When Jimmy Hoffa Met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Growing Alliance of Labor and Civil Rights

Detroit, Michigan, March 30, 1965. Two men meet at a small press conference before the funeral of a slain civil rights activist. Their meeting seems like an unlikely pairing for us today—one a slick haired, brash, and controversial labor leader and the other a measured, eloquent, and inspirational pastor who had galvanized the civil rights movement. The former was there to present a check for $25,000 for the latter’s work on racial equality. Their stories varied tremendously but, at this moment, they intersected, manifesting all the complicated and contradictory impulses of American life during the middle of the twentieth century. Those two men were Jimmy Hoffa and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Credits: Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Music: “The Things That Keep Us Here” by Monomyth, “Almost A Year Ago” by John Deley and the 41 Players, “Crate Digger” by Gunnar Olsen, “Crimson Fly” by Huma-Huma, “Dreamer” by Hazy, “Eternity” by Lahar, and “I Am OK” by Vishmak

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Will Hays and the Hollywood Production Code

At just 110 pounds, Sullivan, Indiana-native Will Hays was not exactly the imposing figure you’d expect to be the film industry’s regulator, but he nevertheless left a substantial mark on the movie industry during the first half of the twentieth century.

To learn more about Will Hays and the MPPDA, check out Stephen Vaughn’s article from the Indiana Magazine of History.

Learn more Indiana History from the Indiana Historical Bureau: http://www.in.gov/history/

Search historic newspaper pages at Hoosier State Chronicles: www.hoosierstatechronicles.org

Visit our Blog: https://blog.newspapers.library.in.gov/

Visit Chronicling America to read more first drafts of history: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

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Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Footage of Will Hays and Irene Dunne courtesy of the Indiana State Library. 

Music:  “Days Are Long”, “7th Floor Tango”, and “Time Stops” by Silent Partner

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How Gary American Editor Edwina Whitlock Crusaded for Equality

Edwina Whitlock, circa 1940s, found in Edward Ball’s The Sweet Hell Inside, p. 320, accessed Internet Archive.

Gary American editor Edwina H. Whitlock wrote in the California Eagle in 1961, “I might perhaps be forgiven for posing as a political authority, but those who know Indiana must acknowledge that basketball and politics are monkeys on the backs of every Hoosier.”[1] The life of Edwina Whitlock, the first and only female editor of the Gary American, is a story that evokes critical insights into the most influential periods in Black history and showcases Black women’s dedication to the long Civil Rights Movement. Whitlock illuminated the rise of the “Black bourgeoisie” and their advocacy for equal rights between the 1920s and into the 1980s, herself having grown up among the small community of Black elites in Charleston, South Carolina. She witnessed the vibrancy of the Harlem Renaissance through her adopted father, strove to emulate W.E.B. DuBois’s ideals regarding Black excellence, and utilized her class privilege to advocate for civil rights and equality through journalism and activism.

The Early Life of Edwina (Harleston) Whitlock

The Black side of the Harleston family held deep roots within the American South, which defined early on by issues of race and class. Edwina Harleston Whitlock’s ancestors were enslaved. Her maternal great-grandmother Kate Wilson lived in bondage and bore eight of the plantation owner’s children. Harleston never married, and upon his death in 1835, the mixed-race Harleston children, who were denied their inheritance, were pushed back into Black society, and refused inheritance from white relatives. Despite these circumstances, the Harleston’s blossomed in the Jim Crow South, utilizing their status as “mixed-race” in order to toe the line of segregation to make a name for themselves.[2] Together, the family integrated into the small, middle-class population of Black Elites in Charleston, South Carolina.

Gussie Harleston in 1924, photographed by her adoptive mother Elise Forrest Harleston, found in Edward Ball’s The Sweet Hell Inside, p. 318, accessed Internet Archive.

Originally named Gussie Harleston, Edwina was born in Charleston on September 28, 1916, to Kate Wilson’s grandson, Robert O. Harleston and his wife, Marie Forrest. When she was just two and half years old, Edwina and her sister Slyvia were sent to live with their uncle, Edwin A. “Teddy” Harleston, after their parent’s contracted tuberculosis.[3] However, after the passing of both their parents, the girls were adopted by Teddy and Elise so they could raise them as their own. Teddy Harleston proved to be an inspiring innovator to the girls. As a young boy at the Avery Normal Institute, Teddy developed an interest in painting portraiture and scenes associated with Southern Black culture, which would define his career for the remainder of his life. He went on to attend Atlanta University, where he studied under Black sociologist and activist W.E.B Du Bois.[4] Du Bois and Harleston became life-long friends, and he encouraged Teddy to use his elite social standing to precipitate equality.

