The Women’s Liberation Movement at IU

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.

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Front Page Aug-Sept 1974

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 the Front 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.

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IU’s Women’s Center

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.

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Women’s Handbook Spring ’75 article on the Women’s Center

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.

Sally A. Lied and Social Conscience at IU

The University Archives recently received a generous donation of materials documenting social movements at IU in the late 1960s and Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign from IU Alumnus Sally A. Lied (MS Education, 1963; Ed.D., 1972; JD 1974). The gift coincided with the recent digitization of a recording of Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s April 24, 1968 address at the IU Auditorium,

Foster Quad Seminar on Black America
Bob Johnson, leader of IU African American Association, teaching at the Foster Quad Seminar on Black America. Johnson also team-taught Upward Bound with Sally Lied. One of his published articles on race relations in the US is also included in the collection.

The 1960s at IU, as well as the rest of the country, saw a surge of student involvement in social justice issues. Sally Lied, in her position as a residential counselor at Foster Quad and director of the Foster Project (IU’s first living-learning community), observed, participated in, and designed educational programming around some of these movements. Specifically, the materials Lied has donated to the University Archives relate to IU students’ grappling with the aftermath of the Vietnam War and race relations in the United States.

These social movements also extended to reforming education. At IU, this meant the establishment of the Foster Project, the first living-learning community. It also meant programs like Project OK (Orientation to Knowledge), which brought students and faculty together to discuss important academic issues. IU also began participating in Upward Bound, a national program designed to help low-income or first-generation students bridge the gap between high school and college. Sally Lied was active in all three of these developments, and each are documented in her collection.

Upward Bound 1969

The 1968 presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy was fueled by some of the discontent of these social movements, discontent that was exacerbated by the assassination of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the same year. Lied worked with the staff of Kennedy’s campaign in Indiana, and her collection contains a variety of campaign and press materials, including buttons, stickers, leaflets, and another recording of Kennedy’s speech at IU. The collection also contains personal correspondence with Kennedy’s campaign staff following his assassination and artwork by an IU student reaArtworkcting to Kennedy’s and King’s deaths.

The materials could be of great interest to those curious to study 20th century African-American experience, social and political movements of the 1960s, or the beginnings of the living-learning community program and other educational reforms at IU. In addition to these primary materials, Sally Lied included her own explanatory notes to go along with many of the files to provide context.

To view the Sally Lied papers in person contact the University Archives.

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Indiana University Writers’ Conference is celebrating its 76th anniversary June 4– 8 of this year. Many of the conference faculty over the years have been award-winning writers, such as Elizabeth Bowen, Ray Bradbury, E. E. Cummings, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, Sam Shepard, and John Steinbeck, to name a few. Correspondence from these authors and many more can be found in the Indiana University Writers’ Conference records, 1940-2004 in the IU Archives.

Fifty-two years ago, Kurt Vonnegut was finalizing his plans with Robert W. Mitchner to attend the IU Writers’ Conference. Mitchner requested a photograph and biography from Vonnegut in preparation of his participation in the conference. Below is the biography Vonnegut sent to Mitchner:

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Mitchner also writes to Vonnegut asking if a 10:30 am slot would be acceptable for his short story workshop, as well as if Vonnegut would read a chapter from one of his books and participate in a question-answer panel that would be televised by Indiana University. Vonnegut is happy to oblige; however, the story he chooses to read is one of the most interesting parts of the letter. “The story I will read will be a short story about President Kennedy. It was bought by the Post two days before he was shot. It will never be published. It should go over well.”

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Included in Vonnegut’s folder of correspondence is an article in The New York Times Book Review from August 6, 1967, where Vonnegut writes of his time at Indiana University during the Writers’ Conference.

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Below is a photograph from the IU Archives Photograph Collection of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from President John W. Ryan at Indiana University on May 13, 1973.

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The New University Conference and the Chancellor Election of 1969

ChancellorBetween the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and women’s liberation, the 1960s was a decade ripe for student activism on college campuses. Indiana University was no exception with a number of protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins being organized in Bloomington during this time period. One specific cause that garnered attention amongst students and student groups was, not surprisingly, student power on campus. One group, the New University Conference, found a rather unique way to make this issue known to those in charge.

The New University Conference

The New University Conference was a radical, leftist group made up of faculty members and graduate students. It was a national organization based in Chicago that had chapters on college campuses across the country. While it was active in the aforementioned major issues of the 1960s, one specific to this group was the need for educational reform. They had a number of ideas about how colleges and universities needed to change such as a movement away from the letter grading system to a credit/no credit system and different, less formal ways for PhD students to present their theses. Student power issues also fell into this category and in 1969 the group decided to organize an election for the position of chancellor not only to try and revolutionize the university system but also to give students a chance to make their voices heard.

