Exploring a Tumultuous Time in an Idyllic Place

Piper Hall

Piper Hall

For the majority of my time at Loyola University, Piper Hall was a subject of mysterious beauty. It is unlike any of the other buildings on campus. The beautiful stone mansion sits overlooking Lake Michigan and during the warmer months it is surrounded by numerous flowers and greenery. Even before I set foot inside its elegantly furnished parlor, I was cognizant of a deep historical aura surrounding the building. Now, during my last semester at Loyola, I am able to explore not only the building but its history and the connections to the past it houses. On the very top floor of Piper Hall sits the Women and Leadership Archives, a warm place for researchers to delve into the past of Mundelein College and explore the lives of important women in Chicago. It is here that I have chosen to do my history internship.

I first began working on developing online resources for History Fair students; however, after comparing many archives’ materials I found that the Women and Leadership Archives was already ahead of the curve. I then discovered from talking with Nancy Freeman, the Director of the archives, that the WLA had a special story to tell in light of the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma, Alabama. As an historian, I love researching and sharing stories that need to be heard. So I dived in with the intent of creating a comprehensive exhibit to honor the 28 Mundelein delegates who participated in the Selma March.

College Students, Selma March, 1965

College Students, Selma March, 1965

I used Mundelein’s Skyscraper Newspaper as my first resource in understanding the context, motivation, and story of the Mundelein delegation. From the newspapers I discovered contrasting viewpoints, personal narratives of college life in the 1960s, journals of those who went to Selma, and important facts about the journey. As a female college student sitting in the same classrooms as the Mundelein college students back in the 1960s, I cannot help myself from comparing my experience from those told in the newspaper. Theirs was a time of passion and expression; mine a time of quiet contemplation and self-discovery.

The next step in my research will be interviewing one or two women who participated in the Selma March. This is an exciting step, for it will give my research new life and meaning. These women’s experiences are important to preserve and can be used to better understand women at Mundelein in the 1960s. It will also give us insight into the experiences of female college students in Chicago and perspective into the roots of prominent women today. Oral history is foreign to me but I am excited, albeit a bit nervous, to better understand the role of the interviewer and to add important stories to the collection at the WLA.

I look forward to continue being inspired by the beauty that is Piper Hall, and through the resources it houses, to better understanding life at Mundelein in the 1960s. As a culmination of my time at the Women and Leadership Archives, I hope to produce an online blog exhibit that accurately imparts to the reader the tumultuous and expressive feeling of the 1960s, while telling the story of a group of Mundelein students who so vehemently wanted to march for racial equality.

Intern Elyse Spring 2015Elyse Voyen is an undergraduate intern at the WLA and is studying History, International Studies, and French at Loyola University. In her free time she knits colorful socks, eats as much interesting food as Chicago has to offer and dreams of camping in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Collections Highlight: Homemakers’ Equal Rights Association

HERA began in 1973 as an Illinois organization comprised of homemakers in support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a constitutional amendment originally proposed in 1923 that would give women equal protection under the law. Reintroduced and passed by Congress in 1972, the amendment then went on to the states for ratification. The name of the organization, originally Housewives for the Equal Rights Amendment, was consciously chosen as a reaction against the argument made by some that the ERA threatened homemakers. Advocating for the measure both within their communities and on the state level, HERA soon grew to a national organization with chapters across the country.

Although all HERA members self-identified as homemakers, participants had a range of backgrounds and educational, volunteer, and professional experiences. The majority belonged to other national or community organizations where they held positions as secretaries, presidents, and vice-presidents.

In the early years of the organization, much of HERA’s literature emphasized that the ERA would encourage the restructuring of marriage into a full and equal partnership, where each partner shared the rights, responsibilities, joys, and burdens of raising a family. In a Housewives for ERA newsletter written in the spring of 1978, the writer emphasizes that the pro-ERA movement is “decidedly pro-family, and we are tired of being told otherwise.”

HERA bumper sticker in support of the ERA

HERA bumper sticker in support of the ERA

In 1979 HERA change its name from Homemakers for Equal Rights Amendment to the Homemakers’ Equal Rights Association and the organization shifted its focus beyond the Equal Rights Amendment and began advocating for the legal rights and full recognition of homemakers.

HERA members with IL Governor James Thompson, May 1982.

HERA members with IL Governor James Thompson, May 1982.

HERA coordinators and members often faced a great deal of criticism from those who derogatorily considered it a feminist organization. A hot topic at the time, the designation as feminist was accepted by some members and strongly rejected by others. Regardless of whether they considered themselves feminists or not, however, members understood their efforts as contributing to a national movement.

Following the defeat of the ERA in 1982, there was vocal concern about the future of HERA and if the organization still had a purpose. HERA began to recast itself as a professional organization for homemakers, an association with goals to lobby in the interest of homemakers and their families. Acknowledging the changing purpose and goals of the organization, in 1984 the name changed once again—though the acronym HERA was retained—to Home, Equality, Rights, and Access.  Ultimately, however, HERA was not able to survive of defeat of the ERA and the organization dissolved several years later.

