Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Sheldon Ramsdell Papers
Collection number: 1996-28
4.75 linear feet
3 manuscript boxes, 1 carton
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
San Francisco, California 94105
Abstract: Journal, ephemera, correspondence, and other materials collected by political activist and photojournalist Sheldon Ramsdell.
Physical location: Stored at the Archives of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society in San Francisco, California.
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection open for research.
Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
[Identification of item], Sheldon Ramsdell Papers, 1996-28, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
Donated to the Library by Linda Alband, on July 28, 1996 with an accretion donated on February 2, 2003.
Sheldon "Shelley" Ramsdell was a photojournalist, publicist and political activist who co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against
the War in the 1960s. Since the early 1980s, Ramsdell was a advocate for people with AIDS, gays, lesbians, and veterans.
He was also an activist in the Democratic Party on labor union issues.
Ramsdell was born on August 31, 1935. After receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1958, he went
on to co-found, in 1967, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, one of the most influential anti-war groups of the era, which in
1971 staged a dramatic march on Washington in which veterans tossed their medals over a fence onto the Capitol Steps.
Ramsdell was a press aide for the veterans' group and served in the same role for the presidential campaign of Senator Eugene
McCarthy and New York Congresswomen Belle Abzug.
After moving to San Francisco in 1984, Ramsdell became an increasingly vocal AIDS activist and member of ACT UP.
Ramsdell substantial photography portfolio reflected his eclectic interests and included shots of Abby Hoffman, some of Barbara
Streisand's first publicity photos, Bette Midler, William S. Buirroughs, and Joel Gray. His photographs were exhibited in
the New York Public Theater and on NBC TV's Today Show, and were published in a range of newspapers and magazines including
the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Esquire, and Time.
Ramsdell died of AIDS related complications in San Francisco on March 25, 1996
Scope and Content of Collection
The Sheldon Ramsdell Papers document the activities of photojournalist and activist Sheldon Ramsdell. Most of these materials
relate to Ramsdell's activities in San Francisco including his participation in ACT UP Golden Gate, his fight to over turn
the ban on gays in the military, his battle with HIV, and various other causes in which he was heavily involved. His personal
journals from the late-1980s to the mid-1990s dramatically illustrate Ramsdell's personal battle with AIDS as well as his
more public struggle for civil rights.
The collection is divided into 2 series: Personal and Activism. The Personal series contains one subseries: Journals/Notbooks.
The Activism series also contains one subseries: AIDS.
The Personal (1974-1994)series includes materials from the personal life of Sheldon Ramsdell. The subseries, Journals/Notebooks
consists of 19 personal journals and notebooks. These journals cover a range of topics including Ramsdell's personal struggles
with AIDS, reflections on current politics and issues, news clippings, letters, and other personal information. Also found
in this series are newspaper clippings about or written by Ramsdell, items from a memorial service for a friend of Ramsdell's,
information about an experimental HIV treatment Ramsdell was undergoing, a play, and an Oral History of Vietnam Veterans Against
The series Activism (1975-1993) documents Ramsdell's participation in various causes. The subseries AIDS Activism contains
materials which illustrate Ramsdell's activities as an AIDS activist in San Francisco, particularly as a member of ACT UP
Golden Gate and participating in the fight against Proposition 64, the "LaRouche Initiative" which sought to place AIDS back
on the state's List of Communicable Diseases subject to Public Health law. Other material documents Ramsdell's participation
in attempts to overturn the United States Military's ban on homosexuals and other materials particularly surrounding the formulation
of President Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. The rest of the materials cover several other causes including
petitioning for prison reforms, outreach to religious leaders and believers, interactions with the San Francisco Human Right
Commission, and analysis of 1988 Presidential Candidate Michael Dukakis' rhetoric regarding AIDS.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
San Francisco (Calif.)
Several folders of newspaper clippings and photocopies of newspaper clipping from the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco
Chronicle, widely available elsewhere, were removed.