Ruth Mahaney & Nancy Brand: Insight into IU’s History of Women’s Reproductive Rights

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:

womens-crisis-service-advertisement
Advertisement from Women’s Handbook Spring ’75

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 Handbook Spring ’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.

front-page-jan-feb-1975
Front Page Cover: January-February 1975

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.

For more information on IU’s Bicentennial Oral History project contact the IU Archives or Kristin Leaman.

IU Alumni Remember the Kent State Shootings

 

Simpson_flyer_09-12-16_KBL_FINALToday at 4:oo pm, the Indiana University Archives and the Center for Documentary Research and Practice are co-sponsoring a talk by Craig Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist, based on his recently published book Above the Shots: An Oral History of the Kent State Shootings. Simpson utilized the Kent State Shootings Oral Histories collection for his book. The lecture will take place in Wells Library’s Hazelbaker Hall, room E159.

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:

Marc Kaplan
Marc Kaplan (’70)

“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:

Linda Hunt (’70) remembers seeing John Filo’s Pultizer Prize-winning photograph on The Newsweek magazine saying “…it looked like, surreal. Well, I mean the whole event was surreal; there’s no doubt about that.”

kent-state newsweek cover photo
Cover for May 1970 Newsweek Magazine Credit: newsweek.com

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!

Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project

BOHP_Logo

Plans for celebrating the Indiana University Bicentennial are well underway, especially with the incoming Class of 2020 arriving this fall. Many Signature Projects have been designed for IU’s Bicentennial, one of which is the Bicentennial Oral History Project. This project aims to collect histories from IU faculty, staff, and alumni university-wide. These oral histories provide a first-person perspective on the history of Indiana University available through no other source. The information collected from the participants can be used for research, teaching, and personal interest. Over 400 oral histories from IU alumni have already been collected as a part of this project. The Office of the Bicentennial and the Oral History Project Team are currently working to collect more oral histories and provide public access to them on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website. The website will launch this week on September 9th.

Katie manning the Oral History booth at Cream & Crimson Weekend.
Katie at the Oral History booth during Cream & Crimson Weekend.

The oral histories are collected through individual interviews either in-person or over the phone. The Oral History Project Team also attends events, where large amounts of alumni, staff, faculty, or retirees are available to share their stories. Recently, the team attended Cream and Crimson weekend to talk about the project with curious alumni, as well as listen to and record their personal histories from their days at IU.

Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive when conducting an oral history are, “Where will this recording go? Can anyone listen to it?” The oral histories collected for the Bicentennial will be uploaded, cataloged, and available on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website, so that they are searchable and accessible to the public. The Oral History Project Team are working to implement software that will enable easy access to the oral histories collected for the Bicentennial.

IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.
IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.

Many people often say, “I don’t really have anything interesting to share. You wouldn’t want my story.” We absolutely do want your story, and the interviewer will kindly walk the interviewee through the process before they begin recording. The interviewer will also ask a set of questions, so that the interviewee is not simply expected to talk on their own. Each individual story plays a significant role in filling an important historical aspect of Indiana University. The oral histories provide a wonderful opportunity to illuminate the peoples’ history of Indiana University from all campuses and from all angles. Listen to and enjoy some Bicentennial Oral History snippets from Indiana University Alumni:

 

Harry Sax, graduating class of 1961. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Gloria Randle Scott, graduating class of 1959. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Michelle Sarin, graduating class 2009. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Sue Sanders, graduating class of 1981. Carlton Sanders, graduating class of 1972. Indiana University – Southeast.

If you would like to learn more about the project or share your story with us, you may contact Kristin Leaman, Bicentennial Archivist, at kbleaman@indiana.edu. You can also receive updates about the Indiana University Bicentennial by following their Twitter and Facebook pages.