on Washington.
Fall 1993Bromfield Street Educational Foundation becomes the sole sponsor of the OutWrite Conference and moves it to Boston.
9/1/1995Bromfield Street Educational Foundation moves into the Boston Living Center at 29 Stanhope Street.
7/1997Bromfield Street Educational Foundation sponsors the Queer Progressive Organizing School.
1999Last issue of Gay Community News is published.
Spring 1999Bromfield Street Educational Foundation sponsors the last OutWrite Conference.