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Finding aid of the Johnnie Phelps Papers and Memorabilia

Finding aid prepared by Lilly Insalata, © 2008

Summary Information

Repository
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
Creator
Phelps, Nell Johnnie, 1922-1997
Title
Johnnie Phelps papers and memorabilia
Collection no.
Coll2008.068
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1975-1998
Date [inclusive]
1943-1999
Extent
7.1 linear feet.
General Physical Description note
2 archive cartons + 3 flat archive cartons + 1 oversize envelope + 1 map drawer.
Language
English
Abstract
Correspondence, awards, certificates, articles and other material from Johnnie Phelps, World War II veteran and lesbian activist. The majority of the collection dates from 1975-1998, with most materials pertaining to Phelps' involvement with the National Organization for Women, Southern California Women for Understanding, the Los Angeles County Veterans' Advisory Commission, and the Alcoholism Center for Women; along with personal correspondence and newspaper articles written about Phelps' involvement in World War II. The collection also contains various organizations' textiles and buttons, trophies and certificates awarded for service, military materials, and photographs.

Preferred Citation

Box #, folder #, Johnnie Phelps Papers and Memorabilia, Coll2008-068, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

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Biography

Johnnie Phelps was born Nell Louise Phelps in North Carolina on April 4, 1922 and was raised with an adoptive family. Her adoptive parents were abusive, and Phelps spent many of her teen years in and out of jail.

By the 1940s, Phelps married a Navy man, but they constantly fought, and she sought to escape by joining the military in 1943. She served as part of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and was honorably discharged in 1945. She re-enlisted in 1946 and was honorably discharged a second time. Phelps left the army to establish her own printing business, which she ran for years. Living in Southern California, Phelps became politically active in the 1970s. It was around this time that she met her partner, Grace Bukowski.

Phelps joined the National Organization for Women and founded the San Gabriel Valley - Whittier chapter in 1979. She chaired the California Lesbian Task Force (a branch of NOW), and spearheaded protests on behalf of the Norton Sound Eight--eight female crew members aboard the USS Norton Sound who were charged with "homosexual misconduct." In addition, she joined the Southern California Women for Understanding organization and served on the Los Angeles County Veterans' Advisory Commission. A recovering alcoholic, she also served as president of the Alcoholism Center for Women.

Phelps died on December 30, 1997 at the Veterans Home in Barstow, California at the age of 75. She is buried in Veteran's Cemetery in Westwood, California.

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Scope and Content of Collection

Awards, correspondence, clippings, photographs, textiles, medals, buttons and other memorabilia from lesbian activist and World War II veteran, (Nell) Johnnie Phelps. The bulk of the material relates to Phelps' military service and her activism in women's rights groups and dates from the late 1970s until her death in 1997. The collection is divided into two series: (1) Personal Papers and (2) Memorabilia and Textiles. The Personal Papers series includes printed material related to Phelps' activities in veterans and women's rights organizations, such as the Los Angeles County Veterans' Advisory Commission, the National Organization for Women and the Alcoholism Center for Women. This series also includes correspondence with Phelps' partner, Grace Bukowski, after Phelps' death. The Memorabilia and Textiles series includes buttons, medals, trophies, military uniform paraphernalia, key chains, a United States flag and other material related to Phelps' military service, activism and other accomplishments.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
© 2008
909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles, California, 90007
(213) 821-2771
askone@usc.edu

Access

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 and 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 and 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).

Acquisition Information

Gift of Grace Bukowski, date unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lilly Insalata, December 4, 2008.

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

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Related Materials

Separated Material

Two books-- Thoughts and Meditations (1960) by Kahlil Gibran and  Secrets of the Heart (1968) by Kahlil Gibran--have been separated from the Johnnie Phelps collection.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • National Organization for Women

Personal Name(s)

  • Phelps, Nell Johnnie, 1922-1997

Subject(s)

  • Gays in the military
  • Lesbian activists--United States
  • Lesbians--California--History
  • Lesbians--Services for
  • Veterans
  • Women veterans
  • World War II

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Collection Inventory

Series 1:  Series 1. Personal Papers 1958-1999   2 linear feet + 1 map drawer.

Series Scope and Content

This series compiles correspondence, clippings, photographs, newsletters, name tags, a book and other typescripts from Johnnie Phelps and her partner, Grace Bukowski. Included are materials from Phelps' activism, such as her involvement with the Alcoholism Center for Women, the National Organization for Women, the Norton Sound Eight, Southern California Women for Understanding and the Los Angeles County Veterans' Advisory Commission. This series also contains awards and commendations, photographs and memorial tributes presented to Grace Bukowski upon Phelps' death in 1997.

Box Folder

 Articles about Johnnie Phelps 1980 - 1993 

1 1

 Johnnie Phelps' death 1998 

Box Folder

 Correspondence - Sympathy notes about Johnnie Phelps to Grace Bukowski 1998 

1 2

 Memorial tributes for Johnnie Phelps 1998 

1 3

 The Senate California Legislature. Memorial Resolution for Johnnie Phelps by the Honorable Hilda L. Solis March 20, 1998 

1 4
Box Folder

 ApolloMedia Corporation Release of Conduct Unbecoming on CDROM 1994 

1 5

 Awards, certificates and commendations 1975 - 1996 

Box Folder

 General 1976 - 1989 

1 6
Envelope

 Alice Paul Certificate of Feminist Achievement 1981 

6

 Baltimore County Department of Health Bureau of Mental Health, Communications Skills Training Workshop 1975 

6

 County of Los Angeles. Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles does hereby join in the celebration of the 70th Birthday of Johnnie Phelps. 1992 

6

 County of Los Angeles Commendation N. Johnnie Phelps, Los Angeles County Veterans' Advisory Commission 1996 

6
Box Folder

 Veterans for Human Rights. 1st Annual Sgt. Johnnie Phelps Dinner and Awards November 11, 1993 

1 7

 Alcoholism Center for Women 1987 - 1992 

Box Folder

 General 1987 - 1992 

1 8

 Board list 1989 

1 9
Box Folder

 Before Stonewall press material 1987 

1 10

 Correspondence 1982 - 1997 

Box Folder

 General 1982 - 1997   2.0 folders.

