Sincerely Yours: Trade-Lasts and Lasting Letters

Guest post: Christine Wagner is the Administrative Secretary in IU Libraries Administration. 

Because the pandemic has many of us working at home, opportunities have presented themselves.  I joined the Archives’ Great Coronavirus Transcribe-a-thon, helping to transcribe the letters of Daniel Biddle, who attended IU from 1893 to 1895 and later became a seminal figure in the Indiana insurance business. His beautifully written letters and descriptions, along with his picture, have already been featured in an earlier blog about the “Removal Question.”

My task was to type his letters to Janie, his future wife. I jumped at the chance, because I thought there might be a bit of romance in them.  However, they are mostly prim and proper as one would expect from the late 1800s.  He describes classes, fires, his roommates, visiting lecturers, and the famous IU Scrap between the Freshman and Sophomore classes, of which he seems wary.  Yet, just as flirting in elementary school includes contrary behavior, Dan begins to tease Janie his second year.  He explains that her high school chemistry is “baby chemistry” for which he then has to apologize for:

I most humbly beg your pardon for “making so much fun” of your school affairs. I may be mistaken, but I think I have always praised them very highly. Of course I have not spoken of them in such glowing terms as I use in speaking of affairs here, but it is only just that I should not.

Pressed flower sent to Janie September 22, 1894.
Wayside Flowers flower, September 22, 1894

Also, he starts inserting tidbits about his familiarity with young ladies:  “By the way there is a pretty nice looking girl here where we room but have not yet succeeded in getting acquainted with her. Guess she is afraid of us. Girls are generally afraid of the boys you know.”

But Dan is an equal opportunity flirt and gives Janie the reins several times with inducements such as:

I would invite him (Dan’s roommate Eli who apparently has a mustache Janie finds intriguing) home with me some time but I am afraid you would _____ _____ ____ _____ _____ ____ _____ _____ _____. You can fill out the blanks some rainy day, or some time when you have all your lessons & have nothing else to do.

The paragraph Dan writes that includes blanks for Janie to fill in.
Letter, Daniel Biddle to Janie Bartee, October 3, 1894

Blanks become a frequently used strategy in the letters, though they never get filled in. Dan suggests the words that populate the blanks be shared in person.

There are further discussions on the role of women and men. Obviously replying to something Janie has pointed out, Dan responds:

I did not mean to say that all boys only care to have one girl. I was just stating the rule. Of course it has exceptions, but they are rare. Eli only has three or four girls I think. Yes, ‘boys are altogether lonely creatures.’ You surely hit the nail on the head that time. It’s a good thing to be able to know the truth when one sees it.

Later, he asserts women come to college to find someone to marry.  At times, it feels as if he is baiting Janie!

The culmination of their flirtation can be summed up in one hyphenated word: trade-lasts. On November 5, 1894 Dan writes, “So you have a trade–last for me have you, well I have one for you too. Now, as Tom Sawyer says its a ‘sure enough’ trade–last too, not one manufactured for the occasion as some I have heard of.”

When I first read it, I thought perhaps he had a trade magazine for her, but then the term came up again at the letter’s end: “If you wish to trade trade-lasts, box yours up and send it, and I will send mine in return guarenteeing [guaranteeing] it to be of good quality.”

The paragraph Dan writes when mentioning trade-lasts and Mark Twain.
Letter, Daniel Biddle to Janie Bartee, November 5, 1894

I hit the Internet to discover a trade-last was an exchange of compliments according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In John F. Clark’s article about trade-lasts in American Speech I found out they were a “purely American phenomenon,” shared by young people from the 1890s to the 1930s, and have been documented linguistically throughout the Midwest.[1]

Not being an expert on relationships now or in the 19th century, I do not pretend to know the psychology between Dan and Janie, but it appears that the flirting and the baiting and the blanks get to be a little too much. Dan apologizes more:

I believe I did not say what you said [“implied” above first “said”] I said, but think I said that I said what I meant and meant what I said in the case in question; at least I say now that I do not always say what I mean or mean what I say. Beg your pardon for the first of this statement.

The paragraph Dan writes apologizing to Janie saying words are dumb things.
Letter, Daniel Biddle to Janie Bartee, November 25, 1894

And more apologies:

Well now for that marveless [marvelous] letter you spoke of, which, it seems, you unfortunately misunderstood. I thought you understood that my reckless remarks were only in fun, and am sorry to learn you thought them otherwise. I am aware of the truth of your statement that ones thoughts look funny on paper. Words are poor dumb things when written and sometimes express in a feeble way what is intended, and in a powerful way that which was not intended. In conversation the manner in which a thing is said & the expression of the face often mean more than the spoken words. I possibly did not bear this in mind when writing my last letter, and hence passed over the danger line without realizing it. I however beg your pardon for the past, and promise to be more careful in the future.

Dan seems to be adept at tongue and cheek. By winter break, Janie has a “bone to pick with him.” Afterwards, it is clear one of Dan’s friends has shared something unsettling with her. As the reader of the letters, we never truly find out, but Dan and Janie gingerly begin to talk of trade-lasts again.

Amidst the sharing of Latin, James Whitcomb Riley phrases, book recommendations, and hometown gossip, the two navigate their growing closer.  By the end of Dan’s last year, there is a hesitation between them, a backing away from the flirtation and, perhaps, a maturity.  In his last letter to her, Dan shares, “Yes, I think I have noticed somewhat of a change in you. I am better acquainted with you now than before…”

It is an intimate privilege to read someone else’s letters to their future spouse. I had to remind myself that even though these were Dan’s words, it was Janie who kept the letters in the first place. I knew from the biographical information on the finding aid that Janie died before Dan. Having had two sons and hopefully of fulfilling life, she died of diphtheria at age 51.[2]  After Janie’s initial keeping the letters safe, it was Dan and their family who kept them and eventually gave them to the Archives. Quite a loving gesture for quite a budding love affair.

