Chicago Protesters Defend Woman Power


The 1969 sit-in at the University of Chicago was one of the events that helped give rise to the Chicago Women's Liberation Union.

Editors Note: The 1969 sit-in at the University of Chicago was one of the events that helped give rise to the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. The sit-in at the UC administration building was prompted by the University not re-appointing Marlene Dixon to her position in the UC Sociology Department. Dixon was a popular teacher with radical political views. These articles from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times describe some of the student organizing that took place at UC.



By Guy Halverson and Lucia Mount

Now it's woman power. The wave of college protests which have championed such diverse causes as opposition to the war in Vietnam, establishment of black history courses, and a stronger voice for students in university policy decisions has added a new dimension at the University of Chicago. It may prove marketable beyond campus boundaries.

Ostensibly the issue here in the five-day-old sit-in in the university administration building has been the faculty's decision not to re-appoint Mrs. Marlene Dixon, a popular assistant sociology professor whose con- tract expires next September.

At first students insisted the decision was based strictly on Mrs. Dixon's radical political views. Lately, they have added that it also is because she is a woman.


A position paper unanimously approved by the steering committee of dissident stu- dents stressed that while women comprise as average of 22 per cent of the nation's college faculty and staff, at the University of Chicago their percentage has slipped from a mere 8 in 1899 to 3 in 1969. And of Chicago's graduate students on fellowships only 20 per cent are women.

At a "for women only" press conference — strictly enforced to the chagrin of male reporters used to elbowing their way into almost any situation - two spokesmen for the Women's Radical Action Project (an offshoot of the Women's Liberation Front) stressed the need for equal rights with men in women's dormitory and visitation hours.

They also suggested a department of women in a proposed "suppressed studies division." This department would take on such courses as "the history of women's oppression" and "stereotypes of women in literature."

Nancy Stokely, senior in history, charged that "male chauvinism" was an element in every University of Chicago course.

Against a backdrop of airplane and clothing ads featuring scantily clad girls (termed "exploitation" by this group of Chicago women students), the spokesmen explained that the steering committee of protesters had discussed but rejected the possibility of adding a new demand to their list: that 51 percent of Chicago's students and faculty be women in accord with the nationwide percentage.

Mrs. Dixon herself has attempted to keep her comments to a minimum, arguing that the protest has roots far beyond her individual case. She says, however, that the protest will lend new "unity" to the university.


Although most students in the administration building wore white and red "Rehire Marlene" buttons, the "unity" in this university with its strong individualistic traditions may go no more than button deep.

There are signs of factionalism in student goals and strategy as students debate whether to disrupt classes or stick to occupation of the vital administration building and decide whether or not to press for recruitment of more working-class students and the end of university expansion into nearby ghetto areas.

In any case, control of the group's information is highly centralized and reporters are hard pressed to get an articulate explanation of what the dissident Chicago group is after.

"We're engaging in one of the most creative acts of education that the university has ever seen," Jeff Blum, graduate student in sociology and member of Chicago's Students for a Democratic Society, announced via a bull horn on the administration steps to a small group of passers- by.

"We're not satisfied merely with the formal demands for 'student power' that many administrators now are happy to talk about. It can't be a mere slogan. It has to have political con- tent."

Although 61 students now have been suspended as a result of the sit-in, the university's administrative action has been restrained. So far the police have not been called. Wayne Booth, dean of the college, has said it would only come as a last resort. Many believe an injunction to evacuate the building will come first.

"If there's anything worth saving in this society, it's the university," comments Daniel Agin, associate professor of physiology. "But we can handle our own problems. We don't have to call on civil authorities."

Some believe students hope the police will be brought in so they may rally more numbers of their cause. (Current involvement is between 200 and 400 of the campuses 8,600 students.) It appears they must broaden their base of support to continue the protest. Certainly in demanding an equal role "in principle" for students and faculty in the hiring and firing of faculty members, they have pricked a sensitive point of power.



By Abra Anderson Exclusive to the Times from the Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO - The female attack on the University of Chicago as a bastion of male power is gaining momentum.

Some 200 women left the administration building barricades Tuesday for a feminist rally in Mandel Hall - a rally that turned into a press conference at which male reporters were hissed when they asked questions.

That constituted a slight gain for the gentlemen of the press, however. On Monday, men reporters were barred from a press conference on women's rights.

Great cheers went up when Mrs. Marlene Dixon, the heroine of the women's liberation front, told the women students they had started something that "stretches from the Sorbonne to Berkeley."

She said the female endeavor, which bears the initials WRAP - Women's Radical Action Project - was the largest single action in a two-year-old women's liberation movement.

Refusal of the university to rehire Mrs. Dixon, an assistant professor of sociology, touched off the administration building takeover and the subsequent demands for woman power.

Several students also addressed the rally. One, Sally Yogel, 20, a third-year history major from Evanston, Ill., deplored the idea that America's womanhood has been barred from producing better entries for the history books than such homebodies as Martha Washington and Betsy Ross.

And in modern careers, Miss Yogel lamented, women are stereotyped as "bitchy or masculine."

"Women feel they must flirt or giggle to attract men," she said. "I feel totally demoralized when I have to do that."

Miss Yogel dismissed the concept that women should be "barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen."