“We’re all sisters together”: Remembering the 1970 Women’s Strike

This post was written by one of our interns, Rachel Newlin.

On March 8th 2017, women across the world are planning to strike in an effort to create an International Day of Action in honor of International Women’s Day.

High schools and college campuses are closing in anticipation of the strike, unable to continue business without their female employees. This international strike is seen as ‘the beginning of a new international feminist movement’ and has been garnering great media attention across the United States. Women across the country are striking from paid jobs, childcare, housework, among other truths of female existence – and it all feels very familiar. That is because this will be the second Women’s Strike where thousands of women rise up and demand equal treatment and change under the law.

On August 26th 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of women marched across the country for many of the same things.

Second-wave feminist Betty Friedan led the strike, organized by NOW, the National Organization for Women. Friedan was met with a lot of resistance when she first brought up the idea of a strike – older women were scared that the strike wouldn’t turn out and the media would mock, them while younger generations of women were sure that the move wasn’t radical enough. Still, Friedan moved forward with the idea, and across the country, the idea caught on. Studs met with a few of these women in March of 1970, where he parsed complex ideas of oppression and the female experience with them in a fascinating two-part interview.

1970 Women's Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

1970 Women’s Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

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“If Emmett Till lived, he’d have been your age”

In 1975, when Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali about his book The Greatest, Studs said to him, “If Emmett Till  lived, he’d have been you’re age, wouldn’t he?”  Hear Ali’s response here:

It’s likely you’re familiar with what happened to Emmett Till.  Twenty years before Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali, 14-year-old Till was visiting Mississippi from Chicago when he was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  His murderers were acquitted and then confessed publicly.

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair ran a story about author Timothy Tyson‘s new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. In that article, Tyson revealed that the woman who was the alleged whistle-target (Carolyn Bryant Donham) has reneged what she said at the trial for Till’s murder.  The murder, and subsequent trial and acquittal, is credited by many as being the first spark – or last straw – that ignited the Civil Rights movement.

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“Equality is for Everybody”

Maryland suffragists picket the White House, 1917.

Working for women’s rights has a long history in our country and has taken many forms,

from the early suffragists in the mid-nineteenth century up through today’s movement to ensure STEM education for young women.  This Saturday, January 21, is the day of the Women’s Marches around the world. 215,000 people have RSVP’d to the Washington, D.C. event on Facebook, and another 1.3 million are expected to attend marches around the world, including over 60,000 here in Chicago[update as of 01/21 11:00 am central: 150K!]. (more…)

Inauguration Countdown

Studs was very interested in politics at all levels, from the grassroots movements in a neighborhood all the way up to the White House.  This is reflected in the archives’ interviews with organizers, city councilmen, and authors and journalists writing about our presidents.  As our nation prepares for our 58th inauguration ceremony for an American president, we’ve looked through the archives to find interviews about previous presidents and campaigns.

The faces of Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

In 1970, he spoke with Doris Kearns Goodwin about her time in the White House with Lyndon Johnson and the resulting book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.  In 1981, author David McCullough spoke to Studs about his book on Theodore Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback.  Studs spoke to multiple guests about Richard Nixon during his campaigns and terms, including Joe McGinniss, author of the The Selling of the President, 1968; and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about breaking the Watergate story, and their follow-up book, All The President’s Men

Be sure to check back later this week as we gear up for the Women’s March with programs on the ongoing struggle to pass the ERA.

Photo credit: By Dean Franklin – 06.04.03 Mount Rushmore Monument. (Resized by User:ComputerHotline, 20:17, 12. Mai 2007.), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7930156

George Wald, Nobel Laureate

In 1967, George Wald, along with Ragnar Granit and Haldan Keffer Hartline won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.”

Dr. Wald, 1967

Dr. Wald, 1967

In 1970, Studs invited Dr. Wald (of Harvard University) to speak on his show.  In the meantime, Dr. Wald had given a talk at an MIT anti-war teach-in: “A Generation in Search of a Future” (read it here).