All of the letters have been digitized and are available through the finding aid. The transcriptions are not publicly available yet, so just reach out to the Archives if you would like access!

[1] APA: Clark, J. (1983). The Vainglorious Trade-Last: A Reappraisal. American Speech, 58(1), 20-30. doi:10.2307/454748

[2] Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 01 June 2020), memorial page for Jane “Janie” Bartee Biddle (29 Mar 1874–21 Dec 1925), Find a Grave Memorial no. 56935303, citing Remington Cemetery, Remington, Jasper County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Alana Knochel Bauman (contributor 47076457) .

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 5

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.

This is the last entry, so many thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!


The History of Television at IU by Michelle Stallman and Alyssa Woolard

Even though television is an everyday part of life now, it has not always there to provide us with entertainment, inform us with news updates, and enlighten us with educational programming. Today, a student in the Indiana University Media School has the option to study a variety of media subjects, including not only the business of television, but also how to create television programs. Yet before we had the structure we have now, the Media School underwent numerous changes throughout its lifetime. The Department of Journalism, created in 1911, was the foundation of media studies at Indiana University, but it wasn’t until 1945, when the Department of Radio was founded, that studying newer forms of mass communication, specifically television, had a place in the curriculum at IU.

During the 1940s, television broadcasting was a new form of mass communication. Throughout this decade, only a handful of American households owned a television set, as they were very expensive, and therefore inaccessible, especially during wartime. In addition, there were not very many television networks for people to watch, and in many communities, there were no network signals that could reach them.
For almost the entirety of the 1940s, Bloomington did not have a local network. This changed on November 11th, 1949, when the city of Bloomington first broadcast WTTV. It was the second network in Indiana, with the only precedent being WFBM-TV (now known as WRTV) starting their broadcast in May of 1949, only four months prior. In its early years, WTTV operated as an NBC affiliate station before becoming an independent station in 1957. It has since gone through a number of affiliate changes, but it currently operates with CBS in the Indianapolis area, despite still being licensed to Bloomington.

As television rose in popularity and became more accessible to the general public in the early 1950s, people began to develop strong opinions and beliefs when it came to watching it. During these early days of television, limited access to content meant that television viewers did not have any control over what they watched, as seen in this letter to the editor from an Indiana newspaper. An Indianapolis resident describes his disdain with the programming available through WFBM-TV, which was, at that point in time, the only network available in the city. The writer describes often becoming bored with his television, turning to his radio for entertainment instead. This lack of programming meant that there was room for many more networks to be established so that viewers could have more variety and options when looking for entertainment, news, or education.

Indianapolis Times, “Television, 1944-1953,” Collection C104.12

In an Indianapolis Times article from this period, a survey is summarized which asked television viewers how they pass the time during the commercial breaks of their favorite television programs. A common answer for women at the time was to do the dishes, while many men opted to take showers during the breaks.  Other answers varied from talking with family members to reading. It seemed that only one person answered that they liked to watch the commercials. A common disdain for commercials may go back further than we think.

All of this increased interest in television as its popularity rose meant that this new form of media needed to be studied so that students could harness its power. Indiana University, specifically, was interested in not only the commercial uses for a television studio, but also the educational uses. For a number of years, members of IU’s staff championed for the addition of Television to the Department of Radio, only to be turned down at every corner. However, the university’s decision against adding a television curriculum was not a lack of importance on the subject, but rather a lack of funds.

“Television Allocations, 1950-1951,” Collection C104.12

During a TV hearing in 1950, Herman B Wells, then the president of Indiana University, said on the matter: “So far the University’s budget has been very modest as compared to the cost of television facilities and equipment. We look forward to the time when, besides cooperating with commercial stations, Indiana University and other educational institutions may have their own educational television facilities.” In 1953, this dream for a TV department in the university became a reality. IU set aside $75,000 for the purpose of adding television to the Department of Radio, more than $49,000 of which was allocated solely to buy television equipment.

A likely contribution to the university finally accepting a television addition was their previous usage of television for educational purposes.  Starting in 1954, classes were offered via television. Instead of having to physically show up to class, students could use their televisions to watch lectures and take courses remotely, much like how online classes are taken today.  These programs were produced in the television studios at IU and were broadcast through Bloomington’s network, WTTV. The university used this technology to allow for larger class sizes by televising a lecture to other halls on campus. Because of this, a wider variety of courses were offered each semester through television, from English, to First Aid, to Art Appreciation.

“Recording Class,” 1961. IU Archives P0072232

With the introduction of television to the curriculum at the newly dubbed Department of Radio and Television, a number of different courses were developed that handled a variety of television-related subjects. Many of the courses offered in the late 1950s bear a strong resemblance to the courses current Media School students take. There were some classes that worked with television on a more foundational level, like “Television Production” and “Introduction to Radio and Television I”, while others dove into more specific realms of the TV world, like “Educational Writing for Radio and Television” and “Reporting and Newswriting for Radio and Television I”.

One such course was “Utilization of Television Films”, taught by William H. Kroll in the late 1950s. The idea behind the course was to teach both the theory and practice of making and using films for television. Kroll’s class taught the fundamental principles, production, and programming of films for television. Students learned in detail about topics like how to shoot and edit film, understanding copyright laws, and principles of film and television. Many of the points outlined in the syllabus resemble subjects taught in modern courses like “Introduction to Production Techniques and Practice,” a course that students can take now in the Media School to learn more about studio and field work for television. Even the activities resemble those completed in current courses.

