A rainbow ribbon and safety pin

LGBT collections

"Every person has the right to explore their sexuality through relationships with any other human being without moral, social or political pressure..." - Gay Liberation Front, 1970

Gillian Murphy portrait image

Author

Gillian Murphy

Curator for Equality, Rights and Citizenship.

Background 

Our collection contains primary source material mainly relating to gay and lesbian rights. The collection is particularly strong for campaigning from the late 1950s to the 1990s. LSE Library’s main LGBT collection is called the Hall-Carpenter Archives in honour of Radclyffe Hall and Edward Carpenter, although there is no material relating to these two people in this archive. 

Becoming legal 

Following the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957, a small lobbying movement formed to bring about changes in the law. The campaign ended with the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalised homosexuality in private.  

 We hold the archives of key figures and organisations involved in this campaign. 

  • Tony Dyson - instrumental in setting up the Homosexual Law Reform Society in 1958 
  • Antony Grey - one of the key campaigners 
  • Albany Trust - campaigned for decriminalisation of homosexuality and became an educational and counselling organisation.
Early Gay Pride march
An early Gay Pride in London, c.1970.

Coming out and going out in the 1970s 

Numerous gay and lesbian groups emerged during the 1970s. Gay theatre and gay pubs and clubs also flourished. These are a few examples. 

GLF badge
Gay Liberation Front badge. 

Backlash of the 1980s 

The era of Margaret Thatcher’s government is renowned by activists as a time when the establishment fought against gay rights.  

Quest for equality into the 1990s 

Prominent collections relating to legislative changes since 1997 include: 

Vera Jack Holme
Vera 'Jack' Holme. 

Lesbian history 

Records of lesbian relationships from the early 20th century and before are often ‘hidden history’. This blog by Anna Kisby, former archivist at The Women’s Library, provides ideas on researching lesbian history. 

Some examples of lesbian history are: 

How to search 

You can find more material on this topic using a person’s name, by organisation, by event, by keyword eg bisexuality, gay, gender, gender minorities, lesbian, pornography, sexuality, transgender in these catalogues. 

How to access 

Most of the material highlighted here is stored in closed access and must be consulted in The Women’s Library Reading Room. Find out how to book your place and order material on our  access archives and special collections page.

Further information 

If you need specific help with any of the collections mentioned here get in touch with our Curator for Equality, Rights and Citizenship, Gillian Murphy