Graphic from a publication “Women Vote: Citizen Action Kit for People of Faith,” 1984

Graphic from a publication “Women Vote: Citizen Action Kit for People of Faith,” 1984

The Homemaker’s Equal Rights Association Records at the Women and Leadership Archives consist of 2.75 linear feet of materials spanning the years 1971-1987.  Also see the Beth Brinkman Cianci Papers. Cianci served as a national board member for HERA from 1979-1983.

LauraLaura Peace is a 2014 graduate of the MA in Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago and a former WLA Graduate Assistant.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Exploring a Treasure Trove of Women’s History

March 8th, 2015, the day before we returned from our mini vacations was International Women’s day. Actually, the beginning of our spring break (the start of March), Women’s History month, began the celebration of women in their progress toward the fight for equality and commemoration in their achievements throughout leadership positions. As I reflect I think of my internship at the Women’s and Leadership Archives (WLA).

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“history’s organized treasure trove”

Archives, also known as, history’s organized treasure trove. Archives have gotten a pretty bad reputation as being a collection of dusty recorded paperwork. My first day at the WLA I was unsure about archives, specifically, I was worried about damaging these important items I was so delicately handling. I walked into this internship with an interest in the field of archiving and a passion for history. The WLA called out to me in my search for the perfect internship. An organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and recording the contributions of women and their leadership activities was something I felt was fascinating. I wanted to take my last semester at Loyola to contribute and learn from this organization.

During my time at the WLA, I have encountered an array of historical materials. I had the privilege of holding Mercedes McCambridge’s Oscar from 1935 when she acted in the film All the Kings Men (she was also considered for the role of Roz in Monsters Inc.). I was able to listen personal accounts about the 1960’s Civil Rights Era from Loyola’s most well known celebrity, Sister Jean, along with other important faculty and staff who ran Mundelein College before it’s affiliation with Loyola University Chicago in 1991.

Deborah's Place2Currently, I am working with a very special collection called Deborah’s Place. Deborah’s Place, established in 1985 by Patricia A. Crowley, OSB, and her Mother, Patricia C. Crowley, who fought to end the cycle of female homelessness in Chicago through a continuum of housing options, comprehensive support services, and opportunities for change provided by dedicated volunteers and staff. Deborah’s Place has now been serving the Chicago land community for the past 27 years.

As I sat in the WLA on my Monday afternoons, sifting through these important documents, I found myself looking into the stories and files of each participant. Deborah’s Place is truly a treasure trove because of the various documents that the WLA has in possession. While my work is compiling and organizing each of these documents from the finding aid, I stopped myself and delved deep in reading reports about the health of each individual that utilized Deborah’s Place. From the various expansions of Deborah’s Place to the struggle to find funding, this archive tells a story of how passionate these women were in fighting for female rehabilitation and survival.

My experiences with Deborah’s Place have been nothing but engaging and enriching as I build my knowledge in attaining skills that transcend outside the classroom. I have been blessed to get a glimpse into the hardships of running a women’s shelter and the heart wrenching experiences of the participants. As I continue my internship at the WLA I know I hold a much stronger appreciation for women everywhere.

Intern Adam Spring 2015Adam Mogilevsky is currently a Spring Semester intern at the WLA. He is a Senior who will be graduating with a BA in History. When Adam isn’t doing homework, he is usually found in the Jewish space on campus, Hillel, engaging in the community.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Mundelein Remembers Selma

Mundelein Remembers Selma: March 12, 4:00pm-5:30pm, Piper Hall, Room 201

Confederate flags are visible. Just passed a gas station filled with police; national guardsmen are everywhere. Some are in bushes, some on the road, all with walkie-talkies and guns. – Judy Hilkin, Mundelein Student, journal entry upon arriving in Montgomery

MC Selma posterOn March 23, 1965, Mundelein College sent twenty-eight students, eight faculty, two guests, one priest, and one doctor to Montgomery, Alabama to support the participants of the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery.

Today Mundelein College only exists in spirit with the Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Women and Leadership, and in archival records with the Women and Leadership Archives. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) founded and began to operate Mundelein College in1930. They provided education to women until Mundelein affiliated with Loyola University Chicago in 1991.

MC Selma009Reactions on campus to the Mundelein group joining the civil rights march ranged from enthusiasm to opposition. Despite this, the college still elected to send a delegation to participate in the final leg of the march. What made Mundelein, a Catholic women’s college in Chicago, so committed to civil rights? What prompted students to go to Alabama?

On March 12 Mundelein Remembers Selma will explore this question, with special attention to the college’s decision to send faculty and students to participate in the Freedom March. Panelists will include Nancy Freeman, the Director of the Women and Leadership Archives; Dr. Prudence Moylan and Dr. Ann Harrington, BVM, Loyola History Professors Emeritae and former Mundelein College Professors; Judy Fitzgerald, alumna of Mundelein College and march participant; and John Fitzgerald, alumnus of Loyola University Chicago and march participant.

Please join us for this wonderful program!

Mundelein Remembers Selma: March 12, 4:00pm-5:30pm, Piper Hall, Room 201

Be sure to stick around for the reception following the program!