History of SMA

Organizational Timeline

1972: Chicago Women’s Center founded by the Lesbian Feminist Collective; renamed the Lesbian Feminist Center (LFC) in 1974.

July 12, 1974: The New Alexandria Library for Women (NALW) founded within the Lesbian Feminist Center (LFC) at 3523 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois.

September 1974: Name change to the New Alexandria Lesbian Library for Women (NALLW).

1976: Ben (then Bet) Power begins volunteering at the Lesbian Feminist Center (LFC) bookstore, and then at the NALLW.

October 1977: J.R. Roberts (aka Barbara Henry) moves to Boston, Massachusetts. Ben Power relocates the NALLW collection to his apartment at 7404 N. Hoyne, in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, which he shares with Diane Sievers.

February 1978:  The Center Bookstore and Lesbian Feminist Center Collective vote to close and cease operations. By end of February, the LFC sells much of its stock and donates what remains to the library.

1978: One of the rarest books in the NALLW is acquired: a limited-run, first edition copy of The World Is Round by Gertrude Stein, autographed by Gertrude Stein and artist Clement Hurd in 1939. The book was purchased for $90 at an auction in Chicago, Illinois by Ben Power Alwin and Sara Hoagland, who donated it to the NALLW.

1979: Ben Power and Diane Sievers relocate to New England, moving the NALLW to the former residence of lesbian author Jill Johnston in Huntington, Massachusetts.

1979: Power streamlines the library’s name to the New Alexandria Lesbian Library (NALL).

1980: Power and Diane Sievers move the NALL to a large, rented house in Worthington, Massachusetts. After 10 months there, the couple separates.

1981: Power moves the NALL to his apartment in the Old Silk Mill Building overlooking the Mill River at 260 Main Street in Leeds, Massachusetts, where it quickly outgrows the space.

1983: Power moves the NALL to 146 Riverbank Road, Northampton, Massachusetts, where it continues to be a core collection within the Sexual Minorities Archives.

January 1, 1992: Power changes the name of the NALL to the Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA). Power expands the holdings to include the literature, history, and art of all sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, inclusive of LGBTQI, BD/SM, and other emerging identities.

April 2006: The SMA creates Marching Toward Freedom: 25 Years of the Northampton LGBT Pride March, a photographic historical exhibit displayed for one month at the Historic Northampton Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts.

February 19, 2011: First meeting of the Board of Directors of the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation (SMEF), Inc.

April 23, 2011: Bylaws of the SMEF, Inc. are adopted by the SMEF Board of Directors.

June 2011: The Sexual Minorities Archives creates a Facebook page.

September 26, 2011: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizes the SMEF, Inc. as a registered non-profit, its Articles of Organization being written and filed by Bet Power Alwin.

February 5, 2012: The SMA presents to the public its first pre-Stonewall, Pioneer Valley LGBTQ history talk – Stories of Our LGBT Ancestors – on Anna de Naucaze and Ye Rose Tree Inn Northampton, Massachusetts. SMA student intern Elizabeth Kent conducted research and developed the presentation.

November 11, 2012: The SMA presents to the public its second pre-Stonewall, Pioneer Valley LGBTQ history talk on Marion Turner of Florence, Massachusetts.

June 16, 2013: Journey Through Lesbian Mecca: The Northampton LGBTQ History Walking Tour is developed by the SMA and is offered to the public for the first time, co-guided by SMA volunteer Elizabeth Kent, who conducted the research, and SMEF Executive Director Ben Power Alwin.

July 30, 2011: 501(c)(3) application for non-profit status for the SMEF, Inc.,written by Ben Power Alwin, is filed with the IRS.

September 2013: The SMA launches a Twitter page (@SMA_NoHo).

September 2013: The SMA creates a Wikipedia page about Ernestine Eckstein, a pre-Stonewall Black lesbian activist. The page is currently in Wikipedia review.

June 2014: The owner of the house where the SMA has been located for 32 years puts the Northampton property up for sale; BenPower Alwin secures a mortgage and takes steps to purchase the long-time home of the SMA.

July 8, 2014: The SMA receives the benefit of over $30,000 in funded projects and programs supported by the President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, a statewide grant from the University of Massachusetts.

July 12, 2014: The SMA celebrates its 40th anniversary.

August 11, 2014: The Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation (SMEF), Inc. becomes an IRS- certified federal 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations to SMEF, Inc. become tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

October 2014: The owner of the house in Northampton, Massachusetts where the SMA has been located for 32 years refuses to sell the property to Ben Power Alwin.

March 26, 2015: Ben Power Alwin purchases a larger house for the SMA, SMEF, and himself at 135 Lincoln Street, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, its current location.

Fall 2015: Moving of the SMA collections begins from Northampton to Holyoke, Massachusetts.

June 3, 2017: Official opening of the SMA in Holyoke, Massachusetts and inauguration of the Leslie Feinberg Library in the SMA.

October 21, 2017: Official opening of Out Books On Wheels, the free LGBTG lending library, within the SMA.