Sociologist and activist Mary McIntosh (1936-2013) passed away at the same time that Sinead Wheeler was cataloguing newly-received papers into her archive at LSE Library. Mary’s papers reflect the great deal of ground covered in her research and activism, including gay rights, women’s liberation and race equality. Mary McIntosh was an early member of the Gay Liberation Front, which was founded at LSE in 1970.
Mary made an initial deposit of her personal archive with LSE in 2001. Beyond the documentary facts of her work and activism, the notes and correspondence (both personal and ‘business’) carry a lot of Mary’s good humour, energy and determination. The most recent deposit before her death was prompted by a general sort out in preparation for a house move.
“Sadly Mary McIntosh died this January and will be much missed by friends and colleagues. I last saw her in Spring 2012 when I went to collect several boxes of papers including some records of the Feminist Review Collective. Fortunately her legacy will continue in her work and her papers.” Sue Donnelly, LSE Archivist, 2013
Spanning 1955 to 2004 the papers include correspondence, research notes, campaigning materials, journals and pamphlets. They document her time as a graduate student (and protestor) at University of California, Berkeley; research into the sociology of homosexuality, and the homophile movement; research into prostitution and prostitutes’ rights campaigns; involvement with the women’s liberation movement and socialist-feminist groups; gay rights activism and time with the Gay Liberation Front; and race equality campaigning. Mary did some sorting and bundling of the papers before sending them over to us – in adding the papers to our catalogue this has been a huge help (as are the handwritten covering notes she added to most files!).
Mary spent 1958-60 as a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Sociology department at University of California, Berkeley. She sent frequent letters home to her parents, and these give a fascinating insight into her experience of studying and working in the college, the choices she was making about the direction her post-graduate work might take, and some hint of her political beliefs at the time. In reaction to Gaitskell’s defeat in the General Election of 1959, she writes: “It seems that it’s impossible for Labour, even with such a mild programme, to get in in ‘good’ times – enough to make you a revolutionist”. However, her letter home of 19 May 1960, following her arrest at San Francisco’s City Hall during an anti-HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) protest, comes somewhat out of the blue. It starts: “Everything is fine. This is just a brief note of reassurance in case you are worrying…” – in fact, Mary was subsequently deported as a result of her arrest.
The folder labelled ‘1960s homosexual research interviews etc.’ (MCINTOSH/M3765/3) contains correspondence and notes related to her research on the social situation of gay men, and the support networks available to them. As part of her project, McIntosh contacted a number of organisations in the US and international homophile movement (including the Mattachine Society, ONE Inc. and Daughters of Bilitis), and others concerned with homosexual rights and wellbeing such as the Albany Trust and Minorities Research Group. The replies Mary received, and her own observations, give a great insight into the activities and purposes of these groups – at a time leading up to the Sexual Offences Act (1967), which partially decriminalised gay relationships in the UK, and when there were competing demands for assimilation and confrontation within the homophile and gay rights movements in the US. Mary became a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front at LSE in 1970 and the GLF’s papers are part of the Hall-Carpenter Archive at LSE.
This research also led to McIntosh’s article ‘The Homosexual Role’, published in the American journal Social Problems in 1968. The paper argued for a move away from the pathological view of homosexuality prevalent at the time, and was an influential text in the development of queer theory and gay and lesbian studies. A separate file of papers sent by Mary includes copies of earlier unpublished papers from which the final article was partially drawn, along with correspondence with the publishers of Social Problems. Alongside the manuscripts, and other records documenting McIntosh’s research, these files also contain completed questionnaires and notes of meetings with gay men she interviewed in Leicester and London for her research. The interview notes (and related material such as notes made during visits to the Gateways club and the Gigolo Coffee Bar in Chelsea) will be an extremely rich source for research into gay men’s lives in the 1960s.
This file also contains correspondence between Mary and other writers and academics working in related areas, including Evelyn Hooker. Iris Murdoch had written an article in the Albany Trust’s journal Man and Society in August 1964, arguing against the view of homosexuality as a ‘social ailment’, and instead calling for a “more humane and charitable recognition of our right to differ from one another”. Mary and Iris met at St Anne’s College, Oxford, when McIntosh was an undergraduate, and Murdoch a Fellow and personal tutor. They met up to discuss Mary’s ideas and research, and kept up correspondence through notes and postcards.
Finally, two large envelopes Mary sent to us, containing pamphlets, journals and newsletters, again give an idea of the broad range of her interests, and the inter-connectedness which informed her work. There are six issues of journals published at Berkeley; newsletters and a fact sheet from the Leicester Campaign for Racial Equality, of which she was a founder; and a number of pamphlets published in the 1970s and 1980s by small presses and political and campaigning groups in the UK and abroad.
Contributed by Sinead Wheeler (formerly of LSE Library). This post originally appeared on the LSE Library blog.
Mary McIntosh archive collection at LSE