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 banned from speaking on UNO’s campus. She was African-American, Communist, and had been involved in activities the University authorities found questionable. The committee had to arrange to have Davis speak at the Civic Center. As committee spokesperson, Jody tried to make the case for academic freedom in spite of the controversy (without result): “What is a university for if not to hear other points of view?”

Jody was also active in the group responsible for promoting Affirmative Action at the University. Women were being denied tenure without just cause in Omaha and Lincoln. In the 1970s, a group of women faculty from UNO and UNL put together a class action lawsuit and submitted it to what was then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (later Health and Human Services). This eventually led to the establishment of an Affirmative Action plan for the entire University.

There are many more women at the University now, which has been a huge change. When Jody retired in 1996, women were heading committees, serving as department chairs, deans, and in higher administrative posts. There are procedures and rules to ensure that women have a fair chance. A lot more women have gone to graduate school, but there is still room for growth in mathematics and some sciences. Reflecting back, Jody says, “What happened in the 60s and 70s made a difference, and it had to be done. There was agitation, but you don’t get change without agitation.”  Jody was also active in the group responsible for promoting collective bargaining at the University. She is proud of her early involvement in establishing the faculty union at UNO (AFT first, then success with AAUP).


Up Next

Part Six Experiences at UNO

Overall, Jody’s experience at UNO has been a very positive one. She talks about the freedom to teach a variety of classes on diverse subject matter and to develop different kinds of courses. At LSU, she was limited in what she could teach. UNO did expect her to teach surveys and develop a class on urban history, but she also originated a course in the History of American Medicine and Public Health, which she taught regularly. She taught women’s history several times, as well as historical research methods. Her graduate seminars were almost all in medical history, but she did offer one on history of “the family” and one on quantitative methods in history, experimentally.

Jody also speaks of the opportunities working at UNO has afforded her, including teaching at two Air Force bases in England (RAF Bentwaters and RAF Lakenheath-Mildenhall)