Appreciating Music: Frances M. Harley & Tri-M Music Honor Society

When I started my graduate assistantship at the Women and Leadership Archives, I was expecting to learn about strong and interesting women.  However, I was not expecting to have a personal connection to a collection.

I grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and attended Maine South High School. I was very involved in fine arts, and by my senior year I was co-president of both the orchestra and Tri-M, an international music society.

Coincidentally, the WLA has the collection of Frances M. Harley, a co-founder of Tri-M!

The Tri-M Loyalty Song

Frances M. Mikkelson was born in 1914 and immediately showed an interest in music. A student at Mundelein College in the 1930s, Frances was heavily involved in Choir and glee club- where she met her future husband, substitute choir director Alexander M. Harley. Fast-forward to 1936, Frances M Mikkelson was Frances M. Harley and a recent graduate of Mundelein College. The couple moved to Park Ridge in June 1936, where Alexander was the chairman of the music department at Maine Township High School (now Maine East High School) and Frances was the director of four choirs and taught private lessons in piano, composition theory, and voice.

Shortly after their move, the power couple co-founded the “crowning achievement of Frances’ life,” the Maine Music Masters Honors Society. The society was created as a music example of a scholastic honor society to encourage “music students to become further involved in their music studies and hopefully, strive for a more professional approach to the utilization of their talents”.

The Tri-M Emblem

Using an old mimeograph machine, Frances and her husband sent out 900 letters across Illinois, getting only five replies; but that did not deter them from creating a supportive community for music students. Run almost exclusively from their home in Park Ridge, the society was primarily part of the Maine Township school district from 1936-1952, when it was expanded to the national level. Outgrowing the “Maine” part of their name, it officially changed to “Modern Music Masters”, and in 1956, it was recognized internationally. By 1972, there were over 125,000 members and honorary members from around the world.

A newspaper headline from 1994

Not much has changed from the original Tri-M group (Tri-M One based out of Maine East High School); the same loyalty song is sung at every new member initiation and the same three ‘M’ cutouts (pictured below) appear at every awards ceremony. The society is still largely student-led and offers a community for students from all musical backgrounds who are serious about their future. Chapters around the world are active in their school and outside communities through volunteering, fundraising, and leadership roles.

Me presenting awards to Tri-M members

I am proud to be a former leader of such a long-standing and inspirational group. I am even more proud to be a graduate assistant in an archive that holds the collections of strong and influential women like Frances Harley, a woman who did not just change Park Ridge, but changed the lives of music students around the world.

Come to the archives to check out Frances Harley’s collection, including her dissertation on Hungarian folk music!

More information on Tri-M can be found here.


Emily is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in her first year in the joint Public History/Library Information Science program with Loyola University Chicago and Dominican University. She enjoys going on long walks with her puppy, visiting cool museums, and cheering on the White Sox during baseball season.

 


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.

8th Day Center for Justice, the ERA, and the Abortion Argument

Imagine, for a moment, that you are asked to make a political decision that could help a lot of women across the United States. However, if you support it, you worry that many women would be able to do actions that you find abhorrent. This is the situation in which many Catholics found themselves during the 1970s and 1980s debate over the Equal Rights Amendment. Did it really promote abortion, like some people said?

Controversy often follows religious organizations because they can hold contentious views, and the 8th Day Center for Social Justice is one Chicago-area example. Funded by numerous Catholic congregations, the Chicago-based center began in the 1970s as a coalition of six progressive Catholic groups. These men and women viewed the present day as the eighth day of creation, where God will judge mankind and provide salvation to those who followed his teachings. 8th Day believed that its duty was to deliver justice to the world.

The 8th Day Center wanted social reform. Using “action” as a “tool for creating radical spaces of dialogue with systems of power,” the coalition worked with other faith-centered organizations to incite real change. 8th Day also believed in defending the security and wellbeing of women around the world, especially in the United States.

