Preserving Sistory: Archives and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Preserving Sistory: Archives and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an international order of queer nuns who will celebrate their 45th anniversary in 2024. Founded in San Francisco, the order spread almost immediately to Canada and Australia before expanding in North America, Australia and briefly New Zealand, Europe, and eventually South America. Yet it has intentionally never been either centralized or heavily institutionalized. How does one preserve the archives of a queerly decentralized movement? 

On January 26, 2023, our panelists reflected on their own experiences with preserving the history of the Sisters, on the importance of that history for both past and current members of the order, and on what lessons their experiences might have for people seeking to preserve the history of other decentralized, grassroots movements.

Melissa M. Wilcox, Ph.D. (moderator) is Professor and Holstein Family and Community Chair of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside, where Dr. Wilcox organizes the annual UCR Conference on Queer and Transgender Studies in religion and the Holstein Dissertation Fellowship. A specialist in the study of gender, sexuality, and religion in the Global North/Global West, Dr. Wilcox has authored or edited seven books, including most recently Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody; Queer Religiosities: An Introduction to Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion; and (with Nina Hoel and Liz Wilson) Religion, the Body, and Sexuality. Wilcox’s current research is on spirituality in queer and trans leather, BDSM, and kink communities.

Nick Henderson is a Curator at the National Film and Sound Archives and a volunteer Committee Member and Collection Manager at the Australian Queer Archives (AQuA). Nick has worked as a curator, archivist and historian across national and state cultural institutions for 25 years, and for the past 20 years has been highly active at the intersection of queer histories and the GLAM sector across Australia. Recent projects have included curating, producing and consulting with organizations like the National Museum of Australia, Australian Mission to the UN, Deaf Queer Rainbow Project, and Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.

Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex, TOPI was accepted into the Toronto Order of Perpetual Indulgence as a Fully Professed Sister in 1983 as Sister Flagellation of Forbidden Fruit and is presently situated in the State of Ohio while planning his return to the Great White North from whence she came. Their website SisterFlirt.ca includes a small on-line archive for the Toronto Order.

Guard HOOOO?! (the SF Holy Order's Organizer Of Ontology) is the Master of Archives for the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. He earned his Master of Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute where he focused on DataViz, Museum Archives & Libraries, Digital Archives, and Technical Services Law Librarianship. Guard HOOOO?! also holds a JD/MBA and Dual LLM. He's a lawyer; just not yours.



Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence | AIDS | Catholic (Roman) | Activist (religious institutions) | Trans activism