Du Bois’s influence permeated the Harleston family. Later in adulthood, Edwina Harleston describes that the family reared their children according to Du Bois’s theory of the “talented tenth,” a concept that emphasized the necessity of higher education to develop the leadership skills among the “most able 10 percent of Black Americans.”[5] They also instilled a work ethic in their children, reflecting Booker T. Washington’s theory that “African-Americans must concentrate on educating themselves, learning useful trades, and investing in their own business.”[6] She contributed her success to these two ideologies, and what ultimately led to Harleston’s academic drive and early involvement in journalism and newspapers.

The Herald Sun, November 4, 2001, accessed Newspapers.com.

As a young girl, Gussie’s uncle, Reverend Daniel J. Jenkins, ensured that she was always working in some capacity at the orphanage that he ran in Charleston with his wife, Eloise “Ella” Harleston. She recalls that she had a choice: work on the orphanage farm and dig sweet potatoes, or work on the orphanage’s newsletter, The Messenger. She wrote local updates, which spearheaded her interest in journalism.[7] Harleston began calling up different people and groups– churches, community leaders, and businessmen – to ask them questions about their daily activities so she could write up reports regarding what was going on around town. Tragedy struck in 1931, when Edwin “Teddy” Harleston passed away at the young age of forty-nine.[8]  To honor these men, fifteen-year-old Gussie Harleston changed her first name to Edwina.

As a high school student, Edwina Harleston remained a veteran writer for The Messenger.[9] During the height of the Great Depression, Harleston’s familial wealth offered her the rare opportunity to attend a university.  In 1934, she went on to attend Talladega College, an HBCU, where nearly “all of the students came from light-skinned African American families in urban centers.”[10] Historian Joy Ann Williamson-Lott explained that, for many Black Americans at this time, advanced study at Black institutions remained rare. However, these environments provided a rich opportunity for Black scholars to educate themselves. Edwina was a part of an emerging generation of educated Black Americans, dubbed “The New Negro,” which celebrated Black history, life, and culture through educational advancement.[11] She majored in English literature, taking classes in Chaucer and Shakespeare, while becoming president of her sorority Delta Sigma Theta. She maintained an active social life in school, even forming a secret society with other young women called Sacred Order of Ancient Pigs (SOAP), where the members got together on slow school nights to
gossip.[12]

F.B. Ransom Family Portrait, circa 1935. A’Lelia is on the far left, standing next to her father, accessed Indiana Historical Society.

It was through this group that Harleston met A’Lelia Ransom, daughter of Indianapolis lawyer Freeman Briley Ransom (better known as F.B.).[13] Ransom’s father served as legal counsel to Madame C. J. Walker and her company. A’Lelia and Edwina became great friends, making their own secret club called “Ain’t-Got-Nothing Club.” Every week, A’Lelia’s father would send the girls newspaper clippings from Indianapolis, along with a dollar or two, and they would read the news and spend A’Lelia’s allowance.[14] A’Lelia Ransom would later become the last president of Walker Manufacturing in 1953.[15]

Harleston graduated from Talladega in 1939 and upon her mother’s suggestion applied to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. By the fall of 1940, after spending her whole life in the South, she moved to Chicago to attend graduate school, working towards a master’s degree in journalism. Harleston reveals that this was her first time encountering real racism:

In Charleston, I had been sheltered from it, because the white world and the black world were parallel, never touching. Then I got to Northwestern, the so-called great Methodist Institution. Two things happened that surprised me. The star football player, who was black, was meeting the requirements of his major, but he was not allowed to swim in the university pool. . . . There was also the policy of this supposedly religious university that prevented black students from living in the dormitories on campus. . . . Once I was studying for finals with a friend who wasn’t black. I was invited to her dorm room, but at midnight was told by the matron I had to leave because I was colored. I was frightened and furious and had to stumble back across the railroad tracks to my room at the minister’s house.[16]

Northern racism became a constant obstacle and prominent topic of discussion in her work as a female journalist.

While working towards her master’s degree, Harleston worked as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Defender and the Negro Digest.  Her experience in writing for newspapers would play a critical role in the next seventeen years of her life. After meeting Henry Oliver Whitlock at Northwestern, the couple married in April of 1945 and Whitlock found herself moving to the booming, deeply segregated City of Gary, Indiana. A year earlier, Henry had taken over operations of his father’s newspaper, the Gary American – one of the largest Black newspapers in Northwest Indiana. By 1947, Edwina Whitlock would appear on the masthead as Lead Editor as the couple oversaw the dissemination of the publication.