During the 1980s, one of the 8th Day Center’s most visible lobbying efforts revolved around national attempts to add the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. The ERA voiced a simple message: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

This may seem like a straightforward request to equalize the rights of Americans who identify as female. However, it set off a storm of debate between institutions over what kinds of rights would be encompassed under the amendment. American representatives of the Roman Catholic Church struggled to find their place in the discussion. As cited by the Chicago affiliate of the National Council on Catholic Bishops, the Church did not condone the amendment’s implications for women’s reproductive actions, such as abortions. Ultimately, the Catholic Church, a heavily patriarchal system, would not support the ERA.

The Catholic Church placed 8th Day in an awkward position: to articulate a position on the ERA, the 8th Day Center needed to adhere to both their social justice purpose and their Catholic tradition. The organization attempted to do that by balancing on a legal argument. In their March 1984 newsletter to their subscribers, 8th Day wrote that Catholics could support the Equal Rights Amendment because the legislation did not legally support abortion. Based on its legislative history, intent, and “scope,” the ERA did not apply to “situations that [derive] from the unique physical characteristics of one sex.” 8th Day went on to explain that “…laws dealing with abortion” at the local or state level “would not be affected one way or another by the ERA because the ERA does not apply to these situations…” They held up a legal argument to their audience of social justice-oriented Catholics.

In short, the center tried to remain in the middle of a major fight by promoting a legal argument to its consumers. It was, and remains, unclear if and how the ERA would have been used to support abortion. Potentially, progressive Catholics could have supported the ERA and maintained their faith because it meant choosing the real positives of gender quality over the hypothetical (though major) negative of abortion promotion.

Not all of the readers of the 8th Day Center’s newsletter agreed with the official stance

I think the 8th Day make a reasonable legal point. The famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case had determined the scope of federal involvement in abortions in the United States in 1973, a decade before 8th Day published this edition of their newsletter. The case’s decision and opinions are worth careful reading. However, that argument does not begin to address the faith-based questions surrounding the ERA, abortion, and Catholic morality. As a matter of fact, the 8th Day avoided the issues entirely because it was so focused on what the ERA did not legally endorse.

In conclusion, when the 8th Day Center for Social Justice lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment, it entered a complex social and religious fight. It tangled with issues of feminism, women’s reproductive health rights, and religious lobbying. 8th Day continued its social justice activism and became well-known in the Chicago area. Unfortunately, forty-three years later, 8th Day is closing its doors due to unsustainable funding problems. Though it is sad to see them close, it is inspiring that they want everyone to carry on the message of the eighth day of creation: to be “responsible” for “[bringing] the world into fullness of being.”


Angela is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of the MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Originally from the West Coast, she is enthusiastic about swing dancing, choral music, and pub trivia. Angela is also a devoted National Public Radio listener.

 


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.

Summer in the Archives: Processing the Carol Mosely Braun Collection

Hello, everyone! My name is Megan and I’m starting my second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago. I’m a history/pre-law major and I’m also a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority. Now, you may be wondering what a South Side college student like me is doing all the way up here in Rogers Park. Well, I’ve been interning here at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA)! This summer I have had the amazing opportunity to serve the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) and the WLA as the Archie Motley Archival Intern. My duties as an intern were to process and archive the collection of Carol Moseley Braun.

Carol Moseley Braun’s headshot from her time as a US Senator.

Disclaimer: I had little to no knowledge of archives/archiving prior to accepting this internship. When I applied, I viewed archivist as next-level librarians (not a bad thing). I imagined them to be confined to dark, basement-level archives, guarding manuscripts and harboring an inexhaustible knowledge of all things. What I learned, though, is that my imagination is much too active and that archivists are simply humans who love preserving history and knowledge. Working in the WLA and processing Carol Moseley Braun’s papers taught me not only the basics of archiving, but also the importance of maintaining and protecting archives, especially those dedicated to women and other minority groups. Working on Ms. Moseley Braun’s collection has especially highlighted this for me.

