The Smith LGBTQ Alumnae Alliance, the first group of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) alumnae and allies, has a membership of 287 [as of May 2009], representing 51 classes spanning seven decades, 1947-2008. We reside in 29 states, D.C., and 4 foreign countries. Most members live in the Boston area, California, and New York City.
In July, 2008, the Alumnae Association’s Affinity & Special Interest Group Committee (ASIC) approved our Mission Statement and officially recognized us as a “community” of AASC. With this status we were able to link this website to the AASC site and to receive Alumnae Association support for events during reunion weekends. We are in the process of writing by-laws and preparing to implement a formal organizational structure which, when approved by ASIC/AASC, will give us Affinity Group status and the support of the Alumnae Association for a wide array of activities. Until a formal organization is in place, we are governed by a 12-member Steering Committee.
The sole requirement for membership at this time is being a Smith alumna/us. With affinity group status, a dues structure will be put into place.
The LGBTQ Alumnae Alliance is not the first group of LGBTQ alumnae to organize. Apocrypha has it that in the early 1970’s there was a short-lived group calling itself Sophia Sisters. But, the first formal organization, the Feminist & Lesbian Alumnae of Smith College (FLASC) grew out of a meeting at the 10th reunion of the Class of 1978 and over the next five years or so served as an alumnae group supportive of lesbians and radical feminists. At its peak, FLASC had some 250 members.
FLASC stated its purpose as “an organization of Smith College Alumnae committed to the political and personal growth of women who have otherwise felt unrepresented in the Alumnae Association. We value our common experience at Smith and we value the diversity of its student body and alumnae. We recognize the oppression of women in this society. As an organization we are committed to providing a forum which supports and fosters women, without regard to ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion or political affiliation.”
FLASC published at least 10 newsletters, held annual meeting and social events at reunion; supported regional activities; funded feminist and lesbian speakers on campus as well as advocated for feminist and lesbian issues at the college; and awarded summer internships to Smith students to work with FLASC alumnae mentors in a variety of professions.
LGBTQ Alumnae Alliance
The LGBTQ Alumnae Alliance grew out of an informal mini-gathering of members of the classes of 1957, 1982, 1997 and 2005 held on Commencement weekend at the 2007 Reunion. It was called by Brooke Trent, a member of the 50th reunion class. LGBTQ alumnae as well as those whose children were gay and those who felt allied with the LGBTQ community in their personal or professional lives were invited to attend. In a room tucked away on the third floor of Seelye, 25 alums gathered for 3 plus hours and shared their many varied stories with each other.
The consensus of the group was:
- To continue to communicate with each other — and an expanded group of alumnae across generations
- To become an affinity group of the Alumnae Association
- To have similar gatherings at future reunions.
With these three goals in mind, the Alumnae Association was approached in the fall of 2007 to ask that the group become an AASC affinity group and that the AASC support the group’s holding reunion events. The timing turned out to be fortuitous. The Alumnae Association, in a new commitment to diversity in its membership and activities, had just formed an Affinity/Special Interest Committee (ASIC) and wanted our community to be included in this effort. We were assigned a staff liaison at the Alumnae Association to guide us through the process of becoming an affinity group and connect us with supportive staff and faculty at the college.
In November 2007 the Smith E-news was asked to carry an announcement of the group’s formation and 60 alumnae responded. A second E-news announcement in January 2008 attracted another 40 members.
Also in November, the Yahoo listserv got underway. Members began introducing themselves as well as topics of interest and concern to our community. In the course of many lively–sometimes heated–conversations over the past year, almost 1,000 messages have been exchanged.
Realizing the vision
In January 2008 we began the task of developing an organization–naming it, giving it a mission statement and deciding on the structure, programs and activities we wanted to undertake. A small planning meeting, headed by Jacquelyn Woodworth ’92, now our Steering Committee coordinator, and Ileana Jimenez ’97, one of the original mini-gatherers and our liaison with ASIC, was held in New York City to work on the mission statement. In March, in Boston, Deborah Heller ’61, one of our first members and Sheryl Howard ’97, now a Steering Committee member, convened a meeting of 14 members who deliberated long and hard on the name, mission, structure and program concepts. The results of that meeting were broadcast to the Yahoo listserv for comment and then, in April, transformed by our webmaster, Jennie Abbingsole ’95, into a Survey Monkey to which two-thirds of our members responded. It was after that–and not without many intense and divergent opinions–that we became the LGBTQ Alumnae Alliance, with the Mission Statement you see on this website on the home page.
In April also, 12 of our members agreed to come together as a Steering Committee to lead the group on a interim basis until officers were elected as part of an official affinity group organization. And, in May, a year from our beginnings, we held the first official Alumnae Association-sponsored events for lgbtq alumnae and were joined by 52 more members, including members of the ’08 graduating class.
We submitted our application to become a Community of the AASC in July and were approved soon after. The Steering Committee is in the process of drafting by-laws that will describe the official organization we need to be approved as an AASC affinity group. Look for that announcement here in Spring 2009.
*The photos on this page were all found online. They are place-holders until we can get real Smith Archives or other community-provided photos for our site. If you can help us collect images that we are permitted to use, please contact us!