Jean and Alexander Heard Library - Vanderbilt University


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.
 

Education

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.
 

F.M. Turner, [Portrait of Kate Lupton, First Female Graduate of Vanderbilt University], 1883, photograph, Vanderbilt University Photographic Archives [First Petition to Award Kate Lupton Her Diploma], June 18, 1877, Vanderbilt University Minutes of the Board of Trust and of the Executive Committee, Vanderbilt University Special Collections<br> <br>  [Second Petition to Award Kate Lupton Her Diploma], May 29, 1879, Vanderbilt University Minutes of the Board of Trust and of the Executive Committee, Vanderbilt University Special Collections Vanderbilt University, “Admission of Women,” Register of Vanderbilt University of 1896-1897, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Vanderbilt University, “Admission of Women,” Register of Vanderbilt University of 1896-1897, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Recommendation That Women Pay Matriculation Fee for Admission], June 14, 1897, Vanderbilt University Minutes of the Board of Trust and of the Executive Committee, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Letter from Anne Scales Benedict to Alumna],  April 5, 1926, Anne Scales Benedict Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections Vanderbilt Historical Pageant, June 12, 1923, Women of Vanderbilt Vertical File, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

"Five Trustees Elected," Vanderbilt Gazette, May 22, 1964, newspaper clipping, Women at Vanderbilt Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Board of Trust Meeting], 1969, photograph, Vanderbilt University Photographic Archives [Increase in Number of Undergraduates to the College], November 13, 1964, Vanderbilt University Minutes of the Board of Trust and of the Executive Committee, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Compiled Comments from Female Undergraduates],  Women at Vanderbilt: Report of the Chancellor's Commission on the Status of Women, 1972-1976, 1977, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Women's Rights

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.
 

Nashville University Women’s Council, 1977, newsletter, Women's Organizations at Vanderbilt Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections WEAV, membership application, Women's Organizations at Vanderbilt Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections WEAV, factsheet, Susan Ford Wiltshire Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections "Vanderbilt University Women's Center," brochure

 [Petition to The Tennessean], Nancy Hendrix Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Letter from Senator Jim Sasser to Nancy Hendrix], October 3, 1978, Nancy Hendrix Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections <i>House Committee Approves Rescind ERA Resolution</i>, news release, Nancy Hendrix Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Letter from Mrs. Tom Ragland to Mrs. John McDougall]

 [Letter from Mrs. Edward S. Parsons, Jr., to Mrs. James Todd], March 5, 1948, Mary K. (Molly) Todd Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections] [Susan Ford Wiltshire], photograph,  Vanderbilt Magazine Collection, Vanderbilt University Photographic Archives [Women’s Week 1979 necktie], Memorabilia Collection, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Family Planning

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.
 

[Letter to Sue Green], Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Letter to Sue Green], April 22, 1959, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections  [Letter to Sue Green], August 6, 1967, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Letter to Sue Green], June 27, 1958, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

[Better Babies Testimonial], Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Directions for Fem-A-Gyn Tablets], Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Sue Green and the Tennessee Birth Control Bureau], c. 1967, photograph, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [The Tennessee Birth Control Bureau], photograph, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections

[Tennessee Birth Control Bureau Pamphlet], Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections True Message for Worried and Tired Mothers, leaflet, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections [Ticket to American Conference on Birth Control and National Recovery], June, 16, 1934, Sue B. Kirtland Green Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections <i>Pertinent Facts About Planned Parenthood Association of Nashville: 1945</i>, factsheet, Mary K. (Molly) Todd Papers, Vanderbilt University Special Collections


 
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.