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Part Four Teaching Women's History

TIMELINE

  • Jody's first UNO ID card

  • Jody with Katy

Jody had never been interested in family or women’s history, and in all her time at Henderson and LSU, she had never had a female history professor. The only books she had read on the history of women dealt with the movement for woman suffrage. A history department colleague and friend, Jackie St. John, feminist and founder of Omaha’s National Organization for Women chapter, developed and lobbied for a two-semester course in the history of women in America that the department and College both finally accepted. UNO was among the first colleges to offer a course in women’s history. Jody doubted there would be sufficient material for two semesters of women’s history, or perhaps even one semester, but Jackie assured her there was plenty!

The course was set to begin in the fall of 1973, but Jackie became seriously ill at her parents’ home in Syracuse, NY.  Jody, being the only other female American history professor was asked to sub that first 7-10 P.M. class. Not knowing much about women’s history at that time, Jody figured she could go in and talk to the students about suffrage, and that should be enough to get her through the class until Jackie could come back.

But Jackie was unable to come back that semester. Jody taught the class and relied on Jackie’s course syllabus and extensive bibliography, working hard on readings and lecture preparation.  She remembers how Jackie had laughed earlier when Jody said to her: “You mean that there were more than two books written about women’s history?!”

Despite the bumpy start, that night class was transformative for Jody and her 40 students, 39 women and 1 man. Because of this class, Jody became further aware of the need for a consciousness about women’s issues; she credits her students, and preparation for the class she was unexpectedly teaching, with helping to educate her on this topic.

 

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Part Five Feminism at UNO

During this time, gender roles were undergoing a massive restructuring. Jody remembers when women couldn’t wear shorts or pants at LSU unless they were going to the gym. In the early 1970s, women started wearing pant suits at UNO. Several older male history faculty were worried that too many women were being hired, four women in a department of twelve. They were also concerned about women teaching at night: “Women can’t teach night classes…Who’s going to walk them to their car?”

These experiences encouraged Jody to become active in women’s issues on campus.

During International Women’s Year, one of the committees on which she served had arranged for Angela Davis, a controversial speaker, to come and speak in May of 1975. Davis was interested in visiting and making connections with the black community in Omaha, but as it turned out would be