Remembering Our Dear Friend

From around the time of his retirement in 2005 to his passing in 2018, Neil Richards made the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections his home away from home. He had chosen to spend his retirement years doing what he loved: collecting rare or locally relevant materials related to LGBT+ lifestyles. Every morning he would enter with his distinctive shuffling step. A few jokes, a cheeky grin, a cup of coffee, and then he would settle down at his desk and begin a day of catching up on the latest in Queer news and chasing down the unique treasures that sang to his collector’s heart. These treasures would arrive in stacks of enticing packages, colorfully stamped. But Neil would always wait to open them until the afternoon — he enjoyed the anticipation. His desk was always piled high with these treasures–everything from sardonically witty postcards to comic books to a handwritten letter by iconic lesbian author Radcliffe Hall. Often, on my journeys back and forth across the archives, he would excitedly gesture me over, show me his latest E-Bay find, explain to me the fascinating history of the unassuming lavender pamphlet he held in a hand that had leafed through books by the thousands. His hands seemed to have an intelligence to them, as though he was able to gauge the value of anything he picked up just by touch. The joy Neil found in hunting down something rare, something unique, something one-of-a-kind was always present and often contagious. He inspired me to begin my own collections, showed me that collecting was not just about accumulating but about sharing, learning, and loving.

The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity, and all of Neil’s collection work was very much a labour of love, and in this post, I would like to share with you some of that work. Over the past thirteen years, numerous exhibitions, digital displays, blog posts and articles have been created around Neil’s collections. What follows is a (not nearly comprehensive) list of links to some of these byproducts of Neil’s devoted collecting work.

Digital Resources: 

Blog Posts and Articles:

In the News: 

Exhibitions and Events: 

Celebrating Saskatoon Pride

The Saskatoon Pride Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this June with its biggest, longest and most varied program with events running June 9th to June 21st. The University Library congratulates all connected to the Festival and to the many other organizations whose efforts are making Saskatoon and the University more equitable, supportive and exciting places.

The University Archives and the Special Collections Unit’s Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity share the Festival’s goal of fostering community pride and raising awareness of queer culture as well as facilitating research into LGBTQ history. The understandings and goals of those working towards greater freedom  have changed often and profoundly since the first printed appearance of the term ‘homosexual’ in an obscure 1869 German legal pamphlet. Uniting most of these efforts are courage, determination, and a desire to live and love visibly.  As a salute to Saskatoon Pride and its work, we highlight here a handful of our recent library acquisitions.

Radclyffe Hall letter:

To mark the acquisition of its 6,000th title the Neil Richards Collection has purchased a short autographed note from the celebrated Lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943). Dated March 28th 1925 and  addressed to Arthur St John Adcock, editor of The Bookman,  the note seeks a review for her new novel A Saturday Life.


“As you were kind enough to take an interest in “The Unlit Lamp” (1924) I am undertaking to send you my new book…it is in a lighter vein this time, and if you like it at all, it should be an enormous help if you would give it a few  kind words in “The Bookman”. The book is to be published next Wednesday-   April 1st!”  

In 1928 Hall gave up her role as a comfortable and respected society novelist to publish her most well-known work, The Well of Loneliness. The Well was a lengthy plea for tolerance for its main character, a masculine lesbian named Stephen Gordon, who described herself as did Hall as a “congenital invert.”

Hall received harsh abuse and only a modicum of support for her temerity in raising the issue of lesbianism. The book was the subject of a much publicized obscenity trial in the UK, which resulted in an order that all copies of the novel be destroyed. Despite efforts at censorship, including in Canada, the book became so widely read by lesbians that it was known as the Lesbian Bible.

Rudi van Dantzig : For a Lost Soldier

London: Gay Men’s Press, 1996

Rainbow Link, the Toronto based organization that redistributes LGBT title across Canada, is the most generous donor to the  Neil Richards Collection. Among the hundreds of titles received last year is this exceptionally hard to find title. For a Lost Soldier is a wartime memoir of the relationship between  a lonesome Dutch boy named Jeroen sent for safety to the marshlands of Friesland,  and Walt Cook, a young Canadian  soldier attached to the allied liberation effort in that area of the Netherlands.  Separated completely from his family and desperate for attention and understanding Jeroen mistakes Walt’s interest and sexual abuse as love and falls into anguish when Walt’s unit marches on leaving him behind.