Students tested their skills in writing narrations for newsreels and commercials, and they wrote essays about topics like copyright law. In the laboratory section of the class, students were able to practice shooting and processing a variety of films, like for a short film and for a news event. While how and where we consume television may have changed, many of the principles taught have remained the same.

Today, the Media School encapsulates a variety of subjects, including journalism, game design, production, and advertising, just to name a few. As the number of mass media forms has grown, so has Indiana University’s Media School. Originally just the Department of Journalism, the college grew to incorporate radio, television, film, video games, and digital media.

Although new forms of media have arisen, television continues to be a vital part of our culture today. Teachers continue to show educational films during classes, and television remains dominant in providing news to the people. However, as technology has advanced, distance learning has changed. Today, online courses are used to learn at home instead of television courses, but that does not change the impact and influence that they had over the education of today. While the television studios used by Media School students today may look a lot different than the ones used in the 1950s, they remain steadfast in the teaching and application of many of the same principles.


The Eggshell Press by Ethan Fields

When it comes to American History, there are very few decades that saw a cultural, political and social revolution equivalent to that of the 1960s. During this time period, civil and social unrest that had been brewing for years finally boiled over into all aspects of American life. From the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, to music, the counterculture and political demonstrations, our nation was in the middle of a major shift that created ripples we still feel and see today. Almost all, if not every town and city in America felt the effects of the changes occurring in the 1960s, and Bloomington, Indiana was no different. As a college town, many demonstrations and rallies were taking place that protested the injustices our nation had were/had been promoting such as the Vietnam War, corrupt politicians/policies and systematic racism. And thanks to a single mimeograph machine, the people’s messages were able to be spread across campus and the town of Bloomington.

This mimeograph machine went by the name of the Eggshell Press and was active from the fall of 1967 to August of 1968. Residing in a spare bedroom belonging to Carol B. Chittenden and her husband, this machine printed everything from flyers to memorandums that were passed out during and after vigils, marches, demonstrations and rallies. It is interesting to note that the machine got its name when people suggested that the materials being printed off should be copyrighted. In order to copyright the materials, though, a publisher was mandatory and so the machine and organization became known as the Eggshell Press. This organization was very special and unique in the sense that no single group was responsible for or owned the machine. Instead, student groups used the machines when they had a message they wanted to get out so their voices could be heard. Examples of issues the Eggshell Press addressed include the Vietnam War, draft resistance, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and other major cultural events that occurred during this time period.

As evident from the subject matter being printed, a majority of the student groups using the machine could be considered part of the “New Left.” But while this is the case, there are two distinct “series” that were printed by the Eggshell Press during its lifespan. The first series, now referred to as “Organizations”, consisted of publications made by student run organizations at Indiana University such as the Students for Democratic Society, the Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Progressive Reform Party. These organizations produced materials that voiced liberal views on several issues that were occurring in the United States during the mid to late 60’s, such as the ones listed above. A second series, which is now referred to as “Subjects”, contains materials that discussed topics such as the ones listed above along with the Dow Recruitment demonstration and James Retherford, who was once the editor-in-chief of an underground student newspaper known as The Spectator. All of these topics had a “New Left”/liberal perspective as well with the “Subjects” series being more information based than the “Organizations” series. This is because the materials printed during this series not only touched upon important social movements that were occurring at the time, but other “miscellaneous” events that were not related to protests or any other major movements. The documents recorded under “miscellaneous” reveal and discuss subjects such as financial transactions and a graduate student petition to President Stahr.

All in all, the history of the Eggshell press is fascinating. To me, it makes sense and fits right in with the social movement that was occurring at the time. In a decade where citizens of the United States were beginning to fully realize how much power and impact they had when it came to changing American society and politics, the Eggshell press served a great purpose and allowed Indiana University students to voice their concerns and ideas. One of my favorite publications from this collection can be found in the “Organizations” series and is called Committee to End the War in Vietnam, 1967-1968. In this group of publications, there are several pieces regarding resisting the draft, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the promotion of peace and love. Out of these, I found myself drawn to the leaflet that discussed resisting the Vietnam draft. The thing that drew me towards this specific print is that it points out what rights you have as a citizen and student and how they apply to the draft. For example, in the leaflet, it has lines such as “YOU’RE STILL A CIVILIAN WHILE YOU ARE IN THIS BUILDING. YOU ARE UNDER CIVIL LAW UNTIL YOU ARE INDUCTED INTO THE ARMY. Don’t let the military push you around; make them treat you with respect. You are not machines under their command” and “YOU CAN STAND UP LIKE A MAN AND SAY NO TO THE WAR MACHINE. Why join the military? Why kill in Vietnam? RESIST THE DRAFT.” These lines stuck out to me because of how direct and serious they were presented. It made me realize how serious of a matter this issue was to students, especially the ones who were part of the Committee to End the War in Vietnam at the time. It also forced me to consider how widespread this opinion on the Vietnam War and the draft was across the country. Because not only were students on IU’s campus protesting this event, celebrities and athletes such as Mohammad Ali were as well. And even though it meant risking your reputation and life as a free citizen, they were willing to put it all on the line in order to stand up for what they believed in.

Due to the fact that we, as a nation, are currently in a period of strong division and opposition, the Eggshell press was something I could relate to. Even though the issues they are covering and promoting are not the same, there are a lot of parallels to what we are seeing and experiencing today. In the end, the Eggshell represents what we, as both students and citizens, have the power and right to do as Americans. We deserve to have our voice heard and if we try hard enough, it will be.


