Fall 2018 the University Archives partnered with Media School professor emeritus Ron Osgood and his new Honors Course Archival Storytelling. His students spent several class sessions in the Archives researching a topic of their choice and crafting a blog post for inclusion here! Some students chose to provide overviews of collections while others dove into specific bits of IU Bloomington history, but all seemed to enjoy the experience. We’ll be sharing these posts in groups over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the student’s voices are heard, Archives staff did minimal editing on these pieces. Thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!
The Art of Chic by Jack Salazar
Charles Bacon “Chic” Jackson (1876-1934) was born in the town of Muncie, Indiana. Unbeknownst to Jackson, he’d be the first in a long line of artists to make their start in this quiet municipality. From a young age, Jackson always gravitated towards the fine arts. It wasn’t a fleeting sensation either. Post high school, Jackson would go onto work in a printing press, a grocery store, and a slew of other unsystematic livings with art always in the back of his mind. After nearly three decades of ceaseless drudgery, Jackson was granted the position of layout artist and illustrator for the Indianapolis Star in 1907. After five years of work, the publishers offered him an opportunity to develop his own comic strip. Based off his own life experiences he created “Roger Bean”, which focused on a fictional middle-class Hoosier family that found humor in their every day lives.
This approach to comedy was fairly contemporary for the time; so many comic artists would rely on visual gags or exaggerated features to communicate comedy within a single strip. Jackson stands out by having his humor be entirely dialogue driven much like a sitcom you’d find on modern day TV. His entire style was a fair middle ground between a cartoon and realism. Bean Family members all have charming dot eyes coupled with realistically proportioned bodies leaving a tinge of comedic undertones to their rambunctious interactions.
As stories of the Bean Family grew so did the interest in Chic Jackson. His strips became so popular they began to by syndicated in such newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and even in the papers of IU. He would provide illustration commemorating various events and occasions within Indiana University. In his own funny way, he supported learning. Jackson’s comedic repertoire and open use of continuity drew in readers far and wide. As the years went by, Jackson made the choice to age the characters for every year he continued the strip. It created the sensation of reading about a real Hoosier family. The character Woodrow Wilson Bean was introduced in December of 1914 as a baby and by April 1934 he had grown into a young man heading to college. Sadly, 1934 was the last time we saw the Bean Family as Charles Jackson passed away in July of that same year. But, Jackson’s legacy wasn’t just Roger Bean; it was the birth of new creative life. Creative voices like T.K. Ryan, the artist behind “Tumbleweeds”, and Jim Davis, the creator of “Garfield”, are both Muncie born artists. Another creative mind will no doubt start in Muncie and follow the path Charles Jackson paved for creative types. Thank you, Chic.
The Martha Vicinus Papers and 1970s IU Feminist Activism by Celia Dawson
The papers of Martha Vicinus, which span from 1971 to 1980, recount a portion of Indiana University’s feminist history including the women’s movement and the institution of the Department of Women’s Studies at IU. Vicinus, an English Department faculty member, was extremely influential in developing the IU Women’s Studies program. Although not long ago, the content of these works describes a vastly different campus, political, and social environment than exists today. An extremely insightful aspect of this collection is the public media produced by feminist faculty, students, and members of the Bloomington community. These writings, works of art, and published collections of resources outline the broader concerns and needs of women in the 70s seeking equality, opportunity and expression.
A memo from March 1973, submitted to ‘All Academic Women’, from Dean of Women’s Affairs Eva Kagan-Kans, outlines a list of formally proposed maternity leave policies for IU faculty and asks for comments and information on the intersecting topics of employment and childbirth. The attached outline cites necessities for pregnant women and mothers at Indiana University who are seeking to maintain their employment and specifies many direct steps that should be taken by the university to promote heath, equity, and progress.