The author is the acclaimed Dutch choreographer Rudy van Dantzig (1933-2012), one of the giants of late 20th century modern dance.  Voor een Verloren SoldaatFor a Lost Soldier was published in the Netherlands in 1986, filmed in 1992, and translated into English editions that sold out almost immediately. It is among the most sought of modern gay literature titles by collectors.

Chevalier Publications :

Fated for Femininity

Los Angeles: Chevalier Publications, 1965. First printing, no date (ca. 1965)

I Am A Male Actress

Los Angeles: Chevalier Publications, 1963. First printing, 1963,

Chevalier Publications was established in California in1963 by American transgender activist Virginia Prince (1912-2009) to publisher her magazine Transvestia and other publications promoting self-acceptance by male crossdressers.  These were sold by subscription and in adult bookstores. The intention was that readers would provide the articles and stories. For twenty years the magazine offered stories and letters, personal and business ads, and listings of upcoming events. The goal was threefold –education, entertainment and expression. The Library has recently acquired four titles from this pioneering press.

According to Prince’s Wikipedia entry, Transvestia’s audience consisted largely of white men who were interested in feminine apparel. In other works, Prince helped popularize the term ‘transgender’, and erroneously asserted that she coined transgenderist and transgenderism, words that she meant to be understood as describing people who live as full-time women, but do not intend to have genital surgery.  Prince’s idea of a “true transvestite “was clearly distinguished from both the homosexual and the transsexual, claiming that true transvestites are “exclusively heterosexual.”.

OutSaskatoon’s Rainbow Family Series : 

 Saskatoon: OutSaskatoon, 2016.

Since the early 1970s in LGBT circles Saskatoon has been known as a city that in terms of activism punches far above its own weight. OutSaskatoon, known previously as the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, has addressed the community’s social needs for over 26 years. In 2016, it published a series of four illustrated booklets dealing with the sexual and gender diversity of local families including aboriginal families. With texts  by Brent Beatty, Natasha King, Helen Thunderchild  and   Melody Wood and photography by Priscila Silva.

Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity

Using the Collections

In Making a Scene: Lesbians and Community Across Canada, 1964-84 (UBC Press 2015) author Liz Millward generously acknowledged the Richards collection at the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan for documenting the participation of lesbians in both social and political groups in the Canadian West.


In the summer of 2015 Shawna Lipton of Washington State University Vancouver travelled to Saskatoon to explore lesbian titles in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity. She returned to Saskatoon in September for a public presentation of her findings with Prof. Ann Martin of the U of S English Department. Titled Returning to the Well: Radclyffe Hall and the Marketing of Lesbian Pulp Fiction the presentation examined how the Well of Loneliness and Hall’s iconic lesbian status, affected the content and marketing of preStonewall lesbian fiction. The Library used this opportunity to greatly expand its collection of Hall titles, including sheet music based upon on her early poems

April 2016 brought a visit by Kevin Allen of the Calgary Gay History Project who discovered material about gay organizing in Calgary in the 1970s at the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, particularly dealing with participation in Prairie and National Gay Rights Conferences and the networking of private member gay social clubs that existed in Prairie cities in the 1970s.

Jonathan Petrychn, a doctoral candidate at York University, visited the Provincial and University Archives in June 2016, finding material for his thesis on the history of LGBT film festivals and screenings on the Canadian Prairies.

The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity

nanandhopePromoting the Collections

The U of S Archives & Special Collections regularly promotes the visibility and use of its sexual and gender diversity collections through in-house exhibitions and descriptive pieces on the unit’s blog.

In each of the past three years the collections have been highlighted with displays at the annual U of S Breaking the Silence conference and through contributions to exhibits presented each February by Out Saskatoon at the Heritage Festival of Saskatoon.