1 11 - 12

 Torres, Esteban E. (Rep.) 1989 - 1998 

1 13
Box Folder

 Guestbook 1982 - 1998 

2 12

 k.d. lang Ingénue Tour program 1992 

1 14

 [Los Angeles County] Veterans' Advisory Commission 1991 - 1998 

1 15

 Memorial service programs 1986 - 1997 

1 16

 Name tags 1979 - 1997 

Box Folder

 Name tags and button - Grace Bukowski 1980 - 1981 

1 17

 Name tags and business card - Johnnie Phelps circa 1979 - 1997 

1 18

 National Organization for Women 1980 - 1983 

Box Folder

 General 1981 - 1983 

2 1

 Training manuals 1980 - 1982 

2 2
Box Folder

 Newsletters 1988 - 1999 

2 3

 Norton Sound Eight 1980 - 1994 

Box Folder

 General 1980 - 1994 

2 4

 Clippings 1980 

2 5
Box Folder

 One Hundred and One Famous Poems, An Anthology, by Roy J. Cook 1958 

2 13

 Personal 1997 

2 6

 Phelps for Treasurer flyer Date unknown 

2 7

 Photographs circa 1980 - 1998 

Box Folder

 Johnnie Phelps Date unknown   1.0 photograph: col.

2 8

 Johnnie Phelps' grave circa 1998   1.0 photograph: col.

2 8

 1993 SCWU Awards Banquet 1993   2.0 photographs: col.

2 8

 Unidentified man Date unknown   1.0 photograph: b&w.

2 8

 Unidentified boy Date unknown   1.0 photograph: col.

2 8
Envelope

 A Short Course in Human Relations Date unknown 

6

 Southern California Women for Understanding 1979 - 1993 

Box Folder

 General 1979 - 1993 

2 9
Box-folder

 Poster April 17, 1993 

Drawer 8.5
Envelope

 The Sweetheart of the Year Award 1978 

6
Box Folder

 Clippings 1985 - 1994   2.0 folders.

2 10 - 11

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Series 2:  Series 2. Memorabilia and Textiles 1943-1995   3.9 linear feet.

Series Scope and Content

This series compiles textiles and memorabilia related to Phelps' military service, her activism and her personal life. Included are memorabilia from the National Organization for Women and the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment; awards and trophies, such as the Veterans for Human Rights award; and military memorabilia. Notably, this series includes a Purple Heart medal, military uniform paraphernalia, and a United States flag.

Box Folder

 50th Anniversary of World War II 1989   2.0 medals.

3 1 - 2

 50th Leyte Landing Anniversary 1994   1.0 key chain.

3 3

 AA 31 Years; The Best of Everything is Getting Well Date unknown   1.0 key chain.

3 4

 Awards and trophies 1986 - 1993 

Box Folder

 Alcoholism Center for Women plaque 1986 - 1989 

5 1

 Johnnie Phelps - Veteran for Human Rights circa 1993 

5 2

 Southern California Women for Understanding and the San Gabriel Valley Chapter Community Service Award April 17, 1993 

5 3

 Equal Rights Amendment and the National Organization for Women 1979 - 1982 

Box Folder

 California NOW 79 1979   1 yellow cloth with blue text.

4 1

 79 National N.O.W. Conference; Johnnie Phelps, CA October 1979   1 name tag with attached ribbon.

3 5

 National ERA March '80 (sash); California NOW (cloth); ERA YES (buttons) 1980 - 1982   1 yellow sash with attached yellow cloth and 4 buttons.

4 2

 California ERA Chicago March (cloth); I Was There! National ERA March Chicago, Illinois (button) May 10, 1980   1 yellow cloth with 1 green button attached.

4 3

 California NOW circa 1980 - 1982   1 yellow cloth with blue text.

4 4

 California NOW (cloth); Jane Wells-Schooley (button); Timmer, NOW Indianapolis 1982 (button); Go Foat (button); Webb Secretary (button) 1982   1 yellow cloth with 4 buttons attached.

4 5

 ERA Date unknown   1.0

3 6
Box Folder

 Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America circa 1995   1.0

3 7

 Ink stamps Date unknown   4.0 stamps.

3 8

 Military uniform circa 1943 - 1945 

Box Folder

 Belt circa 1943 - 1945 

4 6

 Buttons circa 1943 - 1945   4.0 gold buttons.

3 9

 Garrison cap circa 1943 - 1945 

4 7

 Necktie circa 1943 - 1945 

4 8

 Patches circa 1943 - 1945   2.0 patches.

4 9
Box Folder

 Pocket watch with engraving of the Statue of Liberty Date unknown 

3 10

 Purple Heart medal circa 1945 

3 11

 Red, white and blue ribbon Date unknown 

3 12

 Ronald Reagan coin 1989 

3 13

 Rosary prayer ring Date unknown 

3 14

 United States flag circa 1998 

4 10

 VFHR; 11 Nov 1993 November 11, 1993   1 silver chain with pendant.

3 15

 Wallace Silversmiths shoehorn Date unknown 

3 16

 Wood engraving: "Johnnie Phelps" Date unknown 

5 4

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