The Gay Peoples Union Collection

URLs to browse or search the collections

The Gay Peoples Union (GPU) was the most important gay and lesbian rights organization in Milwaukee during the 1970s. Beginning as a student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the group gradually became a resource for the entire Milwaukee community. Taking distance from the radical politics of the New Left, GPU adopted a politically moderate approach to social change, emphasizing education and legal reform. It actively embraced mainstream and alternative media outlets in order to educate the general public about homosexuality. GPU also took a leadership role in building an infrastructure for the emerging local gay and lesbian community. It established Milwaukee’s first gay and lesbian community center, operated a telephone counseling service and a venereal disease examination center, and organized a legal defense committee to assist gays and lesbians with paying for legal representation. The organization faded in importance by the early 1980s, although it continues to exist today.

Scope and Content

The Gay Peoples Union Collection presents digital copies of primary source materials documenting GPU and Milwaukee’s gay liberation movement. Materials were selected from the following collections held by the Division of Archives and Special Collections of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries: the Gay Peoples Union Records, GPU News, and the Eldon Murray Papers.

Gay Peoples Union Records: The digital collection includes annual reports, articles of incorporation and by-laws, fliers, and newsletters. It also includes Gay Perspective, a radio program produced by GPU and broadcast on Milwaukee station WZMF from February to June 1971 and then on WUWM from July 1971 to May 18, 1972. Topics on these radio programs include homosexual liberation, legal reform, coming out, marriage equity, and gays in the military.

GPU News: The digital collection includes the entire run of GPU News, GPU’s monthly news magazine, which was published from October 1971 to January 1981. The magazine included coverage of local and national news, editorials, articles, book reviews, fiction and poetry. It published works by authors and artists such as Dennis Cooper, Betty Fairchild, Arnie Kantrowitz, and Vito Russo.

Eldon Murray Papers: The digital collection includes the early 1970s manifesto of the Gay Liberation Organization—GPU’s predecessor organization—selected from the papers of Eldon Murray.

All of the original source materials are available for research in the Division of Archives and Special Collections of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.