A campaign button from Moseley Braun’s Senate campaign.

Before interning at the WLA this summer, I had never heard of Carol Moseley Braun and was totally unaware of the major waves she made in American history. She attended and graduated from the University of Chicago’s Law School, was the first female African American U.S. Senator, and was responsible for getting the Confederate flag removed from Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) signage. She served as Ambassador to New Zealand and even ran for president in 2003. Ms. Moseley Braun is truly an icon and, yet, I feel that almost no one outside of Chicago or politics gives her the credit she is very well due. Institutions like the BMRC and the WLA, though, make it their missions to highlight figures like Carol Moseley Braun and ensure that their voices are and will forever be heard.

My time here at the WLA has sadly come to a close, but I have enjoyed every moment of it! I learned so much about archiving from the women I worked with and learned so much about history from the woman’s collection I worked on. I will take everything I learned and take it with me onto my next adventure.

Megan and Melanie, two WLA interns, combing through the collection


Megan Naylor was the Archie Motley Archival Intern for summer 2017.  She is completing a Bachelors of Arts at The University of Chicago, with plans to pursue history and pre-law curriculum. She is a member of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women and was previously the president of her high school’s National Honor Society.


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.

SisterSerpents – Art as Activism

Art is one of the most powerful and important means of communicating that we have as a culture and as individuals. In our collection, the WLA has the records and materials of an organization that used their creativity to fiercely shed light and provoke thought on issues they felt passionately about. SisterSerpents formed in Chicago on July 4th, 1989 and was a group of radical feminist artist-activists, whose mission was to use their art to increase awareness on women’s issues in society. In their own manifesto, they declared themselves “dedicated to working cooperatively to combat patriarchal attitudes through cultural means.” To achieve their goal they utilized guerilla-style tactics, placing provocative posters, and neon-colored stickers with their messages all around Chicago.

SisterSerpents poster on a street lamp, 1991

Stickers for placing on advertisements and products

SisterSerpents also held art shows, exhibitions, and performances. They organized panels and discussions, wrote letters to the press, and printed their own journal, MadWoman. Participation in the art collective was largely anonymous, though a few of the founding members – Mary Ellen Croteau and Jeramy Turner – showed some of their independent work as well as the pieces they created collectively.

A couple editions of “MadWoman” journal – note the SisterSerpents signature combination of anger and humor; Issue #4 promises typos

Their work explored a wide range of themes important to women, including traditional roles of homemaker/mother, rape and violation, misogyny and subversive messaging in the media, power struggles in relationships, body image, the stigmatization of emotions, and barriers in the workplace. SisterSerpents shows and works were provoking, angry, humorous, and challenged cultural and gender standards. They had showcases with titles such as “Rattle Your Rage” and “Piss on Patriarchy” that ran in cities like Chicago, Denver, New York, and Berlin. SisterSerpents did not pull punches when it came to expressing their beliefs, and their exhibits often sought to shock with violent and explicit imagery and themes. While their work garnered some acclaim, it also led to controversy and opposition. For example, in 1990 the American Family Association protested one of their shows that included a “fetus wall” which contained stylized photographs of fetuses and sought to challenge ideas about abortion. For their “Rattle Your Rage” show, a newspaper quoted SisterSerpents with the following:

“We wanted to have a women’s show that wasn’t polite or nice, one that expressed angry attitudes. You know, a lot of women’s art is very decorative and aesthetic. This is not just giving women a voice, but it’s using art as a way of taking a stand. We wanted it to be threatening. We wanted people to be upset. Jolted. And to realize that there’s all kinds of hostility coming from women that’s going to take all kinds of forms.”

One of SisterSerpent’s art installations, “Used Boyfriend Auction”, highlighted struggles of power and misogyny in relationships

SisterSerpents remained active until 1998, and their significance was cemented with the inclusion of several of their posters in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s permanent collection. They were undoubtedly controversial. However, regardless of politics, I think one must admire SisterSerpents tenacity and creativity in funneling their passion and anger into art, and then using it to contribute to bigger goals. Working in their collection, I was struck by how they were able to use their art as a means to participate in political conversations.

