Oral histories from the IU LGBTQ+ community play an important role in documenting the university’s historical record, while amplifying the voices that are so often silenced and under-documented in our history. The oral history clips shared in this blog are just four of the many voices in the IU LGBTQ+ community within the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project. You can search and listen to many more oral histories and read their transcripts by visiting oralhistory.iu.edu.
Gary Shoulders graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.S. from the School of Informatics. He shares his story of coming out to his friends while attending IU in the following clip:
Bruce Smail is an IU alumnnus, as well as the Interim Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the Special Assistant to the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at Indiana University. Bruce shares his memories of being involved in the LGBTQ+ Culture Center during his student years at IU here:
Doug Bauder is the former founding Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center at Indiana University. Doug remembers the founding of the first GLBT Student Center at IU and the impact it had in the following clip:
Mara Bernstein is an IU alumna and the Advancement Associate for the IU Libraries. Mara speaks about her involvement with the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and the IU Queer Philanthropy Circle here:
If you would like to share your story or obtain transcripts of the oral history clips in this post, please contact Kristin Leaman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project has collected over 1,000 interviews from alumni, current and retired faculty and staff at all 7 I.U. campuses. Voices remembering the good and difficult times at their alma mater provide a rich and often emotional history of the university. Memories of student protests, professors, favorite hangouts, national events, and football games are among the many stories shared over the years. When asked if they remembered a specific event on campus that impacted their life, Ruth DiSilvestro, Audrey Beckley, and Joan Keck had the same answer: they fell in love with their husbands at Indiana University.
Ruth DiSilvestro (M.A. 1971) vividly remembers living in Eigenmann Hall and meeting her future husband in the cafeteria. Listen below to Ruth’s sweet story on how they met:
Audrey Beckley (B.S. 1964) remembers meeting her husband, Ken Beckley (B.S. 1962), at the Fall Carnival and marking on Ken’s senior cords with chalk. The Beckleys also established the Kenneth A. Beckley and Audrey J. (Hofelich) Beckley Media Technology Fund at the I.U. Media School and have a studio named after them in the school. Listen below to hear Audrey tell her heartwarming story of how she met Ken:
Joan Keck (B.S. 1956) tells a funny story about how she met her husband, David Keck (B.S. 1956, J.D. 1959) at the Freshman Mixer held in Alumni Hall. While dancing with her date, a young man cut-in; that same young man would become her husband during her senior year. Listen below to hear Joan reminisce about meeting David at the Freshman Mixer:
Listening to stories of love is a common theme throughout the I.U. Bicentennial oral histories. People express love and gratitude for their friends, family, classes, professors, campus, Herman Wells, and Bloomington; the list could go on. And as Ruth DiSilvestro says in the last lines of her oral history when reflecting on I.U., “It’s certainly touched our lives in many important ways.”
In the early 1960s, women across the nation started to rise up to further combat the social and cultural inequalities they were experiencing. They yearned for equality in the workplace. They wished to see changes in custody and divorce laws, so that they could go to court confident in their ability to actually win their cases. Many wanted to draw attention to domestic violence issues. Overall, women wanted to break down the barriers being placed in front of them and have their voices be heard. Their efforts eventually culminated into what is known today as the Women’s Liberation Movement, which continues to do its part in changing our world today.
These very same sentiments took hold of the women at IU and within the Bloomington community in the late 1960s. Alumni Ruth Mahaney (’70) and Nancy Brand(’73) discuss this in detail in their interview with the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project.
According to Ruth, she and other women became more interested in the issues surrounding women’s rights following their involvement in the Vietnam War Protests because they felt that they were not seen as equals in the movement. At one point in the interview, Nancy describes her feelings of inferiority after talking to her husband about a rally she attended in DC saying:
After learning more about what other campuses were doing across the country, Ruth and many other women dived headlong into the Women’s Liberation Movement and started up support groups for women on campus. Nancy states in the interview that by the time she came to campus in 1969, IU already had multiple support groups fully established.
IU’s Women’s Liberation Movement soon grew out of support groups and went on to achieve a number of notable accomplishments. In the early 1970s, members created a newsletter entitled theFront Page to bring attention to important topics related to the feminist movement and discuss local issues regarding women’s rights. It also acted as an outlet for women to publish their more creative endeavors.
At first the Front Page seemed to publish anything that came across their doorstep. They mainly printed critiques, essays, articles, poems, and illustrations. Some issues, however, contained interviews with various women trying to make their way through various working conditions or perhaps describing prejudices they’ve encountered in the world.
Ads for self-defense classes, daycares, civil rights conventions, women’s groups, and even piano lessons plastered its pages. The wide-ranging focus of the newsletter was perhaps an attempt to include all women who wished to get their thoughts and stories out into the world. After the January-February 1975 newsletter, the editors introduced more topical themed issues to better focus the content.
