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Maine, LGBTQ+, Wilde-Stein Club, Maine Gay Task Force, Maine Gay Symposium


Biographical Note

Karen Bye was born and raised in Stonington, Maine on Deer Isle in 1952. Karen enrolled at the University of Maine’s Orono campus, joining the class of 1975. Karen was a member of the queer community and went on to join Gay Support and Action (GSA), a community organization located in Bangor, Maine. Karen advocated for GSA to start a group at the university, but was initially denied. Nevertheless Karen persisted and continued to advocate, and eventually formed a group of students that would soon become the Wilde-Stein Club. Karen held the role of secretary, and had been known to say that the secretary is the most powerful person in the room. The Wilde-Stein Club became well known, and was often the subject of public attention and news publications. They eventually held the first Maine Gay Symposium at the Orono. Karen was also involved in the Maine Gay Task Force, and wrote for the monthly newsletter which began publishing in 1974. Karen’s activism continued when she moved to Fresno, California, her home for the next forty years. Karen kept clippings of news regarding gay activism and community response both in Maine and California, and helped with the Wilde-Stein Democratic Club’s formation in California. Karen passed away in 2013 in Portland, Maine.

Description of the Papers

The papers include chiefly newspaper clippings, and some brochures, voting guides, and flier, from 1973 to 1978. The collection chronologically captures both public perception and reception of the gay community during a time of expanding rights and conflict. The collection contains clippings from news articles about the formation of the Wilde-Stein Club in Maine, as well as reactions to the first ever Maine Gay Symposium. Letters to the editor show both support and dissent for the club and the symposium. The collection also holds clippings relevant to the Maine Gay Task Force, issues of religion, bisexuality, and celebrity involvement in opposition of gay student clubs. California voting issues around gay teachers, and gay advocates are detailed through voting guides, brochures, and articles. There are also several pamphlets on California and Maine gay bars, as well as opinion pieces on the impacts of gay bars on the community.


Administrative Information

Provenance: The papers were donated in 2011 by Steven Bull.

Ownership and Literary Rights: The Karen Bye Papers are the physical property of the University of Southern Maine Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the creator or her legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Special Collections Librarian.

Restrictions on access: This collection is open for research.



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