During the summer months when I have more time, I enjoy tapping into my creative side and one of the ways I express myself artistically is through knitting. Learning about SisterSerpents inspired me to want to do more with my own creative endeavors, and so I researched ways I could use my needles to contribute to social issues. If you’re a knitter like me, I encourage you to check out the Red Scarf Project and find out how you can use knitting to encourage foster youths entering college.


Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.


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.


Reflections on My Time at the WLA

I can’t believe that it has been two years since I began my term as a Graduate Assistant for the Women and Leadership Archives. When I came to the WLA, I had very little experience in an archives outside of research projects I had to perform in undergrad. Now I know the ins and outs of how an archives works, secrets and tricks of the trade of archival research, and best practices for the profession. Oh how time flies! I also had a chance to highlight some pretty special collections through my blog posts over the last couple of years. Here are some of my favorites:

• My all-time favorite blog post tells the history of the Mundelein Riding Club and horseback riding classes at Mundelein College* from the 1930s to 1960s. As a former equestrienne, this was easily my favorite blog post to research. Plus, the WLA have the complete records of Mundelein College so there was an abundance of source material. Read the blog post here or you can take a look at some photos of the Mundelein Riding Club in our Mundelein Photograph Collection.

• I really enjoyed researching the papers of poetesses Ruth Lisa Schecter and Renny Golden to write the blog post, “Women and the Written Word: Poetesses in the Archives.” A close study of their collections reveals not only the professional activities of these amazing artists but also their artistic process.

• My most recent blog post explored the story of Roberts v. Texaco through the papers of Bari-ellen Roberts, the lead plaintiff of this famous class-action lawsuit. Cumulatively, this blog post took me almost an entire semester to write because of the detailed records the WLA holds. There was a lot of research to do! For anyone interested in legal history, the history of race and our justice system, or the history of women in business this collection is a treasure trove of information.

• Even though I didn’t write this one, I need to give a special shout-out to this blog post telling the story of Joan Heath Fortner, an artist and designer whose papers we hold in the archives. As a self-proclaimed devotee of all things fashion, I adore all of her design sketches held at the WLA (one is even the background on my phone shhhhh).

Even though my time has run its course at the WLA, I will remember it fondly. I look forward to reading blog posts from the new Graduate Assistants this fall!


Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.


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.


Graduation 2017

It is graduation time at Loyola University Chicago. This is my fourth May here, and the week of graduation is one of my favorite times. The campus is full of happy people who appear in waves during the times of the morning and afternoon graduations. All over campus there are graduates in caps and gowns, some carrying flowers. Family members and friends take pictures of the grad by the lake or other iconic locations around campus, including around Piper Hall, where the WLA is located. The aura is one of happiness, excitement, and fun. Even when grey skies and rain inevitably appear during at least one or two days, the mood still feels jubilant, albeit a bit soggy.

Related to my warm and fuzzy feelings this time of year are the graduation pictures from the WLA’s Mundelein College collectionI am sure graduations at Mundelein carried the same sense of accomplishment and happiness that I experience at Loyola. In my imagination, I see Mundelein’s campus and envision groups of happy graduates and family members everywhere.

1971 Mundelein Graduates posing outside of Piper Hall

Graduation is also an important time at the WLA as the archives is staffed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) from Loyola’s Public History Program. By the time the two year program is over, students (hopefully) have jobs in the public history field. It’s an exciting time for the graduating GA, although it can be stressful, depending on if there is a job to go to. I’m always happy to see a student succeed, graduate, and move on in a positive way.

The flip side is that graduation is a mixed bag for me. The WLA experiences turn-over every year as one or two GAs graduate. I come to know, depend on, and become fond of each GA. Over my years as an archivist, I’ve had many student staff members and am familiar with the cycle: they come, they work, they graduate, and they leave. 

