by an anonymous CWLU member (1973) ♦ Why one woman from a Southwest Side Chicago Catholic upbringing joined the women's liberation movement at her community college.
Getting out from behind the successful man’s back and actually becoming a successful person was the idea that launched me into the women's movement. Growing up with three brothers on the southwest side of Chicago taught me that they (males), were no better than me (female). I could never deny that they were different, but we were all different from each other. Also, I can really remember all those times that my mother and I entered in battle as a team against the boys and their father. It would really aggravate me because my mother would say that it was the women of the family who did the work, while they would continue to watch baseball, football, or whatever was the season's sport.
When I was still pretty young I told one of my uncles that I was going to be the first American pope (just to be cute), but oddly enough the thought of becoming priest grew up with me. I didn't tell too many people because everybody knows women aren’t priests, they 're nuns. I knew that I didn’t want to be a nun. (Heaven forbid!) As late as senior year in a Catholic all girls high school, the interest in becoming a priest still nagged at me. While talking to somebody about my possible "vocation", they asked me if I was doing it to prove a point about women’s liberation, At the time, which was early in 1971 I flatly stated that I was doing anything that I was doing because I was personally interested in doing it. That was all. Just two years later, I'm not embarrassed or afraid to say that my possibly wanting to be a priest has a lot to do with women's liberation.
I realized that there was no good reason why a woman couldn't become a priest or anything else she wanted to be.
After four years of an all girls school, it was a little difficult to get adjusted to a normal situation. But that's when it began to happen, sure, going to school with all girls had been unreal, but sometimes reality isn't always the easiest thing to face. Now it dawned on me it was the only good thing about my time in high school. It gave me a chance to really learn to respect my "fellow" classmates (how come there is no word for female colleagues?) I also learned how to be aggressive and self-sufficient. I had been working only with other women and not having to deal with all that "masculine ego building" common to mixed groups. It began to irk me when some guy wanted me to take notes or type something up because it was real stereotyping.
But still, I began noticing injustices all over the place. And let's face it; there is no such thing as a "minor" injustice. Any injustice means a complete loss of freedom, for you can’t have partial freedom either.
Well, about the same time all these injustices were springing up around me, I had been attracted to the Southwest area YWCA (3134 W. Marquette) through a Youth Conference co-sponsored by the local YMCA and them. I didn't know what the Southwest YWCA offered, It surprised me that they didn't have a pool, or gym or classes for that matter. I started getting involved by hearing things here and there about what the YWCA was doing. The programs were good, even great. There were discussion groups, the beginnings of a couple of tot lots, talk of a women's health committee, and the YWCA had only been around for around ten months. Then I got a job at the YWCA, working 20 hours a week. Interest and involvement turned to commitment. In the year I've been employed, I've seen lots of background work and enough changes to convince me I wanted to work for women. The health committee blossomed, starting a free immunization program at Marquette Park once a month and securing women’s cancer testing at a private community hospital. The tot lot program has expanded, and an ecology club for young girls was formed as well as a consciousness raising group for high school students.
Then the Southwest College Women's Union was founded, The SCWU came out of a particular frustration junior college women feel. In addition to the general discrimination aimed toward women plus the usual educational inequalities, women attending a 2-yr. city school have problems. The reasons for going to a jr. college are lack of funds, and needing to work and/or living at home. Many families don't consider their daughter's education as important as their sons so many are hassled by all three reasons. Also, jr., colleges offer the opportunity for older women to finish school, but the school makes no attempts to ease the return. That's basically why several women attending Southwest Community College got together in January, 1973 to discuss the idea of a women’s organization on campus. The idea sounded so good that the SCWU appeared at the beginning of the Spring semester.
The SCWU's first major activity was a day long celebration of International Women’s Day. Other events included a leadership training workshop and dance with the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band, Three liberation school courses (given by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union), - self-defense, introduction to women's liberation and women and their bodies- were offered free to students at the college. The SCWU also met with women from other jr. college groups in the city to work on some projects together. The discussions themselves did a lot to give support and ideas to everyone. It seems like the possibilities are limitless for the things we want to see happen in the future.
What the Southwest College Women's Union is doing is important to me. I'm committed to it's work, and the Southwest YWCA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. I believe they're all vital for the survival and advancement of women and for all people. These organizations will mean a world of difference. A world changed significantly by the women who will demand their rights, unify to get control over our lives and a better way of living for everyone and create the alternatives needed for a liberated society. The women's movement means a future where a woman can use her talents to add a new dimension to "success"... where it won't matter so much that a woman prod men to success, but that she herself achieves freedom and happiness by doing what she wants to, trying what she'd like to try, even if she wants to be a priest