The College Libraries are pleased to announce the successful match of a $25,000 challenge gift for “LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry,” a project dedicated to collecting and sharing the stories of the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

The project began in 2017 with an initial grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. To ensure it became a permanent resource, local philanthropist and civil rights activist Linda Ketner offered a challenge, promising to match donations to the project dollar for dollar, up to $25,000. This June, as communities across the U.S. celebrate LGBTQ Pride month and mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, Charleston native and literary editor Harriet McDougal made a significant commitment to the project in memory of dear friend Reeves van Hettinga, who passed away last year.

McDougal’s gift, combined with more than 20 others, allowed the Libraries to meet and surpass Ketner’s $25,000 challenge. As of June 2019, individual donors have committed more than $53,000 to the project. These funds will allow the project to grow, expanding its research into communities throughout the Lowcountry and guaranteeing these stories will be saved and accessible to the public and scholars.

RELATED: Read more about the grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

McDougal’s support of LGBTQ causes stretches back nearly four decades. She counted as close friends several gay individuals, including Reeves van Hettinga and his brother, William. After William contracted AIDS in the 1980s, McDougal lived in Charleston and volunteered with support groups to feed, clothe, and care for HIV patients.

Asked why she became involved all those years ago, her answer was straightforward: “I had friends that didn’t seem to have anyone helping them.” Regarding the van Hettinga brothers, “Each was one of a kind. Even though they were brothers, they were very different. Charleston was lucky to have them both.”

Headed by the libraries’ scholar-in-residence Harlan Greene ’75 and Cara Delay of the College’s Women’s Health Research Team, “LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry seeks to shed light on the region’s understudied LGBTQ population by collecting archival materials and recording oral histories. More than fifty oral histories have been logged, and a dozen collections of organizations and individuals dating back to the 1850s now call the Libraries’ Special Collections home. Spanning the personal papers of renowned cookbook author John Martin Taylor to the organizational records of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, many of these materials are now available for research.

As McDougal said of Reeves and William van Hettinga, their history “is the history of Charleston.” The same is true for all individuals whose stories are collected as part of “LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry.”

To learn about donating materials, recording an oral history, or supporting the project, visit

Featured image: John Zeigler (R) and Edwin Peacock (L) at their bookstore, The Book Basement, now located on the CofC campus​. The John Zeigler papers are currently being processed by project staff.