In March 2016 the Library prepared and displayed an exhibit from its extensive collection of vintage lesbian pulp fiction in conjunction with a screening of the classic Canadian documentary Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories O f Lesbian Lives (1992) at the Broadway Theatre. Co-director Lynne Fernie travelled from Toronto to reintroduce the remastered film to a new audience.

An exhibition of classic LGBT themed movie posters was also provided to the Saskatoon Public Library in conjunction with its spring series of LGBT documentaries Queer as Film

From October 2013 to summer 2016 the Saskatoon office of the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan welcomed visitors and researchers with a large exhibition on Saskatchewan LGBT history in its corridor display cases. The exhibit was curated by Joe Wickenhauser with material drawn principally from the Archives’ Neil Richards fonds.

To keep track of the Neil Richards Collection as it is being shared with audiences all over Saskatoon, follow us on twitter @sask_uasc or Facebook.

The following is an ever-growing list of the Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s online presence:

The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity

img588Building the Collections

The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity has continued to expand rapidly through in-kind gifts, purchases and the occasional commission.

In 2014 Special Collections was able to commission Cathryn Miller to produce a book artwork commemorating Joe Wickenhauser’s 2013 project Greystone Secrets: A Queerstorical Campus Walking Tour. The final product delighted everyone and provided the library with another major work by Saskatchewan’s most accomplished book artist. For more information see Miller’s description

In 2016 the Library was able to purchase two early titles of great historical interest. The first is the two volume 2nd edition (1821) of Johann Winckelmann’s (1717-1768) Monumenti Antichi Inediti, a collection of over 240 copper engravings of Greek and Roman sculptureWinckelmann is considered the founder of the discipline of art history and the leading catalyst for the neoclassical style. His ‘homosexual’ affairs were widely known to his contemporaries (including Goethe) and it is generally agreed that his aesthetic ideals were strongly influenced by the homoeroticism he saw in classical art. To mark its recent accession of its 5,000th title, the Library purchased a rare 1871 edition of Joseph and his Friend: a Story of Pennsylvania by American novelist Bayard Taylor (1825-1878). Taylor’s work has been described as “ America’s first homosexual novel” for its defence of those “who cannot shape themselves according to the common-place pattern of society.”

The Library’s most important recent gift is an enormous collection of books, magazines, papers and ephemera from the estate of local activist Gens Hellquist (1946-2013). Hellquist was one of the original organizers of Saskatoon’s gay community in the early 1970s and played a founding and leadership role in many of its organizations until his death. It is hoped this valuable collection can be made be available for research in 2017.

Hundreds of popular and academic titles have been acquired through the interest and generosity of The Rainbow Link,  a Toronto based organization which gathers and redistributes books of LGBT interest to community organizations and libraries across Canada, especially  to those not located in the biggest cities.

Neil Richards has continued donations to the collection, including additions to previous gifts of vintage physique magazines, sheet music associated with early cross-dressed entertainment, and magazine issues from the 1950s and 1960s featuring articles on homosexuality. Bruce Hugh Russell continued his generosity with the gift of many volumes dealing with Christianity and homosexuality. Several donors, including the USSU Pride Centre and Ron Jaremko, have provided many older issues of lesbian and gay lifestyle magazines, from the US, France, Australia and Russia.

baker004Among the U of S Archives most recent accessions is a large collection of movie posters and other ephemera that document the film industry’s long and rather tangled relationship to homosexuality and to LGBT audiences. The collection includes examples from over 150 LGBT themed films spanning the period 1961 to the present. The earliest example is a rare poster for Victim , a 1961 British suspense film dealing with the blackmail of homosexual men. It is credited with being the first English language feature to use the word homosexual and was an important early step towards the decriminalization of homosexual acts in England and Wales in 1967.

The collection is unusual in containing posters not only from Hollywood productions but also a large number from Canadian and European producers. An initial exhibition from the collection was presented in conjunction with Queer as Film ,the Saskatoon Public Library’s spring 2016 series of LGBT documentaries.

Freedom to Read Week 2016


The end of February heralds the return of Freedom to Read Week, which runs Feb 21-27. This week is meant to inspire Canadians to think critically about their intellectual freedom, and to educate the public about books being challenged and banned. There are many books that are still challenged and pulled from the shelves of schools and library’s every year and which impacts the rights of Canadians.