The Gary American: Northwest Indiana’s Early Guardian of Northern Equality

Map of Gary, Indiana in 1929, Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library, accessed Indiana Memory.

Forty-five minutes from the southside of Chicago and situated next the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan, the United States Steel Company built Gary’s foundations in 1906. Other businesses followed suit. Between 1910 and 1920, Gary’s population jumped from 16,802 to over 55,000.[17] Gary garnered attention, earning the nickname the “Magic City,” as Eastern and Southern Europeans flocked to the area for industrial jobs. However, World War I largely disrupted European migration, and steel companies turned to the Southern portion of the U.S. for labor. The resulting Great Migration drew Black Southerners to Gary’s mills, where they were paid disproportionately low wages.[18]

The influx of Black residents in Gary did not go unnoticed by whites, especially those returning home from World War I to find their jobs had been “taken over” by Black Southerners. In fact, 1920s Indiana was a hotbed for Ku Klux Klan activity, with approximately 300,000 members.[19] Valparaiso, Indiana – only 30 minutes from Gary – became a center for Klan activity in the Northwest region, with the Klan nearly purchasing Valparaiso University (then Valparaiso College). Racism and terror within the region, coupled with the growing Black population, culminated in the creation of the Gary’s own Black newspaper. The publication would disseminate Black news and highlight instances of inequality that did not appear in mainstream publications. In 1927, Arthur B. Whitlock, David E. Taylor, and Chauncey Townsend headed the formation of the Gary American Publishing Company. On November 10, 1927, the Gary Colored American began as a weekly African American paper, publishing its first issue with Townsend as editor and Whitlock as manager.

Postcard Roosevelt High School, Gary, Indiana, circa 1949, accessed the Indiana Album.

In its first year of publication, the Gary Colored American led reports on the 1927 Emerson School walkout, when white students and parents protested the integration of six Black students into the school. As a result, the school board decided to reinforce existing de facto segregation, transferring the children out of Emerson, and agreeing to build Roosevelt High School, an all-Black school in the Midtown neighborhood. Gary’s Black population remained divided on this issue, with some advocating for total desegregation and others celebrating the decision to create a new school. The Gary Colored American advocated for the construction of Roosevelt High School to serve Gary’s African American children, citing it as an achievement for Black excellence. [20]

In 1928, the Gary Colored American changed its name to the Gary American, quickly becoming one the city’s most prominent Black newspapers, paving the way for publications like the Gary Crusader. While initial circulation numbers are unavailable, in 1928, the Gary American claimed a readership of nearly 2,000 readers. In 1929, its masthead asserted that the Gary American was an “independent paper” devoted to Black interests in Northern Indiana.[21]  The paper columns reflected the upsurge of white supremacy in the 1920s and 1930s, culminating in Jim Crow terrorism that plagued Black communities across the U.S. In 1934, the front page of the Gary American showcased an extensive article about the NAACP’s report that approximately 28 known lynchings occurred the previous year in the U.S. This marked nearly a 200% increase in white terror from 1932 to 1933.[22] By the end of that year, the Gary American published a message to readers, stating, “the Negroes of Gary can look only to The Gary American, their own and only newspaper, for all the news primarily of interest to them and concerning their activities,” claiming that they were the servant of Gary’s Negroes during this tumultuous time period.[23]

Editor Arthur Whitlock left the company in 1938 and attorney F. Louis Sperling was elected editor and acting manager. His legal influence filtered through the Gary American as a plethora of articles featured race and legal rulings within in the U.S. criminal justice system. The Gary American drew attention to a Richmond Times-dispatch editorial in 1937 about the federal Anti-Lynching Bill of 1937:

Now that the rest of the week is apparently available for debating the anti-lynching bill, is it too much to hope that the Southern senators will discuss this measure on its merits, instead of consuming days in flamboyant and bombastic posturing, in apostrophies to the fair name of Southern womanhood, in hysterical outbursts concerning the future of Southern civilization? [24]

The bill passed in the House of Representatives, but was held up in the Senate during a filibuster, where First Lady Elanor Roosevelt sat in the Senate Gallery to silently protest those participating in the blockade. Ultimately, the Anti-Lynching Bill failed to pass in the Senate, despite the Gallup poll revealing that nearly three in four Americans (72%) supported anti-lynching legislations and called for it to become a federal crime.[25]