Perhaps not surprising to Studs’ regular listeners, the two men do not discuss the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.  Instead, they talk about Dr. Wald’s speech, student unrest, destruction of the environment, and the possibility of nuclear war.  Dr. Wald tells Studs, “We’ve reached a time, the like of which has not appeared in human history in which the whole human enterprise is threatened, all over the world.  The future of humanity is at stake.”

From here, the conversation moves on to the difference between science and technology, and the ethical imperatives of our fast-paced technological world.  Dr. Wald admonishes us to “only do those things that seem right and good to you.”  The relationship between technology and humanity is one Studs returns to consistently; but maybe that’s not unexpected for a man who uses technology as a medium to collect and convey human stories.  In 1962, he spoke to French filmmaker Jacques Tati about much the same thing (although from a more humorous perspective).  Listen here.

Photo: Author unknown, public domain, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1967/

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Robert Maynard Hutchins & the American University

“What is the trouble with the private institutions?  It is that they are after money.  If you are after money, you have to appeal to the people who have got it, and the way to appeal to the people who have got it to represent to them that you are going to do what they would like to have done.”
-Robert Maynard Hutchins

This blog post was written by Meghan, one of our summer interns from the MLIS program at Dominican University.

Robert Maynard Hutchins’ time at the University of Chicago coincided with Studs Terkel’s education there, providing a platform for the interview.  Hutchins shared his views on the American educational system, particularly the system of higher education in the U.S., which he believed had departed from its original intended purpose.  Universities should serve as, what he referred to as “centers of independent thought,” or “centers of intellectual illumination.”  However, they changed course, catering to the “LaSalle Street” inhabitants, in other words, bankers and financial institutions.

Hutchins’ thoughts and beliefs about the ways in which universities strayed from their goals were direct and truthful, but, he did not believe that universities should necessarily be condemned for their choices.  He himself began the process of developing “centers of independent thought” outside of the university setting so as to keep alive the need in this country for individuals to participate in a community that thinks critically in the interest of serving the country as a whole.

I say it may be necessary simply to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the American university is so far gone in this direction that nothing can be done about it, but if this is so, then what we have to do is to set about establishing new institutions that will perform this function.

Robert Maynard Hutchins founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions to help support his goal of providing scholars with a venue where their ideas could be freely examined and discussed.  This brief interview is densely packed with criticisms of the American higher educational system, while also attempting to provide a lifeboat for “eggheads” who are not destined for LaSalle Street.

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John Henry Faulk

This blog post was written by Meghan, one of our summer interns from the MLIS program at Dominican University.

In the month when we remember our country’s birth, it is time to reflect upon the principles on which our nation is founded and the principles for which many Americans have fought and died.  John Henry Faulk, an American storyteller from Austin, Texas, shared with Studs some of his insights into who we are as Americans, drawn from reflections of his travels across the country.

“And [Momma] said, ‘Don’t you know a chicken snake won’t hurt ya?’ And Boots Cooper said, ‘Yes ma’am, I know that, Miss Faulk, but they can scare you so bad, you’ll hurt yourself!’
And I use this as my theme.”
-John Henry Faulk

JohnHenryFaulk

There is neither any volume of text nor elegance of prose that can sufficiently portray the passion with which John Henry Faulk expressed his message through the spoken word.   This interview must be heard in order to fully grasp Faulk’s emotion, which is woven through his stories, and which he brought to college students and prominent community members across the country during the sixties.  Faulk, speaking with Studs Terkel in this 1969 interview mused:

Who are we, the American people?  What is our purpose?  How did we get started?  And I go back to the colonial days, see, and describe the Boston Tea Party: an act of vandalism against the constituted authority, old King George, but a protest, in reality, against oppression and against repression and against tyranny, and it was a spark that caught on over the colonies, and we won our freedom.

And then, I get to, what I love best, 1787, the summer that those magnificent men gathered there in Philadelphia and slapped mosquitos and sweated all summer to lay the groundwork for the nation that became the United States of America; conceived the idea of a free people governing themselves, set up the framework for a society where man would be totally free, hedged him ‘round with every defense in the world, his freedom ‘round with every defense in the world, so that the government would be the servant and the people would be the sovereign.  And this is a magnificent idea, you see.