I confess, though, the cycle hasn’t become easier as the years roll on. I’m beginning to think just the opposite. The older I get, the more sentimental I become. Perhaps it’s because I have a daughter and the years fly by, giving me a heightened sense of time passing.

A friend of mine jokes that this is one of the times the chorus from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof floods the brain! She’s right. While I didn’t know the GAs as children, they are at the WLA for two formative years of their lives. I become close to students as I hear of their successes and struggles and I feel sad when they leave.   

This year, two WLA GAs graduate on May 9th:  Megan Bordewyk and Ellen Bushong. In addition to working hard at the WLA, Megan, a film buff, provided commentary for new movie releases while Ellen informed us about fashion history. Both are creative and intelligent, each with a wonderful sense of humor. I wish Megan and Ellen good luck and good fortune in the future. And I will miss them.

Graduating WLA GA’s, Megan Bordewyck (left) and Ellen Bushong (right)


Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


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 College Fathers Club

Though Father’s Day may still be a couple months away, I’d like to use this post to celebrate a special organization that existed at Mundelein College* during the 1950s and early 1960s: the Mundelein College Fathers Club.

1957 Promotional Flyer & Membership Card

1957 Promotional Flyer

Founded in the spring of 1952, the organization was formed by fathers of Mundelein students to support the College and administration.  Edwin B. Parkes, Chairman of the inaugural Club Membership Committee, described it this way: “We know of no better way to gain recognition for our girls and the Sisters than by organizing and using our talents.  Individually we can do little, but collectively we can accomplish the results desired.”   Through membership dues and fundraising events, these dedicated dads raised funds to rehabilitate the school buildings, including modernizing the classroom light systems, updating the convent section of Mundelein, and otherwise assisting with building upkeep.  In 1961 they funded the purchase of closed circuit television equipment to be used for educational purposes.  They also provided scholarships and loans to students in need.

A dad and daughter duo at a Fathers Club event

Just as important as their good works was the club’s mission to providing opportunities for fun, social get-togethers for their members.  They planned opportunities not only for Mundelein fathers to meet and get to know one another, but also so that fathers and daughters could spend meaningful time together during the college years.  For the dads, each club meeting included some form of entertainment after the business was concluded.  These included some stereotypical, 1950s male interests – such as lectures from a criminal cases columnist from the Chicago Tribune, an FBI agent, a popular sports editor at the Chicago Daily News, and film showings on such subjects as the inner workings of the Stock Exchange, traffic patterns, the Baseball World Series, and one called “Blue Flame” that chronicled the story of natural gas from well head to consumer.  At a meeting in 1960 they arranged to put in a long distance call to the Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where they were able to ask questions of an Air Force Officer about the country’s defense system.

One of the signature events for the club was their annual Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance.   Though it went through a few name and venue changes, the basic idea stayed the same; an evening of father and daughter bonding over music and food.  A 1962 club membership letter told fathers that participation in events, like the Father-Daughter Buffet-Dance, “demonstrates to her [their daughter] that I am interested in her, her teachers, and in what she learns.”

1961 Promotional Flyer

Mundelein dads “twisting” with their misses at the Father-Daughter Dance

1960 Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance

As any educator will tell you, investment from a student’s parents or guardians in their education can make a world of difference in how that student feels about and does at school.  Hat’s off to this dedicated group of dads (and who often worked alongside the “Women’s Auxiliary”, the Mundelein Mother’s group) to support their daughter’s college experience.  To see how the Fathers Club tradition has lived on, check out the Loyola Parent’s page.

1954 – Student Captains of the Fathers Club meeting with the Club President and Promotion Manager

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.


 

Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago.  A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.

 


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.


Roberts vs. Texaco: The Class Action Lawsuit You Forgot About

Warning: This blog post contains a reference to racial slurs targeted at black employees by Texaco executives, ca. 1993-1994.

