Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Johnnie Phelps papers and memorabilia
Bulk Dates: 1975-1998
Collection number: Coll2008-068
Phelps, Nell Johnnie, 1922-1997
Collection Size: 2 archive cartons + 3 flat
archive cartons + 1 oversize envelope + 1 map drawer. 7.1
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
Los Angeles, California 90007
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.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access
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).
Box #, folder #, Johnnie Phelps Papers and Memorabilia, Coll2008-068, ONE National Gay
and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Gift of Grace Bukowski, date unknown.
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.
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,
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.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Phelps, Nell Johnnie,
Gays in the military
Lesbian activists--United States
National Organization for
World War II
Thoughts and Meditations (1960) by Kahlil
Secrets of the Heart (1968) by Kahlil
Gibran--have been separated from the Johnnie Phelps collection.