Martha Vicinus, Women’s Studies, and 1970s Feminism by Meredith May

Almost every college student can say they have heard of a gender/women’s studies course, or that they have met a gender/women’s studies major. This has not always been the case, of course. At Indiana University in particular, women’s studies became a part of the content offered in the year 1973. A woman named Martha Vicinus was a faculty member from within the English department, and she was integral in aiding the development and popularity of these courses. Upon examining the Martha Vicinus papers available at the University Archives, it becomes evident that there was an extreme amount of dedication of herself and other faculty members to create courses and education surrounding women, their history, great works, and the problems they faced in that day in age.

Martha and her colleagues not only worked to offer classes at Indiana University relative to women’s studies, but they also hosted the Midwest Women’s Studies Conference and something they called “Brown Bag Luncheon Discussions”. These discussions allowed for presentations of information relative to Women’s Studies and beyond over a light lunch. The plan for one such event is as follows “Judith Davis of SPEA will present information on ‘How to Get a Job.’ Ms. Davis, who conducted an earlier luncheon discussion on job discrimination, will talk about such problems as writing resumés, interviewing for jobs, and finding a job that fits one’s interests. She will also discuss assertiveness training techniques which have been developed to simulate job interview situations and to teach the job applicant how to present her/himself in the most positive possible manner.” As evident with this quote from a paper titled News From Women’s Studies, the luncheons were not only directed at and about women, they were also inclusive of men.

They regularly met in a group they called the “Women’s Studies Coordinating Committee”, where they planned and discussed possible events and programming that they would sponsor on campus. The committee came together nearly every week, and members held regular correspondence with one another. One document alludes to their being approximately 13 members in the period from 1974-75, Martha being one of them. This committee was responsible for the aforementioned Midwest Women’s Studies Conference, and thus organized the panels, workshops, and “nuts and bolts” of the occasion. They also were the sponsor and coordinators behind the Brown Bag Luncheons.

The conference was held on April 4th, 5th, and 6th in 1975. It offered seminars on starting women’s studies programs, classroom techniques and curriculum, films, panels and much more. These took place in Ballantine Hall and Woodburn, beginning at 8:30PM on Friday and ending at 4:00 PM Sunday, making it a weekend chock full of content. The committee made every possible effort to allow women to attend, making available some limited free housing for the conference, but also providing information on hotels and restaurants. The registration materials provided pricing for hotel rooms in Bloomington and estimated cab fares from Indianapolis to Bloomington, as well as the likely cost to rent a car. They even went so far as to have a day care available that was at no additional cost as it was built into the registration fee.

Similarly, the women’s studies content offered to students for credit on campus was incredible and varied. In the fall of 1975, there were approximately 22 courses “devoted to the study of women” available to students at Indiana University. These came from many different departments, from Forensic Studies to English. Examples of these courses include “Feminism and Morality”, “Clothing and Culture”, and “Sociology of Family Systems”. The content of the offered classes emphasized representation of women in all fields, and included information on their roles in history, the arts, and the family. Some of the courses had a greater focus on gender and sex itself rather than just the actions and depictions of women. A year prior, in 1974, the program began to offer grants to both students and faculty in amounts ranging from $25 to $500, which were able to be spent towards additions to the Women’s Studies program or relative research.

The 1970s can be and are credited with the rise of feminism. The efforts by Martha Vicinus and the faculty that worked to expand collegiate education to be inclusive of women in the 1970s are a remarkable implementation of the ideology of the feminist movement and equality of the sexes. The women involved with these projects created an atmosphere on campus that can be credited with keeping up with the times; as feminism and a focus on women and their worth became a part of counter culture in the United States, it did the same on Indiana University’s campus. Arguably, Indiana University took this counter-culture a step further by having it be established and cultivated by faculty, making it less a part of counter-culture and more-so a part of the culture on campus as whole.

This culture of feminism continues on campus today with many groups on campus advocating for feminist beliefs or in the name of feminism itself. Today, nearly 45 years after the women’s studies office came into existence, Indiana University Bloomington offers a Bachelor of Art Degree in Gender Studies, as well as a Master of arts and a Philosophical Doctorate in Gender Studies. It likewise offers minors in these areas and has an entire department dedicated to it within the College of Arts and Sciences. Gender studies envelops curriculum regarding women’s studies, and is described by the department as “ focuse[d] on the complex interrelationships between sexed bodies, gendered identities, and sexualities through diverse methodologies and far-ranging institutional and interpersonal locations.” Thus the current program serves and surpasses the intent of Martha and her colleagues.

The Indiana University Archives located in Wells Library holds the Martha Vicinus papers, which include details surrounding the Women’s Studies program at Indiana University and Midwest Women’s Studies Program, in addition to papers and correspondence on other Women’s Movement and union efforts within Bloomington and Indiana obtained by Martha Vicinus and her family.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 4

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.

Roger Bean – “Sylvia Meets Big Dick and Little Joe Incognito”, (1934). IU Archives P0047665

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.

Re: The 10th Street Fieldhouse, (1928). IU Archives P0047734
Big Ten Day, (1923). IU Archives P0044854









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.

“Roger Bean – This Looks Like a Second Warning to the Postman.” IU Archives P0047741


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.

“Career Opportunities for Women,” 1975 Woman’s Handbook

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.

Directory from 1975 Women’s Handbook

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.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 3

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!


University Removal Question by Sarah Richter

Indiana University is such an integral part of Bloomington. It is hard to imagine what the town would be like if the university was never here. Likewise, it is hard to imagine what Indiana University would be like without our beloved B-town. At times, it seems like the whole town revolves around the college. The town is thriving thanks to the number of people the university has brought to it. The students have made Bloomington their home and many would not know what life in college would be like in any other place.

The ongoing renovations on the campus have brought a lot of attention to the buildings of IU. Kirkwood Hall is among those buildings that have recently been renovated. Upon doing some digging on the building’s history in the Indiana University Archives, the story of the university removal question was discovered.