In the fall of 1996, Texaco—one of the largest oil and natural gas companies in the United States—was rocked with scandal when audio tapes came to light that revealed top-level executives  using offensive language in reference to their black employees. They also stood accused of conspiring to destroy documentation proving they participated in discriminatory employment practices. The “Texaco Tapes,” so-called in the press, became key evidence in the class action lawsuit Roberts vs. Texaco that was first launched against the corporation by minority employees in 1993. The recordings revealed company executives referring to their black employees as “black jelly beans” and “n****ers” while also discussing efforts to shred evidence the prosecution requested during the discovery phase of the investigation. [1]  The company soon settled with the complainants for $176 million dollars; at that time, the highest settlement for a class action lawsuit in U.S history.

The story of the trial and its resolution are described in detail through the personal papers of lead plaintiff Bari-Ellen Roberts, who donated her materials documenting the case to the Women and Leadership Archives in 2003. Bari-Ellen Roberts graduated from Mundelein’s Weekend College in 1978.* This collection is unique for the breadth and depth of information highlighting the processes of a high-profile civil action lawsuit—not only does it contain Roberts’ copies of court documents, but the collection also holds copies of her personal journal during the years of the trial, national media coverage, and transcripts of the “Texaco Tapes” that effectively resolved the case. From Robert’s records, researchers can get a very real look into the process of the legal system in the United States as well as the personal turmoil that can result from a long battle in the court room. The Roberts vs. Texaco case is an important piece of history that shouldn’t be forgotten as important discussions related to the politics of race and gender continue to proliferate in America.

Roberts and her co-plaintiff Sil Chambers began the process of filing a class action lawsuit in 1993. Roberts joined Texaco after vacating a leadership position at Chase National Bank, where she became the first African American in the Corporate Trust Division to become Vice President. When the master trust she managed moved to another state Roberts sought out new job opportunities.  She accepted a position with Texaco after a long negotiation that would foreshadow the rest of her time with the company—Roberts turned down two job offers before they offered her a salary commensurate with her previous experience.  Texaco recruiters assured Roberts and other potential black applicants that the company was in the process of diversifying their leadership, telling Roberts they promoted candidates based on performance not color. In her memoir Roberts vs Texaco: A True Story of Race in Corporate America, Roberts remarks that she “kept [her] side of the bargain by working as hard and productively as any white man, but the reward Texaco promised… did not come.”[2]

Image source: Amazon.com

At first Roberts, Chambers, and six other employees silently approached the ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) about their legal options, but it wasn’t until meeting with young lawyer Cyrus Mehri, then of the Washington, D.C law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld, and Toll, that legal intervention truly gained traction. In spite of the group’s resolve to move forward with the suit, Roberts felt conflicted about going through with it. Roberts wrote in her journal that she had a “real push pull kind of feeling.”[3] Should she jeopardize her financial stability to stand up to this monolithic company with seemingly limitless resources? Was it wise to embark on an expensive, not to mention emotionally taxing, process that could take years to reach an uncertain conclusion?

Her answer came shortly after she read over the final draft of the complaint. In January of 1994, Roberts applied for a managerial position being vacated by her supervisor. In her performance review given by the woman leaving the position, Roberts received a grade high enough to warrant the promotion. When senior management reviewed the evaluation, however, they countered that her performance did not warrant the grade and reduced it. They remarked that she was “uppity” and returned a lower grade that minimized Roberts’ chance of receiving the promotion.[4]

In February of 1994 a white male employee from another branch with less experience was placed in the position Roberts applied for. At the meeting announcing the change in staff, the head of Roberts’ department told her she could help train the new replacement—in front of her colleagues. This was an acknowledgement of everything Roberts knew about the treatment of minority employees at Texaco: they were competent enough to support executives but not good enough to actually be executives. Furious and humiliated, Roberts gave her lawyer the go-ahead to serve Texaco with the complaint. “No pulling back. We are going to call Cyrus and start pushing for the filing of this suit asap.”[1] The surrendered tapes as well as the report of an investigation into Texaco’s discriminatory practices by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) sealed the company’s fate.

