Student Mobilization March

As part of an elective for my graduate work in public history, I am taking a class on the Vietnam War. The class focuses mainly on what is happening overseas, but it got me thinking about what Mundelein College* was up to during the time of the Vietnam War. From articles in the Skyscraper as well as letters, invitations, and itineraries in the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA, students took an active interest in the Vietnam War.

Students organized and participated in the Mundelein Student Mobilization. In 1968 the mobilization lasted for ten days from April 20th to April 30th.  Several Mundelein College students participated in a conference in Washington D.C. on the Vietnam War sponsored by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. As written in an invitation for the mobilization after the conference, “Students and faculty alike returned to Mundelein and felt that they could not leave their moral and political concerns behind in Washington now that they had soothed their consciences by expressing their dissent over the War in Vietnam.”[i] The mobilization came out of a national call from both the Students for a Democratic Society and Student Mobilization to focus on the Vietnam War for ten days on college campuses. The ten days included films, speakers, and literature about the war. In addition, a group of students and faculty fasted on bread and tea during the ten days.

Invitation for the Mundelein Student Mobilization, April 1968

Invitation for the Mundelein Student Mobilization, April 1968

On April 27th, as part of the mobilization, Mundelein students participated in a citywide Student Mobilization March held in Grant Park. The march went through the Loop to the Civic Center. Participants demanded the immediate end of the war and the return of US troops. April Parade Committee of the Chicago Peach Council sponsored the march. The march is estimated to have included 7,000 students, clergy, sisters, adults, and children. Police informed participants they had to use the sidewalks and stop at all stoplights. In a Skyscraper (Mundelein’s student run newspaper) article, the march was described as going very slow because of police instructions that included only allowing one person to carry a sign. This prevented some banners form being utilized during the parade because they stretched the full width of the street and required multiple people to carry it.

Two pages from the Student Mobilization invitation, April 1968

Two pages from the Student Mobilization invitation, April 1968

The Skyscraper reported that many participants felt that police action “appeared designed to create tension.”[ii]  The Civic Center plaza was roped off and protesters were once again forced to stay on the sidewalks. Some marchers were arrested for “caulking,” that is, leaving their posters, banners, or signs on the plaza. By this time in the march there was a lot of confusion among participants. Police were making threats and yelling for marchers to hurry up and leave. The Skyscraper reported that anyone who charged to the center of the plaza was “clubbed by police and arrested.”[iii] Mundelein students described their attempt to leave the march but they were unable to get out of the crowd and were surrounded by police. At one point, a policeman pushed a Mundelein student to and she fell. When she attempted to get up, she was kicked in the back. Eventually, the marchers dispersed and most were left confused and fearful about what just happened.

Prayer Vigil, April 1968

Prayer Vigil, April 1968

The Skyscraper cited delays in the start of the march and confusion about required permits as errors on the part of the planning committee. There was also no information given to marchers about what would happen once they reached the Civic Center. No matter the problems with the march, one student felt there was no reason for the violence, “No matter who provoked who, the sight of the police hitting kids on the head with their night sticks as the kids ran down the street is the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”[iv]

May 3, 1968 clipping from the Mundelein Skyscraper about the prayer vigil

May 3, 1968 clipping from the Mundelein Skyscraper about the prayer vigil

The mobilization march was only one of several events Mundelein College students and faculty participated in during the Vietnam War. From the few records in the Mundelein College Collection about the Vietnam War, it seems that most, if not all, of the events centered on an anti-war and peace agenda. The violence experienced at the citywide mobilization march was unlike the peaceful events held at Mundelein College about the Vietnam War. However, the march demonstrates the mixed feelings about the war that led to one of the most tumultuous times in US history.

*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.

[i] Student Mobilization Invitation, Mundelein College, April 1968

[ii] Skyscraper, “Brutality mars Loop peace march,” May 3, 1968

[iii] Skyscraper, Brutality mars Loop peace march,” May 3, 1968

[iv] Skyscraper, Brutality mars Loop peace march,” May 3, 1968

Megan Bordewyk

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.

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About Women and Leadership Archives

Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) collects, preserves, and makes available permanently valuable records of women and women’s organizations, which document women’s lives, roles, and contributions. The WLA grew out of the need to care for the records of Mundelein College and expanded to collect papers of women leaders and women’s organizations. Collection strengths include the subject areas of activism and women’s issues; authors; education; environmental issues; public service; social justice; women religious; and the fine, performance, and visual arts. The WLA is part of the Gannon Center and Loyola University Libraries and serves a wide variety of users, ranging from students and scholars to the general public. The WLA makes records available at the Archives in Loyola’s Piper Hall, offers remote reference services, presents programs, and provides online resources. Staff include a Director, Assistant Archivist, and graduate assistants from Loyola’s Public History Program.

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