During the dedication of Kirkwood Hall, there was an unfortunate incident related to the university removal question. The dedication took place on the 25th of January 1895. The building was named after Daniel Kirkwood, who was once a professor at Indiana University. There were many people present, including students, alumni, professors, other citizens of Bloomington, as well as Company H of the 1st Regiment of the Indiana National Guard, there to escort the Governor Claude Mathews, who had also come for the event.

Kirkwood Hall dedication program, January 25, 1895

At the time of the dedication there had already been talk of removing the Indiana University campus and relocating it to Indianapolis. This was not a new concept and the thought had been present among Bloomington for some time. It was thought that it was just a rumor, but as time passed, the removal question became more of a serious suggestion for the university. During that time the university was rationally much smaller than it is today, but it was growing nonetheless. In 1884, there was a mere 144 students enrolled at the university and by 1894 that number had grown to 748 students. Although these numbers still feel small in comparison to the size of the university today, it was growing much faster than the university could keep up with. The campus was quickly running out of space for classes, housing, and offices. There was need for additional facilities for each of these areas. Every space imaginable was used to hold classes or offices, including basements and attics. Relocating to Indianapolis would allow the university to expand much easier than it could have in Bloomington. Indiana University would be able to take advantage of the structures already in place in Indianapolis. There would be better access to the public libraries, new laboratories, and hospitals for the medical students.

There was much to be debated in the questioning of whether Indiana University should be kept in Bloomington or moved to Indianapolis. The citizens of Bloomington were in favor of keeping the university, while many students were in support of the removal. There was debate over whether having the campus in Indianapolis would have more social distractions for the students from their schoolwork. Some thought that the parents would not like for the university to be in Indianapolis as they preferred to send their children to school somewhere quiet to focus on their studies. The centralized location of Indianapolis seemed to be more beneficial to the university, in terms of it being accessible to more people in the northern part of the state. The resources that came with the city of Indianapolis would also have been beneficial to the school. There may have been better access to lectures for the students, as well as things such a music not only for entertainment but for educational purposes. The expenses of the removal were also debated. It would have been expensive to expand with new builds in Bloomington but moving to Indianapolis would have been a great cost as well as new facilities would need to be purchases and renovated to suit the uses of the university. The overall living expenses for the students would be much higher as well, increasing the cost of attendance. There were both benefits and disadvantages to each option. In one issue of The Student (early name of the Indiana Daily Student), it is stated that “The University and Bloomington have grown up together.” There was no doubt an attachment to the town for those associated with the university, much like there is today.

In spite of this, there was a vocal group of students in favor of removing the University to Indianapolis. They made badges that they wore made from strips of ribbon that stated “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis.” On the Day of the dedication there were chants shouted before the event of “Remove IU! Remove IU! You’re the men to put her through!” meant for all of the university’s board as well as those from the state legislature that were in attendance. The badges made by the students were worn at the dedication of Kirkwood Hall as well. Members of the Company H were instructed to remove such badges and any students who resisted were faced with the violence of being knocked down or struck by bayonets. After the incident some who spoke stated that the dedication was not the proper place to discuss the removal question. Some students wanted to have the occurrence investigated but it is unclear whether it was according to the files from the archives on this event.

This is a letter D.W. Biddle wrote to his parents detailing the incident at the Kirkwood Hall Dedication. He was a student at the time and was able to write down his firsthand experience of the event, as well as give some of his views on the removal question. There are other letters he wrote both to his parents and to others as well that can be found in the IU Archives (Collection C700). Click on images to view full size. 


















The city of Bloomington is obviously still the home of the flagship campus of Indiana University today. The two simply go hand in hand today despite being questioned in the past. The experience of Indiana University would be entirely different for the students if it was located in Indianapolis today. The university has grown to support itself here and as a result Bloomington has grown as well. If the question of removing the university were brought up today, it is likely that the students would view it differently and may be standing up to keep it in Bloomington instead.





IU R.O.T.C. Evolves but still Thrives by Madi Smalstig and Kasey Cassle

As a student today, you likely know of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), however, you think that is has always been a voluntary program. Now, imagine you are a male student coming to Indiana University in the year 1964. Along with your academic courses, you would have been automatically enrolled in R.O.T.C. courses, in which you would gain knowledge about the military and be required to go through a physical training course.

Even though this military program was compulsory and unavoidable, many people took pride in their participation. The program produced well rounded students with the knowledge and experience of a basic trained soldier which was beneficial to careers within the military as well as other careers in the workforce.

Despite these beneficial factors, many people opposed it and eventually forced Indiana University’s Board of Trustees to change the program from compulsory to voluntary.

“Summer School Battalion – R.O.T.C. – In charge of Sergeant Jones – July 23, 1918.” IU Archives P0027540

Military training was offered sporadically at Indiana University from 1841 to 1874. In 1917, the R.O.T.C. program was established. For male students, the program was compulsory and for females it was voluntary. The students involved received basic hands-on military and academic training. This included 3 hours of drill, 4 hours of military training and one meeting every week. R.O.T.C. was not only required for Indiana University male students, but it was compulsory on many public university campuses across the nation.

In 1965, the university Board of Trustees decided to make the program voluntary due to public protests and the nation’s changing political climate.

The Vietnam War and the Anti-R.O.T.C.
Indiana University’s R.O.T.C. program was greatly affected by the Vietnam War and the anti-military attitude that was expressed by many Americans. Many United States citizens believed that the country should not join the war effort in Vietnam, however the United States joined the war effort in the early 1960’s by enacting the draft and sending thousands of young, male soldiers to Vietnam.