As mentioned, the Women and Leadership Archives hold the records of Bari-Ellen Roberts, including the various court documents chronicling the events of the trial such as the transcripts of her personal journal, the infamous Texaco tapes, depositions taken by the defense team of the Texaco executives, and records of Roberts’ life after the trial. By reading the Bari-Ellen Roberts papers, researchers can get a full and detailed picture of the legal process at work in the United States, particularly civil action suits. As a result of my close study of the Roberts’ papers for this blog post, I now hold a fierce appreciation for the leadership she displayed in forging paths for black and other minority women in corporate America. Twenty years later, it is unfortunate that the records documenting her courageous efforts also reveal how far we have yet to go.

Click here to read an excerpt from a transcript of Roberts’ journal, February 1994.

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.

[1] “Roberts’ Journal of Racial Discrimination Case,” Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago, Bari-Ellen Roberts Papers, Box 1, Folder 4.

[2] Bari-Ellen Roberts, Roberts Vs. Texaco: A True Story of Race and Corporate America (New York: Avon Books, 1998), 1-2.

[3] “Roberts’ Journal of the Discrimination Case,” Woman and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.


 

Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.


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.


At the Oscars!

This past summer I spent two months interning for the Academy in their film archive located in Hollywood at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. I assisted in cataloging awards tapes and also spent part of the week in the Public Access Department. The Film Archive participates in a robust film reel lending program to organizations around the world. I had a fantastic experience interning at the Academy and gained valuable experience.

As a final perk to my internship at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive, I was invited to view the 89th Academy Awards red carpet arrivals and to a private Oscars viewing party on February 26, 2017. Even though the red carpet does not open to celebrities and guests until the afternoon, the Oscars Fan Experience was a full day affair. All people invited to watch the red carpet live arrive in the morning and eat breakfast. To keep attendees entertained there were multiple photo booths, a hair styling station, a hand message station, and tarot card reading.

View from my spot on the bleachers

When the red carpet opened all viewing attendees are seated on bleachers with assigned seating. The red carpet fills up pretty fast with both celebrities and guests moving from one network interview to the next as they work their way down the red carpet. With so many people mingling in a relatively small space, it became a live action “Search & Find” or “Where’s Waldo” to locate recognizable faces. Some celebrities stopped and waved to the fans while others made a beeline for the entrance to the Dolby Theatre. When the red carpet closed and the ceremony was about to begin, all the people from the bleachers walked over to the El Capitan theater across the street to view the Academy Awards and enjoy a catered buffet dinner and popcorn. Overall it was an amazing and most likely a once in lifetime experience!

How many celebrities can you spot on the crowded red carpet?

Some of the first red carpet arrivals

The Women and Leadership Archives has a connection to the Oscars too! The Mercedes McCambridge collection is often a favorite of visitors to the archives. Her early career involved voicing parts for radio dramas. After graduating from Mundelein College, she moved to New York and began an acting career in plays and films. Her film debut performance in All the King’s Men (1949) earned her a supporting actress Oscar and a Golden Globe. Mercedes went on to have a long career in film and television. In addition to Mercedes McCambridge’s collection, the WLA houses a couple of other fascinating collections related to film and television. Read more below about those collections!

Mercedes McCambridge

The Madonna Kolbenschlag, H.M. (Sisters of the Humility of Mary) collection highlights Madonna’s time as an educator, writer, activist, and clinical psychologist. She taught at various institutions and organizations. She taught courses on American Film at a time when the field was still emerging. The collection contains articles on film Madonna wrote as well as lecture notes and slides from courses she taught in the 1970s.

Slides from a History of Film course taught by Kolbenschlag

Mary Patricia Haley earned a Ph.D. in Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University in 1973. She went on to introduce mass media and film into the Mundelein College* curriculum. Eventually this led to the creation of a separate Department of Communications. Mary’s collection contains little information about film but her dedication to communications studies represents the growing field of film studies and the role women played in the growth.