The Election

Chancellor John W. Snyder following the Ballantine Hall Lock-In, May 1969. P0021799
Chancellor John W. Snyder following the Ballantine Hall Lock-In, May 1969. P0021799

In 1969, John W. Snyder was named the acting chancellor of the university while a committee went about the process of selecting a more permanent replacement. While there were student representatives on this search committee, ultimately the decision was left to the Board of Trustees as they had to approve the candidate chosen by the committee. As these decisions affected student life, the New University Conference felt that students should have more of a say in the process. Thus an alternative election was organized and the group argued that any group could nominate a candidate for the position. The New University Conference had their own in mind- Staughton Lynd, a history professor with no affiliation with Indiana University. He actually had a rather rocky past with universities, and was involved with the national organization. Running on a platform of student involvement, Lynd noted that while he had ideas about what he wanted to accomplish he would not actually act without support from the student body. John Snyder was also on the ballot although he vehemently denied running whenever asked.  The other two candidates were Paul Boutelle of the Young Socialist Alliance and Rev. William Dennis of the New Politics Party. While, again, this election was not considered valid (in fact newspapers often referred to it as a “mock election” or “opinion poll”), the candidates participated in interviews and organized debates. While Lynd ultimately won the student vote, he never was able to take office because the university did not recognize the election as a valid way to choose the chancellor. Despite this fact however, the exercise still made an impact. Students became more involved in both the campaign and the voting process and the university was forced to acknowledge the lack of student power in elections. Overall, this election is just one example of student activism that occurred in a rather tumultuous period of IU history.

To view the New University Conference records, contact the IU Archives.

IU’s Contemporary Dance Program

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The Terpsichoreans, n.d.

Indiana University’s Contemporary Dance Program dates back to 1927. Dancer Jane Fox, a graduate of Columbia University (NY), came to the IU campus as a faculty member with the intention of introducing “natural dance” to students. Though we know it to be its own department today, the Program first began as a part of the Women’s Physical Education department, under the supervision of the School of Education, which supported and funded it. Classes were held in the Student Building and in 1935, the first modern dance performing group, the Terpsichoreans, was organized. This group later evolved into the Modern Dance Workshop.

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“Modern Dance Workshop…” Indiana Daily Student, 21 Sep 1960

Jane Fox was not only a staunch defender of dance education but also worked to validate the art of dance to the campus in general. In her quest to gain a wide acceptance of modern dance as a legitimate art form and academic discipline, Fox garnered campus, community, and national support. She immersed herself not only into IU’s culture, but also became the Chair and Secretary of the Dance Section of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (AAHPER), the head of the National Committee on Standards in Teacher Education in Dance, and frequently contributed scholarly writings to the Journal of AAHPER and The Dance Observer. Fox continued to defend the validity of the art form during her time at Indiana University, and soon the medium was well respected on campus.

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“Sports healthy for women” Indiana Daily Student, 14 Nov 1967

In 1949, the Dance Major Program was formed, and with continued support from Fox, as well as increased student enrollment, modern dance was soon seen as a legitimate part of the campus community and a respected academic discipline.

The Dance Major Program experienced tremendous growth in both enrollment and reputation from this time until the late 1980s, and had a successive number of coordinators to direct the Program including Dr. Jacqueline Clifford, Fran Snygg, Bill Evans, Vera Orlock, Gwen Hamm, and Dr. John Shea.

Despite their best efforts to keep students enrolled during 1988-1991, the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation administration decided that a moratorium would be placed on the Dance program, effective May 1991. Students would be allowed to complete their Bachelor’s degrees in dance, but no new students would be accepted into the Dance Major Program.

Program Booklets, 1980s
Department of Dance, Program Booklets, 1980s

Despite this massive change, the professors and staff members committed to the role and mission of the program spent the next ten years (1991-2001) attempting to salvage the work they, Fox, and others had put forth during the last 60 years. 1991-2001 saw an increase in the number of students enrolled in the Elective Dance Program, which gave them hope for the future. Courses were expanded, students were surveyed, and the administration began to discuss the possibility of reinstating the Dance Major in 2004. Once all of the reinstatement procedures were determined and the curriculum revision had taken place, the fall of 2005 saw the first audition and admission of students to the Dance Major since 1991.

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“Modern Dancers to Compete…” Indiana Daily Student, 15 May 1951

Today, the Dance Major Program is supported by 16 faculty and staff members. The program is based in modern dance, but students

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“Spring Performers” Indiana Daily Student, 30 Mar 1967

also study ballet and world dance forms, and can elect to study musical theatre, tap, and jazz. The Program boasts over 50 Dance Majors and 100 Dance Minors.

To learn more visit the IU Contemporary Dance Program’s website, or visit the IU Archives to view the Jane Fox papers or the Dance Program records.