The June Mazer Lesbian Archives had its grand re-opening on Sunday, May 6, at the newly renovated Werle Building in West Hollywood. The June Mazer Lesbian Archives is the largest archive on the West Coast, dedicated to preserving and promoting lesbian and feminist history and culture.
The grand re-opening celebration was themed around the remembrance of the Sisterhood Bookstore, which closed its doors in 1999. The exhibition “The Simone Wallace Collection of Sisterhood Bookstore” featured items shared by the beloved and legendary store’s co-founder Simone Wallace, who was on hand as the Archives’ honored guest.
Also on display are curated selections from the Archives’ extensive inventory of personal and collective histories donated by hundreds of lesbians and feminists. Central to the Archives’ mission is to encourage all lesbians to contribute the everyday mementos of their lives so that others may discover them in the future.
The Archives’ Director of Communications Angela Brinskele was on hand to answer questions. There were also 30-minute guided tours throughout the afternoon.
The Archive chose to spotlight the Sisterhood Bookstore at its grand reopening because of the store’s 27-year commitment to the diversity and the commonality of women’s experience, and its serving as a center of community for women in need of a sounding board. The bookstore’s mission was to thrive as an independent bookstore by offering the best service and the deepest, most diverse choice of books – and also provide a center for the women’s community where people would gather, exchange information, and the resources to move the community toward political action.
“I’m excited to have my collection here at the archives,” Co-owner, co-founder of the Sisterhood, Simone Wallace, told WEHO TIMES. “I love getting to see it, because it was in boxes for 15 years. People are coming up to me and saying how much the book store meant to them. Those are the best moments. People finding each other, finding the resources that they needed, finding the books that they needed for certain moments in their life, and I just love being able to facilitate that. I’m happy to be at the archives.”
“When I moved to L.A. in 87, I found my apartment off the bulletin board in the Sisterhood Bookstore,” Archives board member Marie Cartier, tells WEHO TIMES “I did my first reading of my poetry book there. There were 300 hundred of these book stores all across the United States and today there is 11. It really shifted the feminist landscape community. I have a book based on my PHD, called Baby You’re My Religion and it’s about lesbians and gay bars and how gay bars for gay people–pre-Stonewall–were so important to our community, but for me, coming out in ’79, book stores were that place. Sisterhood opened in 1972. That’s a year before we were considered not mentally ill by the profession. This book store became a place were we could create our own identity. I’m so grateful for the city of West Hollywood for giving us this space. There are only two lesbian archives in the United States that are specifically lesbian–here in L.A. and in New York–that have a permanent space where actual lesbian materials are housed, and where lesbians will not disappear.”
“This is an item that I sponsored many years ago to establish a permanent home for lesbian archives when we were re-doing the Werle Building.” said Mayor Pro-Tempore John Duran “It is our obligation as gay men to remember the role that lesbians played during the AIDS epidemic. Lesbians really took positions to leadership. They carried heavy lifting. They did all the organizing. Dianne Abbott was the first co-chair of AIDS Project Los Angeles. Lesbians rose to positions of leadership during AIDS. They carried us through this difficult time, and as gay men, we owe them and are are obligated to pay it back.”
June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives was founded in 1981 in Oakland, CA. The Archives moved to Southern California in 1985, and into the Werle Building – a 1940 Streamline Moderne structure owned by the City of West Hollywood – in 1989. The organization has been run solely by volunteers for most of its 37 years, operating with support from private donors and the City of West Hollywood. Additionally, the Archives has created an outreach and collection-building partnership with the UCLA Libraries.
The mission of the Archives is to collect, preserve and make accessible lesbian, feminist and women’s queer history as a means of providing a link among all generations of lesbians; to develop social activities, educational events, opportunities and programs that promote historical awareness; and to provide research and resource facilities. By creating a safe place for women to explore the richness of lesbian history, perhaps adding to it themselves, the Archives is paving the way for future generations to understand more fully their own identity and history and help maintain this vital link to their own past.
The June Mazer Lesbian Archives is open every Tuesday from 11AM-1PM, on weekends, and at other times by appointment. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310-659-2478 before paying a visit.