In 1920, the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified by the 34th state and became part of the United States Constitution.[i] Suffragists had won this battle, but the war for equality was far from over. Within a year of winning the right to vote, women’s rights activists found their next battle in the idea for “a federal guarantee that the law would treat people equally regardless of their sex” (Thulin, 2019).[ii] From this idea came the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Though it was introduced early on, the ERA did not gain traction until the 1960s-1970s. This last draft of this Amendment is short and simple:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The ERA inspired controversy. One group that opposed it, called Stop Taking Our Privileges (STOP) ERA, claimed the ERA took away women’s privileges as homemakers and would rob them of their femininity. To fight this claim, a new group called HERA (Homemakers for the Equal Rights Amendment) was formed.
In May, the New York Times began to publish a series called The Mrs. Files, exploring what the honorific Mrs. means to women and their identity. The project took shape when staff began digging through their own archives and digitizing millions of photos (I can’t even imagine!) and found that even history’s most well-known women were categorized under a card holding their husband’s name with the added title “Mrs.”. Artist Frida Kahlo, for instance, was identified as “Mrs.” Diego Rivera in the newspaper’s files.
At the WLA, we have come across plenty of examples of women’s names changing in different stages of life. These instances make us stop and think about what these changes meant to these individuals, how we can usefully organize our records, and how to best identify these women to show respect to their full lives and accomplishments.
In quarantine these days, I’ve been watching a lot of Murder, She Wrote. While admiring the absolute treasure that is Angela Lansbury as mystery author Jessica Fletcher (talk about a Woman in Leadership!), I’ve come to a conclusion: the past, as we know it today, is a detective story.
When we decided to
write a piece in honor of Pride Month, I will confess that I was rather
apprehensive as I was not familiar with LGBTQIA+ history and did not want to
mis-represent the community unintentionally. However, I also felt that delving
into unfamiliar territory and learning more about it was better than remaining
in the dark so I decided to do some sleuthing around in the WLA’s holdings to
see what I could find.
Although our physical archives in Piper Hall remain closed due to Illinois’s shelter-at-home order, there is still plenty of work to be done. The week before the issue was ordered, the Women and Leadership Archives began preparations to work remotely. Graduate Assistants working on digitization projects began mass scanning the Mundelein College Photo Collection to create work for them to do remotely. The Director and Assistant Archivist began meeting to discuss what projects could be available for the Assistants. They also contacted researchers to try and find a way to make collections accessible during the closure. And so many more things happened in that week.
The young environmental activist Greta Thunberg has gotten the world’s attention in the past year for her great passion and bold actions to fight climate change and persuade everyone to do their part. At 16 years old, she was the youngest to be named Time Person of the Year and was included in Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019. Wow! That’s quite an impact for one young woman to make.
With the spring semester, my role here at the WLA changed, and I became a Sesquicentennial (150th) Scholar. To mark Loyola’s 150th anniversary, the other Scholars and I have been researching and creating a timeline of 150 years of student life at Loyola and Mundelein College.* What seemed like a straightforward task has had me digging through files of every kind at the WLA in search of a dynamic photo, a newspaper clipping, or a good story from Mundelein’s past students.
There was something not quite right about the working title for this folder. The first letters of the student organization’s full name, “Latins United for Our Cultural Heritage”, were not lining up with its acronym, LUCIR. This thought continued to bug me as I scanned the folder of pictures, leading me to pursue a fascinating trail through a published book, several other folders in the Women and Leadership Archives’ (WLA) collection and a yearbook.