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Donna M. Smith papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Coll2006-002

Scope and Content of Collection

The Donna M. Smith papers consist of correspondence, photographs, and other materials, primarily of a private nature, that document Smith's life and her interests in lesbian and gay rights, the environment, and animal welfare. The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence including: an exchange of letters with Celia Hunter, Alaska conservationist and environmentalist; letters and cards from Ruth Poirier and Doris Pressler (Pressler, the first woman civil engineer in the county of Los Angeles also played with Peggy Gilbert and The Dixie Belles); and Suzanne Kushner. The personal correspondence contains postcards to her partner Valerie Jarrard from the 1950s. The General correspondence consists of Smith's letters regarding political and volunteer activities. Other materials include four address books used by Smith and a journal, written in the third person, describing Donna's and Valerie's vacations, 1973-1977. A file of educational materials (1980) from a class sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Community Service Center includes information on counseling Gays and Lesbians, and the syllabus for the class Theories, Development, and Intervention Strategies for the Homosexualities. Smith's statement to the Franchise Tax Board following Valerie's death (1982) underscores the challenges survivors of same-sex relationships encountered. Other files contain Smith's identification and membership cards, as well as her will and several obituaries. The photographs (1987-1991) depict Smith with friends, and document her involvement in the community, in particular with the Lesbian & Gay Rights Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Color negatives of many of the photographs also survive in the collection, as well as large-format black-and-white negatives for which no prints exist.


  • 1940-1992 (bulk 1990-1991)
  • Majority of material found within 1990 - 1991



The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).


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.


.4 Linear Feet (1 archive carton)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, photographs, vacation journals, and educational materials, 1940s to 1992, documenting the life of Donna M. Smith; her relationship with her partner of 40 years, Valerie Jarrard; her relationship to other friends, in particular Celia Hunter, Ruth Poirier and Doris Pressler; and her involvement with lesbian and gay rights, the environment, and animal welfare.

Acquisition Information

Collection bequested to the International Gay and Lesbian Archives per the will of Donna May Smith upon her passing in 1992.

Processing Information

Formerly housed in box 103-266 and the following subject files: Donna Smith, Celia Hunter, and Matthew of Glendale. Collection processed by Michael C. Oliveira, October 3, 2006

Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Additional materials added by Kyle Morgan, 2015.

Finding aid of the Donna M. Smith Papers
Donna M. Smith
© 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in: English

Repository Details

Part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, University of Southern California Repository

909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles California 90007 United States
(213) 821-2771