Reed L. Erickson papers
Scope and Content
This collection consists of legal papers, correspondence, meeting minutes, newsletters, pamphlets, publicity material, photographs, clippings, research material, financial records, manuscripts, handwritten notes, card catalogs, audiotape, ephemera and other material from philanthropist and female-to-male transgender/transsexual activist, Reed Erickson (1912-1992). The bulk of this collection is related to the activities of the EEF, research material on gender identity, as well as Erickson's relationship with ONE, Incorporated, which he supported financially for nearly twenty years. The collection also includes some material on Erickson's personal life, including material related to Erickson's children, his former wives, and his health- and drug-related complications in the last years of his life.
The collection is divided into six series:
(1) The Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF) series comprises minutes, correspondence, publications, ephemera, and other records documenting the activities of the EEF. Some of the materials were created and maintained by Zelda Suplee, who served as EEF director and, ostensibly, as personal assistant to Erickson.
(2) The ONE, Incorporated and the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR) series comprises material that documents the relationship between Erickson, ONE, Inc., and ISHR. The bulk of this series consists of papers related to the legal dispute over the Milbank Estate, a real estate property that Erickson purchased in 1983, and which was occupied by ONE, Inc.
(3) The Personal series comprises financial records, correspondence, family-related materials, writings and other materials from Erickson's personal life.
(4) The Resources and research material series comprises clippings, journals, pamphlets, manuscripts and other informational material about transgender and transsexual issues, gender identity, and related subject matter.
(5) The Photographs series comprises photographs of Reed Erickson, as well as other subjects related to his life. Notably, this series includes Erickson's photo album entitled "Eric's Ego Trip," which has photographs of Erickson throughout his life, including early years when Erickson lived as female.
(6) The Audiotape series comprises reel-to-reel audiotapes with recordings of presentations and workshops on transsexual issues.
- Majority of material found within 1964 - 1994
- Erickson, Reed L. (Creator, Person)
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.
Researchers wishing to publish material must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as the physical owner of the material. Note that permission to publish does not constitute copyright clearance. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials from the copyright holder(s).
Reed Erickson was born in El Paso, Texas, on October 13, 1917. Initially named Rita Alma Erickson, Erickson assigned female at birth. Erickson spent most of his early life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating high school, Erickson attended Temple University. Erickson moved with his family to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resulting in a transfer to Louisiana State University. Erickson moved back to Philadelphia after graduating from Louisiana State University with a degree in mechanical engineering. In the early 1950s, Erickson returned to Baton Rouge, working in his family's business before starting his own company making stadium seating, Southern Seating. In 1962, Erickson's father passed away, leaving him the family business, which he successfully ran until 1969 when he sold it for 5 million dollars.
Erickson began his gender transition under the care of sex realignment surgery pioneer, Dr. Harry Benjamin, in 1963. Once his physical appearance matched his identity, he changed his name to Reed and began fully living his life as male. In this period of transition, he married and divorced his first wife. Later that year, Erickson met and married his second wife. The couple lived in Baton Rouge, where they had two children. During this period, Erickson had started to experiment with recreational drugs. Over time, Erickson's substance abuse of hallucinogenic drugs and cocaine increased, causing strain in his life and relationships. In 1974, Erickson and his second wife divorced. Shortly after his second divorce, Erickson met his third wife. In 1981, he moved to Ojai, California, to be closer to his children and second wife. By 1983, after a series of arrests, Erickson fled to Mexico to escape drug-related indictments, and he remained there for the rest of his life.
Erickson successfully managed his investments and became a major philanthropist. In 1964, Erickson founded the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), a charitable foundation primarily created to support research and services for transgender, transsexual and gender nonconforming people. Throughout the late-1960s and 1970s, Erickson donated money to various organizations including the Harry Benjamin Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, and ONE, Incorporated. Shortly after his initial donation to ONE, Erickson aided the establishment of a charitable sector of ONE, called the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR), which advocated for the advancement of homosexual research. In establishing ISHR as a nonprofit funding organization--and through the help of Erickson and EEF--ONE was able to start and maintain research study programs, a library, gay and lesbian studies courses and lecture series. This led to ONE becoming a California state-accredited institution in 1981, providing graduate-level education in gay and lesbian studies. The first homophile studies degrees were given in 1982, and the ONE Institute of Graduate Studies presented Erickson with an honorary doctoral degree that same year.
In 1983, Erickson's relationship with ONE, Inc. began to dissolve due to a dispute over the real estate property known as the Milbank Estate. The Milbank Estate was purchased by Erickson and used as headquarters for ONE, Inc. However, by 1984, Erickson had ceased funding and was pressing to remove ONE from the estate. The Milbank property was divided, but the terms of the legal dispute were not resolved until after Erickson's death.
Erickson died in Mazatlan, Mexico, in 1992.
Devor, Aaron H., and Nicholas Matte. “One, Inc. and Reed Erickson: The Uneasy Collaboration of Gay and Trans Activism, 1964-2003.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.2 (2004): 179-209.
Reed L. Erickson Papers, Coll2010-001, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California
5.6 Linear Feet (15 boxes.)
Language of Materials
Legal papers, correspondence, meeting minutes, newsletters, pamphlets, publicity material, photographs, clippings, research material, financial records, manuscripts, handwritten notes, card catalogs, audiotape, ephemera and other material from philanthropist and (female-to-male) transgender/transsexual activist, Reed Erickson (1912-1992). Having built his wealth through oil investments and other entrepreneurial endeavors, Erickson founded the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF) in 1964, a charitable foundation primarily created to support transgender, transsexual, and gender identity research and services. The bulk of this collection is related to the activities of the EEF, research material on gender identity, as well as Erickson's relationship with the gay and lesbian organization, ONE, Incorporated, which he supported financially for nearly twenty years. The collection also includes some material on Erickson's personal life, including material related to Erickson's children, his former wives, and his health- and drug-related complications in the last years of his life.
Date and donor of acquisition unknown.
The following publications have been separated from the Reed L. Erickson collection and entered into the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives' database:
Money, John, and Patricia Tucker. Sexual Signatures: On Being a Man or a Woman. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1975.
Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. Newsletter
Outreach Institute Newsletter
Phoenix Monthly International: For the Transvestite and the Transsexual
Transition: A Confide Publication
The Transsexual Voice
Formerly in boxes 103-144, 104-032, and 104-033. Collection processed by Joy Novak in 2006 and revised by Loni Shibuyama in May 2010. Accrual processed by Kyle Morgan in 2015.
- Finding aid to the Reed L. Erickson papers
- Loni Shibuyama
- (c) May 2010, 2015
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