Faulk’s travels across the country, speaking to what he termed, “the knife and fork clubs” and students at university, helped him discover not that Americans differ greatly in their views and opinions, but that, in all the ways that matter, they were seeking the same things.  The United States was going through a tumultuous time when Faulk began his tours.  He himself had been a victim of the blacklisting in the media industry during the McCarthy era, and openly and colorfully shared his own experiences with his audiences of having been “stampeded by fear.”

The central message of his story, and the most resounding lesson he learned from his audiences was that America was in the process of being transformed back into what it was when it had first begun.  This rebirth of awareness American citizens’ had of their responsibility to direct the actions of the government, he attributed primarily to African-Americans, who led the Civil Rights movement, and the youth of our country – those he calls, “the least privileged of our citizens.”  And, he tells Studs, “I don’t believe they can be stampeded by fear anymore – they’ve started thinking.”

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Pride Month Celebration – Week Two: Quentin Crisp

This post was written by Meghan, an MLIS student from Dominican University.

“Oh no.  I don’t think homosexuals are really happy.  I wouldn’t say this. I think they’re madly gay, and this itself is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?” 

  • Quentin Crisp in conversation with Studs Terkel
Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru - Oil on Canvas

Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru – Oil on Canvas

Studs Terkel speaks to Quentin Crisp in his one-room flat in a boarding house in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, where, at the time of the interview, Mr. Crisp had lived for thirty years.  Although Mr. Crisp was 61 when he was interviewed, and ultimately lived to be 90 years old, he remarked to Studs Terkel, “I don’t expect anything new from my life now.”  As a “self-confessed homosexual,” Quentin Crisp suffered a great deal during his early adulthood, as he was subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from friends, family, and strangers.  However, he came to the realization that the best way to cope with this treatment was simply to accept it.

By the time of the interview, although a sexual revolution had taken place and Crisp was then living in a much more “permissive” society, he still claimed that the best way to live was to accept one’s chains, rather than trying to break them, saying, “when you can’t sink any lower, then you’re absolutely free.”

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 Ross Bennett Lewis

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 photo by Ross Bennett Lewis

Mr. Crisp was an actor, writer, a well-known public figure, and the subject of films and interviews.  He nonetheless felt that he was “always at the losing end.”  Were he alive today to see that the struggles he endured during his life have paved the way for others, perhaps his outlook might have changed.

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Happy Birthday Studs!

Studs Terkel was born on May 16, 1912.

Studs Terkel smoking a cigar in a recording studio, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1960.

Studs Terkel smoking a cigar in a recording studio, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1960.

1912 was quite a year.  The Titanic made its first and last voyage, the Republic of China was founded, the African National Congress was formed, and Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard A. Taft, and Eugene Debs all ran for U.S. President.  (Wilson won, and women couldn’t vote yet!)

What better way to celebrate his birthday than hearing from those who admired him most?

 

Thanks to our friends at MediaBurn for providing this video montage of Studs’ memorial service.  You can view the full 2 hour version here.

Photo credit: Chicago History Museum, ICHi-65442; Stephen Deutch, photographer

Searching for Nazi War Criminals

Monday, May 9 was Victory Day.  Celebrated throughout Eastern Europe, it marks the Nazi surrender to the army of the Soviet Union.  There is nothing in the archive that specifically covers Victory Day, but to honor this day we are sharing the story of Tony DeVito, who worked to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, and Howard Blum, the author of his story.

Defendants at the dock during the Nuremberg Trials, 1945 or 1946

Defendants at the dock during the Nuremberg Trials, 1945 or 1946

Tscherim “Tom” Soobzokov, Valerian Trifa, Andrija Artukovic, and Boleslavs Maikovskis were living stable, successful lives in the United States in 1976.  That same year, investigative journalist Howard Blum published his book Wanted: The Search for Nazis in America, (read a 1977 review here), exposing the men as war criminals.  During the course of the interview with Terkel, Blum explains that although he was enlightening the general public on the men’s histories, a hearing for Trifa had been scheduled in 1975 (and never followed up on), and in 1965 an investigation into Mailvoskis was begun, only to be terminated.

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