It was also around this time that the group procured a house and established a Women’s Center which, according to Mel Dennison, “…was formed to be a meeting place, crash pad, information service, clearing house of feminist ideas and repository of feminist literature” (from the Nov-Dec 1974 issue of the Front Page). IU’s Women’s Handbook Spring ’75 contains a write-up on the house advertising its services and describing some of its accomplishments.
One of the things listed was that the house acted as a meeting place for the Front Page newsletter. In the lower right hand corner of the article (see below), you can see a woman holding the August-September 1974 issue of the Front Page.
According to Nancy, some of the other achievements included the establishment of the first international conference for groups trying to set up cooperative daycare centers. Their efforts also eventually produced a rape crisis center which developed into Bloomington’s Middle Way House.
To find out more about more about these issues, contact the IU Archives.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Margaret Sanger’s family planning and birth control clinic, the forerunner to Planned Parenthood. Margaret Sanger, a nurse and birth-control activist from Brooklyn, New York opened the clinic on October 16, 1916 in pursuit of establishing greater reproductive freedoms for women. The clinic was shut down ten days later and Sanger was sentenced to 30 days in a workhouse as a result.
Many individuals at IU also fought for women’s reproductive rights. But no more so perhaps than the members of IU’s Women’s Liberation Movement. On August 3, 2013 archivist Dina Kellams sat down with alumnae Ruth Mahaney(’70) and Nancy Brand(’73) to gather stories about their experiences while they were at IU. What she got was a detailed account describing the struggles that they and others went through to further women’s rights on campus.
At the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement here at IU, women formed support groups on campus to discuss issues concerning women’s rights. During one discussion, however, they soon found that one of the bigger issues that the women faced was finding ways to have medically safe abortions:
Ruth recalled a particularly horrifying experience a friend had with an abortionist, saying that the person meant to perform the procedure stated that they had to have sex before he would complete the intended operation. Upon hearing this, the woman fled the clinic and ended up giving up on an abortion all together. To combat these problems, the women formed what would later become the Midwest Abortion Counseling Service.
The ladies used the Women’s Center (described by Ruth in the interview as “the Women’s Liberation House”) as a base of operations to conduct their work. The house’s phone number, under Ruth’s name no less, became the number for people to contact for these services.
But even with counseling, women experienced many difficulties while flying under the radar to have these abortions:
When asked if they were scared about potential repercussions in helping these women, the ladies replied with the following statement:
After abortions were legalized in 1973, IU’s Women’s Liberation Movement established a Women’s Crisis Service whose goal, according to the Women’s HandbookSpring ’75, was “to provide Bloomington area women with sisterly support in crisis situations such as rape, divorce, and abortion, and also in areas such as legal problems, day care, and minority women concerns.” The Crisis Service operated out of the Women’s Center but, according to the advertisement, was “seeking funding for a separate phone line and expanded facilities.” The women were eventually able to establish a rape crisis center which would go on to become Bloomington’s Middle Way House.
For more information on abortion counseling and how attitudes changed after the 1973 ruling see Nancy’s interview with The Front Page (IU’s feminist newsletter published during the 1970s) located here. The interview is contained within the January-February 1975 issue on pages 7-9.
In recognition of this event, the IU Archives would like to provide a glimpse into how the IU community reacted to this tragic event with some audio clips and quotes from the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project:
Jennifer Brinegar (’84), a local living in Bloomington at that time, recalls how her father, the mayor, worked with Herman B Wells to prevent another ‘Kent State’ here at IU in the wake of the shooting:
“I do know that when my dad was mayor he worked hand-in-hand with Herman Wells to prevent a Kent State, because that was in the late 60s early 70s. Right after Kent State, I don’t know if you would call it a riot, but there was a big protest on campus about Vietnam. So my dad was the city and Herman Wells was the university and together they talked it out so that it didn’t rise to the level of violence that they had at Kent State. It was scary at the time.”
Leonard Gardenour (’73) was studying Forensic Studies (now known as Criminal Justice) at the time and remembers the rallies in Dunn Meadow protesting the Vietnam War. He also recollects the boycotts following the devastating news of the shooting, describing how students surrounded Ballantine Hall and other buildings on campus, refusing to let people into the buildings:
Some students, however, felt that the boycotts were an ineffective method and chose to attend class instead. Marc Kaplan (’70) elected not to participate saying:
“I didn’t see how boycotting classes was going to end the war in Vietnam, so I went to classes because that’s what I was supposed to be doing…I was brought up to be a good boy, and didn’t get over that for a long time…Like decades.”
Dennis Royalty (’71), who was a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student at the time, remembers the exact moment he first heard about the shooting. In the following audio clip he describes how the controversy over the shooting dominated the paper and the effect this event had on the campus as a whole:
Hunt also recalls the “remember Kent State” march that occurred on campus the following year:
Beth Henkel (’74) started at IU a year after the Kent State massacre, but protests for the shooting and for Vietnam were still going strong. In April of 1971, she and a group of fellow students took buses to Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War. Find out more about her trip to DC and her experience spending the night on the White House lawn:
For more on Oral Histories and the Kent State Shooting, please join us today at 4pm in Hazelbaker Hall E159!