When I graduated from high school attending college wasn’t a given, especially for women. Nonetheless, I opted for college and was one of only a handful of women who did so. My decision brought raised eyebrows from friends, classmates, and some family members.
“Why do you need a college degree?” was the frequently asked question. Hidden within the question was the assumption that I, like other females, wasn’t college material and was merely seeking my “M.R.S. degree."
Still, I ventured off to college filled with longing for a career, independence, and personal empowerment. Those longings were squashed when my dorm mother introduced herself to female residents and explained her function and the rules of conduct for females.
“My name is Mrs. Edwards. I enforce curfew hours and report residents who violate curfew or miss bed check to the Dean of Women. Outside doors are locked at curfew. Curfew is 9 p.m. on weeknights, 11 p.m. on weekends, and 6 p.m. on Sundays.
“Bed check? Curfew? Is she for real?” I asked the woman sitting adjacent to me.
“But…but I have a job until 10 p.m. every night. What am I to do?”
“My room’s at the back of the building. Just tap on my window. I’ll sneak you in.”
“We shouldn’t have to sneak into our dorms,” interjected another coed.
“Absolutely!” I moved closer to her, drawn to her strength.
“Plus, males don’t have a curfew and bed checks,” she continued. “And their room keys also unlock the front door of their dormitories. They can come and go as they please. We need to demand equality!”
We did just that.
After the meeting, a group of us drafted a petition urging the Dean of Women to eliminate our curfew and bed check and issue us front door keys. We confronted Dean Wilson with our petition hoping he’d see what we thought was an obvious inequity.
“The university reserves the right to operate in loco parentis to protect students,” he responded. “It believes girls should be in their dorms by 10 p.m. and monitored to protect them.”
“Why does the university protect females but not males?” I asked.
“Girls are the fairer sex and need protection. That’s why.”
“You’re using a double standard!”
“Be that as it may.” He stood up. “I’ll take your petition under advisement,” he said, escorting us out of his office.
We returned to the dorm and planned a peaceful sit-in. Days later, 200+ women gathered in front of the Administration Building waving signs that read: In Loco Parentis Unfair to Females and chanting Helen Reddy’s immortal and empowering words: “We are woman, hear us roar in numbers too big to ignore.”
Within days, curfew and bed checks were eliminated and we received front door keys. Throughout college, I continued challenging the status quo and effecting change with Helen Reddy’s words motivating me. I pay homage to Ms. Reddy, the venerated voice of the women’s movement. Thanks for the courage and empowerment you gave me.