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Mariposa Foundation

A Salute to Mariposa

The Mariposa Education and Research Foundation closed in 1995 after helping change negative cultural attitudes toward sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular for 17 years. Founded in 1978 by Bruce Voeller (former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), Karen DeCrow (former president of the National Organization of Women), and Aryeh Neier (former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union), Mariposa promoted scholarship and the distribution of information about human sexuality. Its members shared a concern that many professionals consulted about sexual matters — especially health professionals and the clergy — were not always knowledgeable enough to provide helpful answers. Mariposa believed that certain segments of the population — among them, lesbians and gay men — had been victims of the resulting misinformation, ignorance, and fear about sexuality. One of Mariposa’s major contributions was Bruce Voeller’s study of the effectiveness of various kinds of condoms in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Appearing in Consumer’s Report, the Mariposa condom study made information about safer sex widely accessible to the public. Mariposa also wanted to protect research material on the social and political aspects of sexuality. A network of volunteers assembled historical sources on the lesbian and gay rights movement, documents that were in danger of being lost or destroyed. As this collection grew, Voeller and his friend David Goodstein ’54 began to consider how to ensure its preservation and professional care, make it more widely accessible for scholarship, and increase its visibility. They believed that the time had come for a major research library to take up the project of documenting sexuality, and they envisioned the Mariposa archives attracting other collections and fostering the development of a major center for the study of sexuality. The gift of the Mariposa archives to Cornell University Library in 1988 launched such a program — the Human Sexuality Collection.

The Mariposa Portrait Series

In 1995, Richard Lucik, Voeller’s life partner and associate at the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation, made an additional gift to the Human Sexuality Collection: the portraits of a dozen gay rights leaders. Mariposa commissioned artist Don Bachardy to create this series. The project to commemorate these individuals represents another segment of Mariposa’s educational mission, and Cornell is delighted to be able to preserve and make more widely accessible these portraits. The series includes portraits of Elaine Noble, Frank Kameny, Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin, Morris Kight, Charles Bryden, James Foster, Bruce Voeller, David B. Goodstein, Jean O’Leary, Rev. Troy Perry, and Barbara Gittings.

Collection Highlights