Additionally, in 1938, Editor Sperling released an open letter to Indiana Governor M. Clifford Townsend on the front page of the paper to draw his attention to corruption that was happening within the city. Sperling claimed that a public official, who was responsible for distributing “hundreds of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers’ money” to majority Black families receiving government assistance, was withholding funds to coerce them to vote for her candidate for mayor, Dr. Robert Doty, and for her trustee candidate, P. D. Wells. Sperling wrote, “and what is much worse, [she] has entered into a deliberate campaign to intimidate both colored and white voters of this city who are already on relief rolls, telling them that they will have to support her ‘program’ or be they will be cut off relief rolls.”[26]

Champion of Local Activism and the Civil Rights Movement

Henry O. Whitlock and Edwina Whitlock, with their son Henry Whitlock Jr., posing next to the 1949 Christmas Release of the Gary American, found in Edward Ball’s The Sweet Hell Inside, p. 322, accessed Internet Archive.

In the following decade, the Whitlock’s returned to the Gary American. Arthur’s son, Henry O. Whitlock, became manager in 1944 and his wife, Edwina, becoming editor in 1947. She was a mother and teacher at Froebel High School by day and a journalist by night. The family thrived under the post-war conditions that encouraged a growing middle-class, so much so that they hired a live-in nanny for their children and bought a vacation home in South Haven, Michigan.[27] She saw herself a part of the elusive “Black Bourgeoisie,” which highlighted the white American ideals – Black men worked professional jobs, while the women kept the home with the children. Along with running the Gary American, Henry Whitlock worked as an investigator in the Lake County prosecutor’s office.[28]  Following in her adoptive father’s footsteps, Edwina exceeded the realities of Black life, promoting the middle-class lifestyle that many Black Americans lacked, because they did not share her fair skin or generational wealth. But the Gary American gave her unlimited access to disseminate her own ideas about family, Black excellence, and how in Gary’s Black community could fight for self-determination.

During the burgeoning Civil Rights Era, the Gary American focused on issues like discriminatory education funding, the creation of Gary’s first Black Taxicab Company, and the local boycott against Kroger Stores for refusing to hire minority employees.[29] Whitlock published her own column, First Person Singular, for many years. Her editorial topics varied, ranging from marriage and childrearing issues to discussions of race and education. One editorial, appearing in October of 1948, discussed her husband’s opinion that “women dress for other women.” She challenged her readers to question their own partners on the matter to determine if purchasing clothing was self-indulgent as society moved away from the wartime economy and the rationing system.[30] Another editorial, appearing in 1946, was simpler and to the point, “No brains, no hearts – is it any wonder that the Ku Kluxers are also stooges? Right now, they’re stooges for a few racketeers who are clipping them for ten spots or so for the privilege of going around with pillowcases on their heads.”[31] She tackled both the complexities of womanhood and race, offering an intersectional lens to the history of the growing Black population in Gary.

Following World War II, more Black Americans moved to the city, and as a result, they were forced into the central, downtown district, but the city’s boarders grew too slowly to keep up with the expanding population. Rents increased as investments in building repairs dropped, and landlords became virtually unresponsive to Black tenants. By 1940, the U.S. Census reported that only thirty percent of Black families lived in one-family homes, and the remainder lived in apartment houses or small homes converted into apartments, with multiple families living under one unit.[32] Additionally, the Gary Housing Authority – despite its role in maintaining segregated neighborhoods – reported that in 1950, 11,582 families were living in substandard homes or slums, approximately 1,000 more than existed ten years prior to the GHA organizing.[33]

In 1949, she gave birth to the first of four children, whom she raised during her editorial career.  That summer, Whitlock addressed her concerns about congestion of the Central District and the strains it imposed on families via poor living conditions and warned about the urge to fall into consumerism rather than focusing on the preservation of the natural world. Her solution was simple – Whitlock proposed an eight-day living week and a thirty-hour work week. She suggested supermarkets offer prepared meals so breadwinners could save money on groceries and utilize the funds for the necessities, like owning a home. Whitlock saw the value in equal payment for all laborers, Black or white, and advocated for the spreading of wealth to relieve the crowded living quarters of the Gary’s Central District. These statements were made during the height of the McCarthy-era, in which rampant persecution of left-wing individuals took center stage of the American political scene. Whitlock did not care. “I sound like a Communist, you say? Well, if Communism means subscribing to a theory that every man’s labor is worth as much as every other man’s,” Whitlock wrote, “having the conviction that the color of a man’s skin should be no deterrent in selecting a place to live – then, come on Revolution. H. O., hand me your shotgun.”[34]