Soldiers and war supporters were subjected to hatred and ridicule. Military training which at one point had been a well-respected skill and character trait, slowly morphed into an unpopular, undesired characteristic. This lack of respect towards soldiers and military training filtered into the Indiana University campus and eventually lead to the protest of the R.O.T.C. program by students, parents, and faculty. Several groups on campus including Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Anti-ROTC publicly protested the mandatory enrollment of freshmen into the R.O.T.C. program. Specifically, the Anti-ROTC organization was formed with the sole intention of ending the compulsory rule at IU.

Herman B Wells speaking with member of the Students for A Democratic Society (SDS). 1969. IU Archives P0029024

The 1960s was not the first time that Indiana University’s compulsory R.O.T.C. program was protested but with the nation’s increasing questioning of war across the globe and hatred of war, the opposition became too great to ignore.

In December 1964, the Reserve Officers Training Corps Vitalization Act, or Public Law 88-647, was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This law expanded the reserve training program by adding new facets to existing R.O.T.C. programs while also adding J.R.O.T.C. in high schools. The changes within the college R.O.T.C. programs allowed for the continuation of a four-year program as well as a new program where a male could attend a summer course instead of the first two years then complete the final two years at the university.

In addition to curriculum changes, this act also allowed for the university to decide whether enrollment in the program was compulsory or voluntary. After several months of continued protests against the compulsory program, the Indiana University Board of Trustees voted to make the program a voluntary choice for all freshmen. The change went into effect for the freshmen of fall 1965. In the following year, enrollment in the R.O.T.C. program decreased by around 60 percent.

Although the program was no longer required, it continued to be an option for all Indiana University students due to the support of former IU President Herman B Wells and other IU authorities.

The Decision and Student Reactions
It was on March 15, 1965 that the Board of Trustees decided to make the R.O.T.C. program voluntary and in the days after the community erupted. A program that had been in place for decades was suddenly changed, therefore, strong reactions for both pro and anti R.O.T.C. sides were expected of the students and faculty at IU.

A few students, like John Mead and Steve Miller appreciated the change, although for different reasons. Mead, a sophomore who had willingly signed up for the R.O.T.C. advanced program said, “I think it is good in that it dissolves the ill-feeling in students who are forced to take it. It is also bad in that students won’t become acquainted with the advantages of the program as they are compelled to under the present system.” On the other hand, Miller, a freshman, just did not understand the significance of the program for certain majors. He was happy to see the requirement disbanded because it meant that he would have more time to fulfill the requirements for his major.

These students’ opinions illustrate two of the various reasons why people wished for the program to become voluntary. Many fought for freedom from the compulsory program due to anti-war and anti-military sentiment, but some also fought for more personal issues, such as Mead and Miller. All of these efforts created enough momentum for the movement against compulsory enrollment in the program that IU decided to change its policy.
In addition, this article also proves that not all students were in agreement with the new change. One freshman, Dick Simmons, said, “I really don’t know whether I’ll go on with ROTC next year or not, but I can’t help but feel that at least one year should be compulsory, just to give you a taste of what it’s like.”

These students who were completely against the requirement, like those who created clubs like the Anti-R.O.T.C, eventually had a big impact on the rest of the student body. It wasn’t that the entire campus was against the requirement, it was that the university noticed that there were students among the protestors who were being forced to act against their own beliefs and political standings. The university was able to recognize this and change the program so students were given the option to receive training or not.

After the compulsory rule was disbanded, the group Anti-R.O.T.C., which was founded with the sole purpose of ending the mandatory R.O.T.C. program, decided to terminate their group.

Indiana Daily Student, March 17, 1965.

“We do not consider the University’s decision a ‘victory’ for Anti-R.O.T.C. It is a victory for the whole Student Body, and we are proud to think that we might have played some part, however small, in helping the Trustees reach the decision they did,” said the Anti-ROTC executive committee in an article published in the IDS.

They felt that the club had fulfilled its purpose by informing other students about the R.O.T.C. program and were proud of the impact they had.

Although there may have been some students who hoped to get rid of the program entirely, the focus of many students was simply to make it a choice for students to join rather than an obligation.

R.O.T.C. Continues
Since March 15, 1965, every student enrolled at Indiana University has had the opportunity to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps, but none have been required to join. Many students have completed the course work and have gone onto military careers or other careers within the workforce.

Although, starting in the early 1970s when the U.S. was in the thick of the Vietnam war, there was a period of time where of the program experienced a decrease in membership, the program continued and eventually enrollment increased. According to an article from the IDS, the Army R.O.T.C. program reached an all-time low enrollment of 58 freshman and 121 total students and the Air Force R.O.T.C. program also had staggeringly low numbers of 94 total students in the fall of 1973. In 1974, however, the program began to rebuild and, that year, the Army R.O.T.C. program had 82 freshmen enroll, which bumped the total number of students to 156.

About three years after the change in 1968, Herman B Wells, then serving as interim President, gave a speech addressing the program and its policy changes and how they affect the university as a whole. He emphasized that, “R.O.T.C. continues to be offered at I.U. because many of our students desire officer training in conjunction with their college education,” and it, “in no way interferes with conscientious objectors any more than, for example, the existence of our School of Medicine interferes with students who are Christian Sciences.” Throughout 1968, the SDS continued to protest the R.O.T.C. program. Despite this, President Stahr and university administrators, including Wells as Chancellor, supported the R.O.T.C. program and its continued presence on Indiana University’s campus. They also allowed the SDS and other organizations to continue to assemble and bring forth their concerns in peaceful manners. (Subject File 1967-1969, Student Affairs)

The words spoken in Wells’s speech still ring true today. The R.O.T.C. program has continued through the ever-changing political climate of the nation and the world, and, although students today are not required to enroll in the R.O.T.C. program, the program still gives choice to the students and plays an important role in the culture of the university.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 2

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 Depictions of the Tragedy of Woyzeck at Indiana University by Adam Lu

Died of typhus at the young age of 23, Georg Büchner, the young, brilliant German dramatist’s legacy was limited to a handful of stories and fragments. However, out of the manuscripts he left, one unfinished tragedy became one of the most fascinating theatrical puzzles to put together.

