Skip to main content

Alison Bechdel papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: SSC-MS-00633

Scope and Contents

The Alison Bechdel papers document the illustrative and written works created by Alison Bechdel. It includes business correspondence for Stationery Flux (S.F.), the business used for Dykes to Watch Out For merchandise, correspondence and royalty information from publishers, character and topic development files, manuscript edits, news clippings, press interviews, reviews, press releases, and a broad range of texts, sketches, and notes that formed the basis for Bechdel's work from the mid-1980s through the early 2010s.

The bulk of the collection documents development files for the syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and Servants to the Cause are included. Also included are post-syndication/pre-publication edits for Bechdel's book, Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home.

Dates of Materials

  • 1980-2017


Language of Materials

English, French, Spanish, Japanese

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access:

Boxes 7-20 of accession 2008-S-104 must be used with great care; researchers may not disrupt the order of materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Alison Bechdel has retained copyright in her artwork donated to Smith College. To the extent that she owns it, Alison Bechdel has assigned the copyright in all other materials in this collection to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators.

For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Alison Bechdel, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Alison Bechdel was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to Bruce Allen Bechdel--high school English teacher, antiques dealer, and funeral director--and Helen Fontana Bechdel--high school English teacher and amateur actress. Her family also owned and operated a funeral home, dubbed the Fun Home by Bechdel and her two brothers.

Bechdel earned her A.A. in 1979 from Simon's Rock Early College (now Simon's Rock of Bard College) and her B.A. from Oberlin College in 1981. She applied to many art schools but was rejected. She worked in various publishing industry office jobs in New York City from 1981 to 1985, and as a production writer for Equal Time in Minneapolis, MN from 1986 to 1990. According to the autobiographical The Indelible Alison Bechdel, she began "Dykes to Watch Out For" (DTWOF) as a single drawing labeled: "Marianne, dissatisfied with the morning brew: Dykes to Watch Out For, plate no. 27." An acquaintance recommended she send her work to Womannews newspaper, which began publishing the strip regularly beginning with the July-August 1983 issue. After a year, other outlets began running the strip, and it was syndicated in 1985.

In 1988, Bechdel began a short-lived, page-length strip about the staff of a queer newspaper, titled Servants to the Cause, for The Advocate newspaper. The success of DTWOF allowed Bechdel to quit her day job in 1990 to work on the strip full-time. Bechdel has written and drawn autobiographical strips, has done illustrations for magazines and websites, and has written numerous books, including Dykes to Watch Out For (1986), More Dykes to Watch Out For (1988), New Improved! Dykes to Watch Out For (1990), Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For (1995), Hot, Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For (1997), The Indelible Alison Bechdel: Confessions, Comix and Miscellaneous Dykes to Watch Out For (1998), Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-based Life-Forms to Watch Out For (2003), Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For (2005), Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006), The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (2008), and Are You My Mother? (2012). Four of Bechdel's books have won Lamba Literary Awards for humor, and The Indelible Alison Bechdel won a Lambda Literary Award in the biography/autobiography category. In February 2004, Bechdel married her partner since 1992, Amy Rubin, in a civil ceremony in San Francisco; they separated in 2006.


30.75 linear feet (41 boxes)


This collection is comprised of materials related to works created by Alison Bechdel. It includes business correspondence, character and topic development files, manuscript edits, press interviews, reviews, press releases, and a broad range of texts, sketches, and notes that formed the basis for Bechdel's work from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s.


This is arranged by accession.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time. Note that in most cases, container numbers start over at 1 with each new accession.

Other Finding Aids

One or more content listings to individual accessions in this collection are available for download. Links can be found in the description of the individual accessions.


Deaccession of financial records 1990-2000 in four boxes of accession 2008-S-0104 comprising two boxes of removed materials as well as One folder of financial planning correspondence 1999-2000 in box 3 of accession 2015-S-0002, One folder of business legal records from box 2 of 2015-S-0002, and Financial records 2000-2007 which comprise box 8 of accession 2012-S-0062. Materials have been returned to donor due to low research value but are of personal value.


Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Processing Information

Materials in Boxes 7-20 of 08S-104 arrived from Bechdel in three large plastic tubs and were reboxed while maintaining their original order. The materials are in chronological order from the bottom up and have multiple pages related to each strip. Each strip's pages are not clearly identified as being together, but are by order of sheets in box, from bottom up. So, for example, the bottom of Box 7 contains materials dated around 1984, and the top of box 13 contains materials dated around 2002.

Materials in the 2018-S-0084 accession have been distributed to multiple boxes; large artworks have been unfolded and added to Box 41 in folders, the names of which correspond to the folders they originated in in Boxes 37 and 38.



Finding Aid to the Alison Bechdel papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:23-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019/02/01: Edited to reflect additional materials

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063