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Working to Be Seen and Heard

By Camila Sánchez-González

Based on my research, I believe women at the University of Dayton have always had a voice. However, whether that voice was heard is a different story to tackle. Complaints and issues were addressed, yet response and change were very slow. 

Going through the archives and reading many Flyer News issues, I couldn’t quite pin which facts or details were more shocking to discover. It almost seemed that people found it surprising that women were capable of having: 

A. Talent

B. Brains

C. Beauty

D. Athleticism

E. All of the above

I’ll let our readers decide for themselves, but back in the ’60s, the conversation for women and about women was completely different from what we are used to today. 

It saddens me to say that women during the early 1900s through the 1950s and ’60s were usually only highlighted when discussing issues such as fashion, homecoming or who they were going to marry. They were judged based on the stereotypical tropes:

  • Women are “too emotional” to both work and be moms.
  • Why would a woman need an education if she is already provided for by her husband or family?

Yet time and readings have taught me how those stereotypes were not what women wanted. Women — whether at UD or anywhere in the nation — wanted an education. They wanted to be successful, be involved and be the best at their job; they also could have all the qualities I mentioned above. 

The first female editor-in-chief of the Flyer News was Diane Cross, who took on that role in 1956. The next year, Diane Shoemaker became the first woman to be editor of both the Flyer News and The Exponent in the same year. In 1959, the editor-in-chief was Anita Gail Marting.

I found that articles that featured women during the 1950s and ’60s typically focused on a limited set of topics: homecoming, marriage status, cheerleading and fashion. From this I started noticing how women weren’t consulted for the more serious issues and demands at hand. But over time, I found more articles written by women discussing issues around coeducation, inclusivity on campus and the resources allocated to women.

What surprised me most was the absence of a campus space for women for a long time, despite women going to classes and earning degrees. Except for the Women’s Lounge, which appeared to be the only physical space where women could socialize, no other space was truly their own. They struggled to obtain parking passes, positions in leadership and equipment for their activities. Women didn’t have a dormitory on campus until Marycrest opened in 1962 — 27 years after the College of Women was established. 

In a way, whenever I would go through different articles and see women highlighted for their academic achievements and excellence, it made me believe that it was a way for payback. I say this with the notion of breaking the stereotypes of thinking or believing that women were only capable to a certain limit, when in reality it was the exact opposite. Through my years at UD, women have been recognized for many awards, scholarships, and research achievements. There is no limit to what we can do — or to what I can do.

An article in The Dayton Flyer (Oct. 21, 1959) titled “Education Division Tops in June Deans’ Lists” provided an interesting observation: “Two unusual statistics stand out above the rest. The first is that the total number of coed honor students represents slightly more than 19% of a total of 560 women students, while the number of men honor students represents just over 7% of a total of 2456 male students.” It is interesting to see this data but know that not all women were acknowledged enough for their achievements. Nowadays, it is more likely for a woman to get a degree. It is no longer the norm for women to attend college in pursuit of a spouse.

Nowadays, organizations on campus are dedicated to and for women, and a lot of recreational or extracurricular activities are open to all students. From the student organization app 1850, some female student-led organizations present on UD’s campus today are: 

  • W.O.R.D.: Women of Remarkable Distinction
  • Las Mujeristas 
  • WE: Womanists Empower 
  • Women in Business 
  • Society of Women Engineers

Clearly, the answer to my initial question about women of UD is “E. All of the above.” 

Browse student-produced media in eCommons

— Camila Sánchez-González is the 2022-23 OhioLINK Luminaries intern in the University Libraries.

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