The play, Woyzeck, was speculated to be started by Büchner in mid-1936, about half a year before his decease. The left 29 written scenes, without a particular intended order from the author, collectively created an open-ended tale subject to independent interpretations and rearrangements from other playwrights. Dozens of playwrights have since founded their own versions of Woyzeck to put on stage and screen, and one of them, adapted by Daniel Kramer, was used for the production at Indiana University during the 1999-2000 season.

The inspiration of Woyzeck very likely came from the real-life case of Johann Christian Woyzeck, who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Germany. Born in 1780 and raised in Leipzig to be a wig-maker, Woyzeck lost both his parents before 13 and had lived his life in or near poverty since then. He was hired by mercenary during the Napoleonic wars from 1803-1815. When he returned to Leipzig after the wars, Woyzeck maintained a living by taking odd, low-paid jobs, often falling in trouble with the law due to alcohol abuse. People believed him to be a madman, displaying irrational, schizophrenic behavior.

In 1818, Woyzeck attempted a relationship with a widow named Johanna Christiana Woost. The relationship probably didn’t progress as Woyzeck thought, as he was often frustrated because Woost went out with other people. On June 2, 1821, when Woyzeck saw her walking with another man, he chased after her to her house and stabbed her to death with a knife recently fitted with a handle. When the murder was discovered, Woyzeck was sent in prison.

T300 production of Woyzeck, 1999. IU Archives P0085087

Because of the presumably compromised mental state Woyzeck held, for the first time in German history, the concept of insanity was raised by the defense team. The court prompted a doctor, Johann Christian August Clarus, to evaluate Woyzeck’s “periodic madness” to determine whether he had the will to commit the crime. However, the examination didn’t favor Woyzeck, as Dr. Clarus noted, “His physical as well as mental state of mind do not provide any grounds for assuming state of ill health that would diminish his free will and his senses of responsibility.”

Woyzeck was sentenced to death. Although the defense team motioned to object, which led to a second trial on October 1823, the court didn’t reverse the sentence. On August 27, 1824, Woyzeck’s life came to the tragic conclusion when he was beheaded in Leipzig.

The dramatization of Woyzeck elevated this notable murder case to a stronger display of the madness. In the original script by Büchner, Woyzeck, now the more erratic main character, constantly heard voices of repeated words in his head and was easily agitated. He let a doctor experiment on him, eating nothing but peas to earn a few coins. His affairs with Marie, the fictional female character, led to an illegitimate child. He peed in the streets, had barely any people to listen to him, and was treated as if he was no more than a monkey from a circus. At the culmination of the events, Woyzeck took Marie near a pond, where he mercilessly killed her. After the murder, he returned to a gathering to dance, where the blood on his wrist was discovered. In the end, Woyzeck ran back to the pond, where he was speculated to commit suicide.

Dale McFadden’s notes; IU Archives Collection C299

Büchner carved out a philosophical discussion about science, religion, power, military, sex, and of course, human mentality, from his depictions. The play fabricated a restless, chaotic environment. Within this compound of disorganized intentions, emotions, and actions, however, Büchner drew a dreadful notion of meaninglessness, that the nature of life was but insignificance. As indicated by the editor notes from Dale McFadden, Professor of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, Associate Chair, and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Indiana University, “…I think that Buchner is trying to present a world in which irrational forces must be seen and recognized by all of us, even when it is not in our power to know why they exist. I think his strong interest in Nature and the processes of living and dying drew him to creating a world view where seeing was more important than explaining. Explaining can ruin seeing…”

Daniel Kramer’s version of Woyzeck. IU Archives Collection C299

Daniel Kramer’s adaptation of the play condensed the 29 scenes from the original script to 20, eliminating some characters and dialogues and combining some other. He also added (or paraphrased) some counters between the characters to further develop the sense of chaos from Büchner’s manuscripts.

Indiana University’s production of Woyzeck followed this perception to the stage design. There was a strong hint of expressionism regarding the scenic respects of the production, simplifying the setting to a couple of observable benches, a giant wall, some charts to represent the monkey and the horse from the circus. Contrast was also emphasized. Although the color scheme of the design was limited to the yellow to the earth-tone ranges, there would be colder-colored lighting, such as green and blue. The intensity of illumination also employed concentration on certain playing areas, leaving everywhere else (or behind) dim or dark. Finally, contrasting the scenic display all, the actors’ costumes were more sophisticated, clearly tipping the balance of the demonstration of the content towards the characters’ vocal and physical movements.

Stage Photo, Dance Scene. IU Archives P0085090

A senseless, cold delivery to the viewers was intended. If the viewers were to place themselves in this specific scenario, they might get a creepy or even disturbing feeling. It was a world where everything was dangling on the surface, and nothing could matter, even the existence and the existence. The unfolding of Woyzeck’s pain and Büchner’s masterpiece was no short of a chilling, breathtaking experience. When Woyzeck drowned himself, and the light snapped to black, we, the witnesses, in the end, could do nothing but send out a sigh, maybe a numb exclamation:

“What a murder. A good, genuine, beautiful murder.”


