Donna May Smith was born on May 2, 1919, and was raised in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from high school, she found employment as a secretary in the offices of a union in the film industry. In 1939, she came out to a small group of lesbians and soon after she met her partner of 40 years, Valerie Jarrard. When Smith's mother learned of the relationship, she had her daughter arrested and committed to a mental institution. This experience was briefly documented in Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community (1985) and in Dorothy Engleman's Pride and Prejudice (1992). In the early 1980s, Smith became increasingly involved in lesbian and gay, animal welfare, and environmental organizations. In her later years she freelanced as bookkeeper and used those skills as Treasurer of the International Gay & Lesbian Archives and of the Society of Senior Gay & Lesbian Citizens' Project Rainbow. She died in Santa Monica, California on February 22, 1992.
Donna M. Smith Papers, Coll2006-002, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Hamilton, Wayne, ed. "Donna Smith Passes On." Project Rainbow Newsletter: North Hollywood Chapter, March/April 1992.
"In Memoriam: Donna Smith." The SCWU Newsletter, April/May 1992, 12.
"Obituaries: Donna Mae Smith." Update, May 20, 1992, A19.
Vaughn, Susan, "Before Stonewall: A Look at Gay History." Reader, November 1, 1985, 6.