Making Strides: Women as Agents of Social Change
"Making Strides" illustrates women’s efforts in the Nashville Community to promote equal rights and to gain access to education, family planning, and employment. These rare materials from the Vanderbilt Libraries Special Collections tell an important story of the struggle for equality that continues to be fought in the U.S. and worldwide.
Until 1896, women attended Vanderbilt as a courtesy. Women fought for basic needs and until 1972 the university restricted the number of female students. Mary Jane Werthan’s election to the Board of Trust ensured a woman’s voice in decision making at the highest level.
Women at Vanderbilt and in Nashville formed groups and organized movements to fight for their rights, which included equal pay, the right to vote, sexual discrimination, child care and civil rights. Many of these issues are still a concern today.
For health and financial reasons, many women wanted access to family planning. In 1932, Sue Kirtland Green opened the Tennessee Birth Control Bureau in Nashville for women in Tennessee and outside the state. The Planned Parenthood Association of Nashville also responded to the need for affordable and accessible family planning services.
Resources Consulted/Further Reading
Culley, Misa. “Walking the Motherlines: A Tour of Women’s History at Vanderbilt.” Women’s VU. Spring 2010: 8-15. Accessed August 27, 2012. [PDF]
Conklin, Paul. Gone with the Ivy: A Biography of Vanderbilt University. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1985.
Turner, William B. “Class, Controversy, and Contraceptives: Birth Control Advocacy in Nashville, 1932-1944.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly. Fall, 1994: 166-179.