Her requests included treating temporary pregnancy related disabilities in the same manor in the workplace as other temporary disabilities. She also asks for opportunities for a six week long minimum maternity leave for individuals interested in taking time off. The majority of her points are centered around promoting a fair work environment for pregnant women by ensuring job security and enacting measures that ensured pregnancy didn’t hinder anyone’s upward professional mobility. The stigmatization of working mothers made it necessary for her to ask for such policy changes. Even today many employers generalize about and limit he career opportunities of pregnant women and mothers because they make assumptions about working mothers.
In a writing from Tuesday, February 25th, 1975, entitled “What Now?? The Future of the Women’s Movement in Bloomington”, Vicinus explains the local consensus on the future of feminism and the women’s movement in the community. She notes that their priorities are that they focus on social, political, and economic feminist issues, rather than organization and structure of feminist groups. Rather than create a primary feminist organization, she suggests the creation of the Bloomington Feminist Coalition, as well as other committees to foster collaboration instead of promoting a hierarchy of feminist organizations.
In addition to the many formal writings of Vicinus and her fellow feminist academic, this collection houses significant repositories of information on independent feminist print media in Bloomington and on IU’s campus in the 70s. Publications like the Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Front Page, and The Women’s Handbook sought to produce content for and by women about local and global feminist issues.
Publications like Front Page included announcements, articles, poetry, art, and even notes hand written by Vicinus in margins and in blank spaces on her personal copy. In the August/September 1974 issue, writer Emily Wade discussed the political implications of the Equal Rights Amendment, something Indiana had failed to ratify at the time. Wade advocates for two Indiana house candidates who are in support of the amendment and encourages feminists to vote in ways that will support it. This instalment of the publication also includes a section with letters from readers and community members.
For a grassroots community like the network of Bloomington Feminists in the 70s, publications like Front Page served as a bridge between formal and informal information and communication and offered students, academics, and community members to collaborate, educate, and share information in a safe and effective manner. While the goals of these feminists are far from complete today, there are undoubtably more outlets for expression and collaboration. The information condensed into this seasonal newsletter was an essential mechanism, at the time, for the Bloomington and campus feminist movement.
The Bloomington Woman’s Liberation Newsletter was a similar community institution. In an issue from July/August 1971 Brenda Laurien writes a piece on The Middle Way House, a community institution still essential to many women and families in Bloomington. At this time, the organization was intended to provide counselling be an educational resource about drugs and was founded on principles that created a four-phase program. This included a 24-hour open line of communication with counselors, a referral program which helped people with long term drug problems seek psychiatric help, a personalized drug analysis program, and a broader educational program.
The call line was intended to be used for drug related questions or as a resource for people currently on drugs at the time of the call, but it later became a catchall for issues concerning, health, relationships, and academic issues. Middle Way House Staff would then direct the caller to the appropriate channels. While the mission of Middle Way House adapted over time to be domestic violence resources and prevention, the 24-hour crisis line is still an important service offered to survivors today.
The drug analysis program, however, is something that would certainly be politically and culturally unsavory, especially because of its association with a public academic institution. At the time, people in the community could bring in samples of drugs they acquired and staff at Middle Way House would consult medical books ad would chemically analyze the substances on campus (in Myers Hall). They would then post the information gathered on a bulletin board to share it with the supplier of the substance, in order to help them make conscious and informed decisions about the drugs they are purchasing and using.
While Middle Way House today is very different from this 1971 iteration of the organization, this account demonstrates the effectiveness of the Woman’s Liberation Newsletter as an effective community education resource with a wider scope than just purely women’s issues. This kind of intersectional interest is characteristic of Bloomington’s feminist publications.
The Women’s Handbook, a publication that resembled a formal newspaper rather than a self-printed booklet or zine, presented feminist issues in a less radical and niche context. The intent of the publication, according to the authors, was to provide a comprehensive list of organizations in the area that women have available to them. While, like the other feminist publications, it includes graphics and editorials, the pinnacle of this handbook is the expansive list of resources.
All of these publications give insight into IU’s feminist history and the community which sought to bring women’s issues to the forefront in the 70s. Whether it be through informal student poetry, faculty memos, or community engagement plans, feminists in Bloomington have been assembling, acting, and angry for decades, and their work has certainly paid off.