When presented with the idea of researching a woman who has positively influenced the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and its reputation, my first question was: Who? My professor advised that as I weeded through the thousands of women in the history of the university who were at one time students, faculty, or staff, it would be wise to choose someone with whom I share a personal interest or characteristic. I envisioned a woman I would want to study, a woman I would be proud to know and research for the Women’s Archive Project (WAP) at UNO. I have always been fascinated by the 1960s and 1970s due to their historical significance—The Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the Second Wave Feminist Movement. It was a time that sparked protests and passion, when the First Amendment was taken full advantage of, and well-established lines were crossed or altogether rubbed out. Therefore, the concepts of this period in America’s history became my passion and subsequently the drive for the start of my research.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s newspaper, The Gateway, has issues available in its database dating to 1922. According to Les Valentine, UNO’s resident archivist, the Gateway Archives are the most important source material for an individual researching the University’s past. The Gateway would not only aid me in finding a woman to research for WAP, he said, but also with finding information on the subject I would eventually choose. After simply typing the word “woman” in the search engine of the online archives, I discovered a column from the spring semester of 1972 entitled “Womankind” by a student named Maggie May. I was instantly curious for two reasons. First, I was intrigued by the eleven articles, which focused on the Women’s Liberation Movement of that time, and each included a photo of Maggie herself. Secondly, I recognized the name “Maggie May” as a popular radio hit of the 1970s performed by Rod Stewart and suspected this may not be a coincidence.
Upon reading the articles, I found that “Maggie May” discussed in detail several themes of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, including equality between the sexes in society, the workplace, and in the sexual revolution. Themes of this caliber, which catapulted the movement to become the Second Wave in Women’s Liberation history in the United States, were far too significant to simply ignore. It was she who was speaking not only to her generation of students and faculty alike, but to me, a feminist and student at the same university, nearly thirty years later. The long and daunting manhunt, or “woman-hunt,” ensued; however, every possible lead to uncover the mere traces of her existence resulted in a dead end. Eventually, “Maggie May” was discovered to be an anonym. Not one person involved in the Women’s Studies Department or the Gateway newspaper at UNO in the early 1970s had a clue as to who the woman was. She simply remained a mystery.
Even though it was apparent she wished to protect her identity while writing her series of articles, I wanted to know what Maggie May was saying about feminism in the 1970s, how she was saying it, and if this concept is still relatable to American society today. Feminism has had a stream of negative connotations associated with it since the beginning of the movement by the very people who were, and still are, not accepting of equality between men and women. Maggie May bravely introduced the ideals of the Second Wave in “Womankind” for the University of Nebraska at Omaha students and faculty to witness, hoping to educate and potentially change the lives of women and men on campus. To fully comprehend the principles May discusses in her articles, it is imperative to first understand the history of Second Wave Feminism, the media’s portrayal of the movement, and the Women’s Liberation Strike of 1970, an event which threw the movement into the limelight of American culture. Then and only then can the unbiased writings of May on Feminism in 1970s Omaha truly be analyzed.
While Maggie May was writing her “Womankind” column for UNO’s Gateway Newspaper, the United States was in the midst of what is now known as the Second Wave Feminism Movement. Specific concerns of American women from the early 60s to the late 70s were discussed in Maggie’s articles, including better wages for female workers and the idea that the sexual revolution was harming, rather than helping women at that time. For example, Ms. Magazine featured a “Then and Now” in their Fall 2007 issue of women’s occupations and salaries in the 70s versus 2007. In 1972, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned whereas in 2007 women earned 77 cents for every dollar men earned. Also, that same year, women owned 4.6% of businesses as sole or majority owners, whereas they owned 40% in 2006, signifying a major