These collections add valuable knowledge to the study of film and the history of the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Kolbenschlag’s collection highlights not only the beginning of film study, but how film was studied. McCambridge’s collection educated me on the rules and regulations of winning an Oscar and how those rules have changed. The collections provide a deeper understanding of what happens behind the camera. On February 28, 2016 you can find me eagerly sitting in front of the TV, predictions in hand, as I watch the Academy Awards.

Articles on film history from the Kolbenschlag collection


Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 


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.


From Rabbit Holes to Searching Primary Sources

Guest blog post by Ramonat Scholar* Carolina Luna. Original post and Carolina’s blog can be found here.

We’re Back!

rabbit-hole
I tried to get a picture of the Loyola bunnies but they are camera shy

During winter break, I was able to jump into a rabbit hole of background information on my topic. I learned a lot about the Hispanic community of Chicago and it was incredibly interesting. However, as I start receiving research advice I realize that my winter break research lacked structure. I was simply reading about my topic and anything that could relate to it.

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Piper Hall holds the Women and Leadership Archives. Even if you are not doing research, Piper Hall is a site to see. Not only are the archivists incredibly nice and helpful but also the building is beautiful!

Now I have a better idea of how to structure my research and thus have more relevant and reliable sources. One of the types of sources that I have engaged with in the past couple of weeks has been primary sources. The records of the Hispanic Institute are housed in the Women and Leadership archives, which are conveniently a part of Loyola’s campus! Even though I can easily return to the archives, I have trained myself to take advantage of the time I am there. I went in last week to look through the Hispanic Institute records and I found information in two very unexpected ways.

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No one likes to see how they budget their money but the way we spend money tells us a lot about ourselves or in this case: a lot about the Hispanic Institute.

The first instance that I found very helpful information was when I opened a folder I thought would only have dry financial statements. The folder is titled, “Reports, Budgets, & Donors.” I am not sure why I opened it, but I am glad that I did. As I scoured through the documents I realized that the Hispanic Institute was very detailed in the way they spent their budget. Within every school year’s report, there was a description of the course offered and the name of the instructor who offered the course. I was beyond excited because these documents gave me a list of instructors and the subjects they taught the leaders of the Hispanic community. This way I not only have a list of possible interview subjects, but also an idea of what the Hispanic Institute valued. The purpose of a budget report is meant to be financial but I learned to not categorize a source and rather picture how the information could relate to my topic.

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This is a part of one of the brochures I found at the Women & Leadership Archives. The text explains the services it has to offer the Hispanic community. (1)

Another instance in the archives in which a primary source gave me great information was when I encountered documents in Spanish. The Hispanic Institute archives had a brochure that must have been handed out to the Hispanic community. The brochure stated, in Spanish, the mission of the Hispanic Institute and the different ways in which it offered opportunities. I was able to see how the Hispanic Institute viewed themselves and their progress. I was also able to use a skill that I take for granted at times: being bilingual. An integral part of the Hispanic Institute is its bilingual and multicultural identity. I am excited that I can continue researching without the obstacle of having sources that have not been translated.

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For the next couple of months the Hispanic Institute will be my baby. Images like this excite me to continue researching. (2)

I am excited to continue reading primary sources and to continue my research project. I am proud of the fact that I am not aimlessly wandering through a rabbit hole of information.

(1) & (2) Documents courtesy of the Women and Leadership Archives, Hispanic Institute Collection.

*The Ramonat Seminar is a yearlong endowed history course and this year’s theme is “Dorothy Day’s America: The History of Catholicism in 20th Century America.” Students must apply and be accepted for the class.


Carolina Luna is a History and International Studies Major at Loyola University Chicago. She is a Ramonat Scholar. Carolina hopes to attend law school in the future to advocate for social justice.


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.