Wood, Robert Papers, 1920-2014
Span Dates: 1891-2018
Bulk Dates: 1947-2014
Volume: 4.1 cubic feet
This collection focuses on Rev. Wood's life as an advocate for LGBT rights, particularly regarding marriage equality and military service, while also including some his work as a United Church minister. The collection also includes photographs, professional and personal papers of Wood's husband, Hugh M. Coulter (1919-1989). Also included in the collection is some writings of Wood's friend C. Edward Egan, Jr., a gay Methodist minister. Unlike Wood, Egan did not have the support of his denomination. When Egan's health started failing in the late 1980s, he sent Wood some of his writings and their shared correspondence.
This collection is arranged in five series. Series I consists of papers from conferences and seminars (1965-1989), Series II concerns personal correspondence, Series III has a variety of files about his ministerial career and travels, Series IV is the largest series, containing his publications and writings (1950-2004). This series includes his files from his book Christ and the Homosexual, files on Ed Egan and Bill Johnson, and subject files and newspaper clippings about gay rights literature. Series V contains audiovisual materials including 22 audio cassette tapes and numerous photographs. The cassettes were created by Steven Law when he interviewed Wood in preparation for a biography of Wood. There are also Wood's lectures on gay history, and a taped seminar and anniversary.
Robert Watson Wood was born on May 21, 1923 in Youngstown, Ohio. He served as an infantryman during World War II and, after recovering from battle wounds, attended the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received a BS in economics in 1948. In 1951 he graduated from Oberlin Seminary and was ordained by the Congregational Church at Fair Haven, Vermont.
Reverend Wood’s life work has been as a pioneer in homosexual rights and advocacy, especially within religious institutions. In 1960 he wrote a ground-breaking book, Christ and the Homosexual, which he not only published under his own name, but included his photograph on the dust jacket and listed the name of his parish. This bold move came at a time when few advocates were willing to risk the reprisal, condemnation, or “career suicide” that came with publicly acknowledging their homosexuality.
Wood has been vocal on the topic of gay rights in many different settings: in his own denomination, the United Church of Christ; in the political arena; and on local and national news outlets. Wood’s voluminous writings, many of which are contained in a large folder in this collection, demonstrate his dedication and tenacity sustained over five decades of work on behalf of homosexual rights and religious tolerance.
Robert Wood created a family with his life partner, artist Hugh “Buck” Coulter. They met in 1962 and the couple remained devoted to each other until Coulter’s death in 1989.
The finding aid is available online.
The Robert Wood Papers are located in the Congregational Library in Boston Massachusetts.
United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Egan, Ed | Johnson, William Reagan | Wood, Robert | Activist (religious institutions) | Author/editor | Ordination/clergy | Coulter, Hugh