Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation
C/O Allen Zwickler
First Manhattan Co.
437 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10022.
Dear Allen Zwickler,
I write to express my gratitude for having received a Phil Zwickler Memorial Grant, which allowed me to do five days of research at the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University in March 2006. I also wish to inform you about how this grant has helped my research and how I plan to use the research in the future.
I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of American Civilization at Brown University. My area of study is the history of sexuality in the United States. The Phil Zwickler Memorial Grant enabled me to conduct research on Anita Bryant's 1977-1980 "Save Our Children" campaign. My study of Bryant's campaign is part of my dissertation, which examines the intersection of the history of sexuality and the history of childhood. I focus on how fears of sexual danger to children played an important role in the rise of social conservatism and socially conservative sexual mores in the United States from 1969 to 1989.
Anita Bryant's homophobic campaign sought to overturn a civil rights ordinance that would protect gays and lesbians from job and housing discrimination. Her organization popularized the idea that gay men were child molesters and therefore did not deserve government protection or civil rights. Bryant's campaign successfully overturned the civil rights ordinance and started a nationwide backlash against gay and lesbian rights. She was, unfortunately, successful in pushing back many of the gains made by the gay liberation movement. Studying the success of Anita Bryant and Save Our Children is vital to understanding the roots of the organized campaigns against gay rights, which have since dominated electoral politics. On a broader level, studying the backlash against gay rights allows us to tell the stories of gay men and lesbians who fought against this backlash and struggled for civil rights in an inhospitable social climate.
At the HSC, I learned a great deal about Bryant's organization. I found a number of surprising and relevant documents including transcripts of Bryant's media appearances, her organization's tax records and their newsletters. These documents offered both context and content for Bryant's right wing movement. My research at Cornell has also yielded valuable information about the gay liberation movement and gay and lesbian culture. I learned that Bryant's successful campaign had the unintended consequence of reinvigorating gay and lesbian activism and struggles for civil rights. For example, I discovered periodicals, personal correspondence, diaries, and information packets authored by gay and lesbian activists and their organizations. These documents vastly increased my knowledge of the period and the ways in which gays, lesbians and their straight allies resisted the religious backlash against gay rights, which began in the 1970s. More interesting perhaps is that Bryant's campaign had complex consequences for the ways in which gay and lesbians imagined their identities, culture, the necessity for activism and their relations to one another.
Since completing my research at Cornell, I have presented my findings to Brown University's Queer Alliance at their Out to Lunch Series. I have also drafted a short article on Anita Bryant, which will appear in Encyclopedia of the Culture Wars. I plan to write a more extensive article that explores how gay and lesbian activists responded to Anita Bryant's campaign, which I hope to submit for publication within the next six months. In this article, I intend to explore the politicization of same-sex sexual identity in the 1970s and how this politicization continues to affect gay and lesbian populations that continue to struggle for and are unjustly denied equality under the law.
Once again, I want to emphasize how valuable the Phil Zwickler Memorial grant has been for me. Without it, I would not have been able to travel to Ithaca, New York and visit the archives there. Further, you should know how meaningful this grant is as there is currently a paucity of funding for scholars of sexuality, especially those who do research on gay and lesbian history. You have my deepest gratitude for this funding.
Thank you again,
Department of American Civilization