To celebrate Freedom to Read Week we have decided to highlight two often challenged children’s books from our Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah H. Brannen

UncleBobbysWeddingUncle Bobby’s Wedding  was banned due to its depiction of two men getting married but the reasons cited were “unsuited to age group”1 and as “advocate[ing] an illegal activity”.2

The story features a young Guinea Pig named Chloe who fears that her favourite Uncle won’t have time for her anymore after he gets married. But once she gets to know her uncle’s Fiancé better she becomes excited to have two uncles instead of one.  It is a charming book with beautiful illustrations which tells the story about a young girl who worries about losing the affection of her Uncle when he gets married – and it just so happens that he is marrying another man. In the most recent challenge to this book that could be found we are happy to report that the book remained on the shelves.

Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse

AshasMumsThe story in Asha’s Mums revolves around a young girl (Asha) who needs her permission form filled in by her parents so that she can go on the class field trip to the Science Centre. When her form comes back with two moms listed, Asha’s teacher insists that her form isn’t filled out correctly, and she will not be able to go on the field trip until it is. The rest of the story shows the other student’s disbelief turn to acceptance and even the teacher admits there is nothing wrong with it if “they’re nice to you and you like them” (Elwin & Paulse, 15). This book was banned from public schools in Surrey, B.C. in 1997 due to its “promotion of homosexual lifestyles”.3 A lawsuit was launched against the school board and in 2002 the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the school board’s decision on the basis that public schools are required to be “secular, pluralistic, and respectful of diversity”.4

1Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.” Favorite Banned Books. Accessed February 16 2016.
2Challenge to UNCLE BOBBY’S WEDDING Rejected in Missouri.CBLDF. Accessed February 16 2016.
3Challenged Books and Magazines List.Freedom to Read Week. Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council. 28. Accessed February 16 2016.

Queer-Negative Literature: Why Collect It?


In the past year, the Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity has begun expanding in a direction which may be surprising to many. Not only does this collection hold one of the widest arrays of queer literature in Canada, and not only does it contain numerous texts documenting the lives, struggles, and triumphs of LGBTQ2 persons from around the world – it now contains a small-but-growing selection of literature which may be considered by many LGBT or allies as homophobic, transphobic, or heterosexist. These are books which oppose or at the very least disagree with the goals of many LGBTQ2 persons, including anti-discrimination laws, same sex marriage, and the greater tolerance and acceptance of gay identity.

It may seem counter-intuitive to include materials of this ilk in a collection geared towards a creative and scholarly img594examination of differences of gender and sexuality. Indeed, texts which overtly denounce LGBTQ2 persons, which propose ways in which they can be “cured,” run exactly contrary to the spirit in which the Neil Richards Collection for Gender and Sexual Diversity was formed. Yet, without tracts of this nature, an important part of the history of gender and sexual diversity is lost.

If gay-negative texts were to be excluded from collections—if they were erased from history entirely– it would be easy to forget about the challenges faced by LGBTQ2 persons through time, and impossible to trace the ways in which society has evolved. In her article “Absence of Context: Gay Politics Without a Past,” Jen Manion makes the alarming observation that “the contemporary political img593movement for LGBTQ rights and equality has shown little interest in or . . . knowledge of [it’s] community’s history.” The loss of history for any community is a staggering blow, and it is this “dehistoricizing [of] queerness” that the Neil Richards Collection aims to combat. Only by preserving multiple aspects of queer history may a sense of community that stretches beyond spatial and temporal boundaries be formed, and only then may the suffering and successes of that community be fully understood.

Another significant reason for collecting anti-queer texts resides with societal accountability. Destroying texts which may be considered hateful does not erase that negative sentiment, but rather absolves the author of their words. On img592a large scale, the banishment of discriminatory literature provides a convenient reason to forget that discrimination and hate still exist within our society. If society is to be held accountable for discriminatory practices through time, evidence of that discrimination must be preserved. As Duff et al state in their 2013 study on the role archives and special collections may have in the realm of social justice : “Archival action . . . has the impact of raising awareness of inequality and discrimination,” which in turn leads to the “employment of intellectual and physical resources to challenge [those] inequalities.” Only by understanding historical imbalances can change come about.

