Sexual Minorities Archives To Present History Talk On Dr. Amber Starbuck & Mabel Stevens

Sexual Minorities ArchivesA group shot kept by Dr. Starbuck in a personal photo album shows gay and lesbian couples holding hands outside the Big House, Middlefield, MA, circa 1930. PHOTO: Sexual Minorities Archives

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HOLYOKE, Mass.—As part of its continuing original research series on pre-Stonewall era LGBTQ individuals who lived in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, the Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA) of Holyoke will present a new history talk about Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens of Middlefield. The two women were an out lesbian couple who ran a wellness resort called the Big House in Middlefield from the 1920s to 1960s. The history talk, Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors: Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens, will be shown to the public for the first time twice in Northampton in the coming weeks.

The first event will be at Forbes Library on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 7 p.m. in the Coolidge Museum on the library’s second floor. The talk is free and open to the public. Suggested donation to benefit the non-profit Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation is $10 per person, $5 for students and elders. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The second event will be at the Arts Trust Building, 33 Hawley St. on Friday, May 3, 2019, at 7 p.m., a collaboration between the Sexual Minorities Archives and Historic Northampton. Tickets available at the door are $10 general, $5 for students and elders.

The story of Starbuck and Stevens is a compelling narrative of pre-Stonewall queer lives and queer community, of lesbians openly living in rural Massachusetts, and working women who were trailblazers as prominent community leaders in Springfield as well as Middlefield, MA. This talk is especially for those interested in LGBTQI+ history, women’s and feminist history, early lesbian history in the Pioneer Valley, history of women’s participation in community organizations (both women were involved in the Springfield YWCA), women’s labor history in western Massachusetts, rural physicians and healthcare, gender non-conformity, and more.

The talk draws on a range of primary sources discovered and organized by the SMA—including local news clippings, print ads and posters, Big House artifacts, Census and Ancestry.com records, and, most notably, photographs from a personal album compiled by Starbuck and Stevens, and images from the Big House photographed recently by the SMA. These sources provide the visuals for the talk.

Stories of Our LGBTQ Ancestors: Dr. Amber Starbuck and Mabel Stevens teaches the community about local movers and shakers who were instrumental in forming businesses and organizations well before the start of the modern LGBTQ Movement but whose histories have been hidden—until now.

The history talk is a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation full of found images and historical facts about the two women, their work and love relationship, followed by a Question and Answer session.

For those who want to learn more about Starbuck and Stevens, the SMA will offer at the talk a PDF of an accompanying 80-page, annotated SMA original research paper that includes photos not shown in the presentation, for an additional donation of $10.

The SMA’s team of researchers, led by Curator of the SMA, Ben Power, who is the Executive Director of the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, spent five years conducting in-depth research and compiled it into this new history talk.  Everyone is welcome to attend. Both events are wheelchair-accessible.

[From a News Release]

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