“I saw a man on the sidewalk and my dream of spending Xmas at home ended. He identified himself as F.B.I. and we went in where about 10 others were waiting with a warrant for my arrest. The charge? Bank robbery. The look on mom’s face nearly killed me. Never have I seen her so hurt. I would have rather spent 10 years in jail than to put her through that day.”
Thus wrote Linda Goudeau in her diary on Sunday, December 29, 1974, while sitting in her cell at what was then called the “House of Detention.”
Goudeau’s diary was found several years ago in an abandoned home on the Northshore and eventually found its way into the collection of a Canadian rare book dealer. Last year the diary caught the attention of Aimee Everrett, an Assistant Curator of the Williams Research Center (WRC) at The Historic New Orleans Collection. Everrett acquired the diary for the WRC.
According to the WRC’s catalogue description, “As a young woman Linda Goudeau encountered an array of legal difficulties, being associated with bank robberies in both New Orleans and Alaska. This item is a diary she maintained between 1974 and 1979 which chronicled her time incarcerated first in the House of Detention in New Orleans, in the Anchorage Alaska Correctional Center, and the California Institute for Women. The diary begins in 1974 while she is living in Alaska and writing of her journey to ‘find myself.’ She frequently writes of her loneliness there, her lack of ties to the area, and her longing for family and friends in New Orleans.
In entries made between December 20, 1974 and January 24, 1975 she details her return to New Orleans, and subsequent arrest by the FBI for a bank robbery. She also notably mentions giving another inmate a prison tattoo. Interjected throughout the full diary are many entries which feature inspirational quotes, religious affirmations, and examinations of the bible. Her entries in prison are intermittent, but frequently cover her romantic relationships with women in prison.”
Here are a few excerpts from the diary:
Tuesday, January 14, 1975: “This place is so bad for me. Get me out of here. Get all this over with so I can live again. I’m depressed and I feel like crying. I hope I don’t. I hate to be weak.”
Wednesday, January 21, 1975: “Am so fucked up I can hardly write. Just had a fight with Rose. Broke her nose I think. Over some asshole card game—shit gotta get up off this bunk and move around.”
After being extradited to Alaska, “Kelley seems like a sweet kid. I hope she gets off. But I know she will go back to dealing again if she does. She too young. Talked a lot today. She’s okay but scared stiff.” And a few days later, “Kelley left today and really shocked me both last night and today—straight—ha—no, nothing happened, much anyway!”
Linda Goudeau’s diary may not be considered academically important or even historically significant, but it is precisely the type of thing archival repositories are looking to preserve–one-of-a-kind primary source material that cannot be found anywhere else. This includes diaries, journals, letters, personal papers, and organizational records.
Such materials are crucial to getting LGBT+ history out of the closet (literally and metaphorically). Queer history is sometimes difficult to preserve because for so long, being LGBT+ was not something people wanted to document. Until recently, being out could result in being arrested, fired, evicted, and even institutionalized. This is why so much of our history remains hidden.
Thankfully, there are now people actively seeking to recover that history. The first book ever written about New Orleans LGBT+ history was published in 2011, less than ten years ago. Since then, several books on the topic have been published. In that time, four documentary films have been produced and a handful of theses and dissertations have also been written. Where do historians, researchers, and filmmakers find source material? Archives and museums.
Since 2013, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana has vigorously worked to help preserve queer history. As a statewide non-profit collective, the Archives Project not only connects donors with repositories, it also aids researchers in their work. In addition, the Archives Project has an active oral history program and maintains a robust website that includes old video footage, photographs, and an extensive bibliography.
Linda Goudeau’s story was found languishing in an abandoned house and could have been lost forever. What stories and memorabilia do you have tucked away in an attic or closet? For the sake of future generations, please consider finding a permanent home for that material. The Archives Project can help you do that.
To learn more about the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, visit https://www.lgbtarchiveslouisiana.org/
To read Linda Goudeau’s diary, visit http://hnoc.minisisinc.com/thnoc/catalog/3/40037