University of Chicago students demonstrate outside the Law School

January, 1992. University of Chicago students demonstrate outside the Law School, where Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is scheduled to speak on civil rights. Image courtesy of University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center with permission of The Chicago Maroon.

Gay Liberation advertised its dances as an alternative to the gay bars

Campus poster, 1971. Gay Liberation advertised its dances as an alternative to the gay bars, which were frequently raided by the Chicago police. Their first dance in 1970 raised $500 for a bail fund for people arrested in vice raids. Courtesy Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library.

Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles:
A History of LGBTQ Life at the University of Chicago

In 2011, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality launched Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles, a project documenting LGBTQ life at the University of Chicago from the early twentieth century through the present day. In Spring 2015, the project will culminate in a special exhibition in the Special Collections Research Center at Regenstein Library and a permanent oral history archive that can be accessed by future generations of researchers and community members.

About the Project

By collecting oral history interviews with LGBTQ alumni, faculty, and staff, and mining local and national archives, students and faculty involved with this initiative have built on the Center's highly successful project 'On Equal Terms': Educating Women at the University of Chicago, which ran from 2004-09 and culminated in a popular campus exhibition and 48-page publication. Based on this previous research into women's experience at the University, CSGS students and faculty identified a pressing need to capture the history and experience of LGBTQ individuals and communities at the University of Chicago.

The Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles project contributes to building community and expertise around the history of sexuality across disciplines by providing undergraduate and graduate students at the University space for new research and intergenerational mentorship. The project brings scholars of LGBT history working in universities and archives across the United States to campus for public lectures and student/faculty workshops. In Spring 2014, CSGS hosted a preview to the library exhibition, showcasing the work of the Center's student oral history researchers and highlighting our first year of collecting.

The project also offers a yearly undergraduate course designed to explore LGBTQ history. In 2012, History PhD candidate and CSGS fellow Monica L. Mercado developed and taught "Queer on the Quads," a seminar that served as an introduction to the practice of oral history. In Spring 2013, History PhD candidate Lauren Stokes developed and taught "Sexuality and the Production of History," a seminar that served as an introduction to archival research in gender and sexuality. In Autumn 2013, "Sex and Sexualities in Modern U.S. History," offered students a chance to look back at over 100 years of American history to chart the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires. A fourth course on global sexualities is planned for Spring 2015 to coincide with the exhibition in Special Collections.

Archival finds are highlighted on our project Tumblr:

Video: A “Desire for History”: Building Queer Archives at UChicago


Jones, Jonathan. "UChicago provides a look at LGBTQ life." The Windy City Times 21 May 2014: 10. Print. [PDF]

Station, Elizabeth. "Queer and here." The University of Chicago Magazine 20 May 2014. Web. [PDF]

Station, Elizabeth. "Desire for History." The Core, The College Magazine Winter 2013. Print. [PDF]

Get involved!

To get involved with the project, please contact Project Coordinators Monica Mercado and Lauren Stokes at 773.702.7682 or

For questions about giving to the project, please contact Project Director and CSGS Associate Director Gina Olson at 773.834.8831 or