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MHC

Manifesting an Attitude
 
Amherst and Mount Holyoke Students in Washington, D.C. with Senator Keating, lobbying for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. May 15th, 1964. Courtesy MHC Archives
 
Members of the class of 1970 voted to carry peace signs, protesting the war in Vietnam, rather than the traditional laurel chain during Commencement weekend. Courtesy MHC Archives
 
Students often held demonstrations on campus to make a social or political statement. Many demonstrations protested the Vietnam War. Courtesy MHC Archives
 
 
 
By the late 1960s, students across the world agreed that societal attitudes, within higher education institutions and the government, needed to change. Students joined together and organized large networks that attempted to change basic attitudes on college campuses. Behind the "student power" slogan was the concept of participatory democracy.

No more bombs: Student coalitions formed during the 1960s and fought to bring together liberals, radicals, activists, scholars, students and faculty. They envisioned a society where people at all levels had control of decisions or choices that would affect them.

In October 1968, Mount Holyoke students created a branch of the national organization, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It was the first major political and social activist organization to appear on campus. At Mount Holyoke, SDS members had specific goals and objectives. These included the selection of a new college president, changes made to the investment policy of the College, and a major overhaul of the College’s social rules and regulations. At the national level, Mount Holyoke students fought against laws and policies that penalized “immoral” behavior.

Students held demonstrations to dramatize a grievance. However, a demonstration was only part of the process to effectively initiate change. The entire structure had to be confronted. Initially, the Mount Holyoke chapter of SDS focused their efforts on anti-war activities, the situation of unions for non-academic personnel at Mount Holyoke, and an investigation of the College’s investment policy.

Although there were many protests and demonstrations at Mount Holyoke, one dramatically stands out. In May 1968, 62 demonstrators, comprised of students, faculty members, and one Amherst student, protested the Vietnam War at a series of ceremonies commemorating the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class of female Marine Officers, commissioned at the College in 1943. It was a dignified and well-organized silent demonstration, in which all the participants wore black armbands and several carried signs reading "Peace in Vietnam" and "End the War in Vietnam." At a dinner held following demonstration, Colonel Streeter, a Mount Holyoke alumna who had been in the first graduating class of marines, told the audience that she respected Mount Holyoke more at that moment than she had done 25 five years before. She praised the College for allowing the students the right to dissent, and also commended the students for an orderly demonstration.

The fight against segregation: Civil Rights were almost certainly America's most compelling crisis in the 1960s, and it was also a concern for Mount Holyoke women. Faculty and students became involved in the Civil Rights movement on campus through the organization, Civil Actions Group, as well as personal protests.

Along with 150 other college campuses nationwide, Mount Holyoke supported the "Thanksgiving Fast for Freedom," a project co-sponsored by the Northern Student Movement. Mount Holyoke had 95% participation and raised $540. Conferences on Civil Rights and other types of protest were also common among students. Mount Holyoke women were very conscious of being in the middle of a revolution and were aware that their power would contribute to the end of segregation in America.

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This page was created by Carina Galliano 'LF] in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 - cgallia@mtholyoke.edu