The inclusion of such titles as Growing up Straight, Homosexuality: It’s Causes and Cure, and The Crises of     Homosexuality in the Neil Richards Collection for img591Sexual and Gender Diversity may, at first glance, be surprising. However, making these texts available to researchers provides a larger window onto LGBTQ2 history than that given from the queer perspective alone. It is the hope that, by providing as full a picture as possible, queer history can be reclaimed and society can be reminded of its responsibilities towards a segment of the population that has long been marginalized.


Duff, Wendy ; Flinn, Andrew ; Suurtamm, Karen ; Wallace, David. Social justice impact of archives: a preliminary investigation. Archival Science, 2013, Vol.13(4), pp.317-348

Manion, Jen.The Absence of Context: Gay Politics without a Past. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking July 2014, img598Vol.1(2), pp.115-131.



Trans* Awareness Week

Trans* Awareness Week is being celebrated at the University of Saskatchewan from March 29 – April 4th, as part of a wider array of events taking place province-wide. Today, March 31st, marks the 7th annual International Trans* Day of Visibility which celebrates Trans* people, and raises awareness about discrimination.

Discrimination in all of its forms is best fought by understanding, accepting, and ultimately looking past differences. In recent years, we have seen the development of Trans* children’s literature aimed at doing just that. In honour of Trans* awareness week, UASC shares some examples of these books from its Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity .

The first two books present two children, Morris and Bailey, who love dresses. Morris Micklewhite, in Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress feels wonderful in his tangerine dress, which goes “swish swish swish” and “crinkle crinkle crinkle”, and his little shoes that go “click click click”. Although Morris is initially made fun of by his peers, his powerful imagination and strong sense of fun eventually convinces them that  “it didn’t matter if astronauts wore dresses or not. The best astronauts were the ones who knew where all the good adventures were hiding.”sherrill005While Morris is given a hard time by his peers, Bailey, in 10,000 Dresses, finds herself with a different dilemma–being unable to find acceptance of her Trans* nature from her family. Although she dreams up beautiful dresses that she loves “with all her heart,” she is constantly told by her parents and siblings that “Boys don’t wear dresses.” The problem is, Bailey doesn’t feel like a boy. Like Morris, Bailey’s creativity earns her a friend, an older girl who tells Bailey: “You’re the coolest girl I’ve ever met!”

sherrill004Also featuring Trans* themes is Jacinta Bunnell and Nathaniel Kusinitz’s coloring book Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon. This small, quirky volume is dedicated to “everyone who has ever felt left out,” and features an array of images of trans youths and queer fairy-tale figures doing the things that make them happiest. From tie-wearing little girls who love trucks and dinosaurs to dolled up little boys who would rather play house, the coloring book provides a healthy, creative space where gender norms are constantly challenged. It also includes a page at the end asking some questions about gender—questions which would do well being considered by the young and old alike.

sherrill006These texts not only foster awareness and acceptance of gender diversity in young people, but also provide assurance to young people who may be struggling with their gender identity that they are not alone. As children begin to explore their gender identities at younger ages, the production of media creating safe and supportive spaces for this exploration will become both more common, and more crucial.

See these and other Trans* youth books at the University of Saskatchewan Library!

Baldacchino, Christine and Isabelle Malenfant. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. Toronto : Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, [2014]

Bunnell, Jacinta and Nathaniel Kusinitz. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon. Oakland, Calif. : PM Press, 2010

Coyote, Ivan E. One in Every Crowd: Stories. Vancouver, B.C. : Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012.

Espejo, Roman. Transgender People. Farmington Hills, Mich. : Greenhaven Press, 2011.

Ewert, Marcus and Rex Ray. 10,000 Dresses. New York : Seven Stories Press, 2008.

Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy. New York : Aladdin, 2011.

McLaughlin, Laureen. Cycler. New York : Random House, 2008.

Miles, Jeffrey A. The Princes and the Treasure. Handsome Prince Publishing, [2014]