The Marriage Course: IU Opens New Doors for Students by Sabrina Siew & Maddie Stacey

According to Relationships in America, Americans on average have sex 118 times per year. In the past, these sexually active Americans have had very little access to sex education. Thankfully, sex education curriculum in America has dramatically increased in recent years due to the influx of research on topics ranging from STDs, to sexuality, to sexual pleasure. One of the most important researchers who revolutionized how we regard sex and marriage today was Alfred Kinsey, founder and creator of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

As of today, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is an essential component of Indiana University and a pinnacle for sexual research. Hundreds of discoveries were made in regards to sexuality, love, and the science behind sex. At the time of its founding, however, these discoveries and ideas produced by Alfred Kinsey were not popular or well-received by the public. Reflecting back on Dr. Kinsey’s work in the mid-20th-century, we can conclude that Alfred Kinsey was a catalyst at Indiana University for progressive thinking. Not only was Kinsey allowing the students here to access information that was not readily available to them, but he was creating an open conversation about sex and marriage in general.

Almost 80 years ago, Alfred Kinsey developed the concept for a Marriage Course to educate young adults on important aspects of marriage. This course covered everything from biology, economics, ethics, law, psychology, and sociology, to even venereal disease. This was revolutionary. Very few available courses or universities in the past had attempted to provide education about marriage in such a comprehensive way. Not only was Dr. Kinsey planning on teaching about the partnership aspects of marriage, but also about sex. Comprehensive sex education by itself at that time would have been unthought of, but integrating it into a course about marriage was just as rare. At the time, Herman B Wells was the president of Indiana University and was an avid proponent of the implementation of the Marriage Course. In correspondence with Dr. Kinsey, President Wells appeared to be not only supportive, but also extremely interested in the results of the course. After working through the concept, and getting IU faculty on board, Kinsey and his fellow lecturers were finally able to implement the Marriage Course into the Indiana University curriculum.

Letter from Herman B Wells to Alfred Kinsey regarding the implementation of the Marriage Course.

In the summer of 1938, Indiana University welcomed its first class of students enrolled in the Marriage Course. This course was available to only upperclassmen and married students with the goal of educating these young adults on the truth about marriage. Guest lecturers were brought into the classroom to teach students about marriage from both their own perspectives and their knowledge from their individual fields of study. Though the course was not offered for credit, it still received a large number of enrollments, totaling 98 students in its inaugural class, and flying to over 200 in the next semester. The initial course consisted of 14 lectures, from various IU faculty, covering distinct aspects of marriage. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the initial participants wanted more information about the biological aspects of marriage following the conclusion of the course.

Although the Marriage Course was incredibly popular within the student population, concerned parents and members of the community were worried about the teachings of such a taboo subject. Even faculty members were in shock at some of the teachings, and they had no problem voicing their concerns. Though the idea of marriage was common, the thought of any real sex education in a university capacity was frightening and even threatening to many people’s ways of life. An influx of letters regarding the removal of this course started to flood the offices of Indiana University. Dr. Kinsey and Herman B Wells were prepared for this backlash. What was surprising was the equal amount of letters that flooded the office with voices of support for the new course.

Letter of support for the Marriage Course from a parent of an Indiana University student.

Parents were writing in support of their children, reminding Dr. Kinsey, Herman B Wells, and the Board of Trustees that this course was an important part of learning for the young adults at Indiana University. They believed that learning about all aspects of marriage was a vital part of education, and it would be an injustice to take that away. The letters of support for the Marriage Course are evidential proof that with the help from Herman B Wells, Dr. Kinsey was changing the course of history at Indiana University and welcoming our school into a more progressive age.

After this huge influx of praise and criticism, the board came to a decision on the Marriage Course. Unfortunately, Dr. Kinsey was presented with an ultimatum: either move the course to the Medical Center and completely change the curriculum or sever his connection with the course and present lectures independently if he wanted to continue teaching the biological aspects of marriage. In response, Dr. Kinsey made the decision to remove himself as the chairman of the course.

Even though President Wells offered Dr. Kinsey the opportunity of lecturing in the new Marriage Course, Kinsey denied the proposition. He wanted to continue his research in human sex behavior free of reproach while students continued to receive the education they needed regarding the road to a healthy marriage. From his correspondence with President Wells, it is clear that he felt it would be too difficult to conduct the course he created without providing the sex education he believed Indiana University students deserved.

Although Dr. Kinsey was stepping down from his chairmanship, he did not plan on leaving the Marriage Course in incapable hands. Instead, Dr. Kinsey worked diligently with President Wells before leaving to ensure the faculty overseeing the course would justly cover all aspects of marriage, just as Dr. Kinsey intended in the outset of the course.

Letter from Herman B Wells to Alfred Kinsey regarding new changes to the Marriage Course.

Kinsey created the idea to have a faculty committee investigate the course and develop the best course of action regarding the retention of the course in Indiana University’s curriculum. President Wells feared that doing so would result in the elimination of the course as a whole, and subsequently denied Kinsey’s request. However, with much hard work on both Kinsey’s and Wells’s part, they were able to find a new chairman and a few new faculty members to teach the curriculum.

Fortunately, the course survived all the upheaval and continued successfully at Indiana University for several more years, before its conclusion in 1943. Though there was restructuring and variation in the lecturers and content, the overall heart of the course remained the same, even without Kinsey’s influence. Although a time period of five years for a course may seem too short to be impactful, the fact that the Marriage Course existed in any real capacity during the mid-20th-century is unbelievable. The amount of discussion it initiated inside and outside the classroom was and still is inspiring. In our current day and age, it seems so simple to learn about sex or recognize the aspects of a successful marriage. But much of that would not be possible without the help of progressive thinkers like Alfred Kinsey who fought for our right to knowledge.Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, the Marriage Course opened doors that Indiana University students may have never had the chance to enter into before.