Towards the end of the 1950s, white residents fled to suburban areas like Merrillville due to the city’s increased Black population. Middle-class white families moved away from Gary’s downtown metropolitan center, depleting it of a tax base which thrusted Gary into a state of decline. Black residents, however, were barred from following suit. Once again, housing was featured prominently in Whitlock’s editorials. In 1959, Whitlock discusses her opinions on housing, and the refusal of banks to provide loans to Black locals. Edwina wrote:

Chatted a while today with one of the leading mortgage brokers and I suggested that he and his cohorts could clean up this whole mess with one broad sweep. Instead of refusing to lend money to Negroes who seek better accommodations for themselves by moving to late fringe areas, they should refuse to loan money to the whites who try to run away. If a white family has decent housing in a decent community and the broker suspects that they’re trying to run away from their colored neighbors just let the family do their own financing.[35]

As Edwina pointed out, Black residents struggled to secure access to well-built homes and a welcoming community. However, segregated housing projects were not new – the development could be seen in Gary during the 1930s, and the Gary Housing Authority, established in 1939, continued to segregate residents by placing Black families in the central district, and white families outside of the downtown area.

The Gary American also took a vested interest in the desegregation of the city’s parks, particularly Marquette Beach. Federal programs during the Depression years expanded Gary’s Park system and as a result, U.S. Steel provided the city with a lake-front area. The WPA transformed it into a large park, equipped with a beach, picnic area, and a pavilion. Early editorials reveal how Whitlock felt about lack of community beaches, saying: “But to be continually denied even the elementary right to take a dip in Lake Michigan without having to travel 15 miles to do so, strikes me as being a pretty rotten deal.”[36] In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the city took it’s time when it came to the construction of the new de-segregated section of the beachfront, and many Black residents grew frustrated. Whitlock offered another revolutionary solution: staging a sit-in picnic right on the whites-only beaches. “Getting a few heads bashed in would only be a small price to pay,” Whitlock urged, “for providing our youngsters with an example of forthright action on the part of real men and women.”[37]

Even after Marquette Beach came to fruition, white beachgoers used harassment and violence to keep the sand segregated. However, forced integration occurred only after an uproar in the late 1950s.[38] In fact, Marquette Beach had been a center of white terrorism against local Black beachgoers, with the Gary American reporting in 1949 that a peaceful protest for integration, known as “Beachhead for Democracy,” turned violent when “white hoodlums” hurled bricks, bats, and pipes against vehicles of those who were attending the protest. Police arrived twenty minutes later, closing the beach to demonstrators, which caused the white attackers to disperse.[39] However, the Gary American reported that the protest fueled KKK activity for the next three nights – with white residents burning crosses on the shores of Marquette beach, attacking the homes of “ring leaders” with rocks, bricks, and firing holes into windows with guns, even leaving notes telling residents to leave town.[40]

The protests led to the desegregation of Marquette Beach Marquette Beach remained a contentious site. In the summer of 1961, the Gary American produced extensive coverage over the beating of 21-year-old Murray W. Richards. On Memorial Day, Richards and three female friends were enjoying their time at the beach, when fifteen to twenty drunk white men approached the group and demanded that Murray and his friends leave the beach. After refusing, they attacked Richards unprovoked, hitting him in the jaw with a beer bottle, bashing his face with a baseball bat, and striking him with 2×4 plank. One of the young ladies was dragged toward the water under the threat that the gang of men would drown her. Richards explained to the American that “he feared they would carry out their threat to kill him if he were to fall down.” It was revealed that Richards saw one policeman, Officer George Stimple, standing by his squad car, watching the attack, but did nothing to stop it, even after being informed of what was happening by a young white girl.

Richards was left with lacerations on both ears and his scalp, fractures in his jaw and skull, and multiple contusions on his face, arms, chest and back which needed stitches.[41] Only one of his attackers was taken into custody and prosecuted. The beating fueled unrest across Gary, with the paper reporting that more than 500 citizens packed the Council Chambers on June 6, protesting the inaction of Officer Stimple. Charles Ross, First Vice President of the NAACP, stated that the police department had consciously and deliberately refused to provide the minimum protect to Gary’s Black citizens.[42] The protest led to an investigation into Officer Stimple, but on July 7, the Gary American reported that, after a five-hour hearing, Stimple was found innocent by the civil service commission on the charges that he failed to aid Murray Richards. Commission secretary Thomas G. Kennedy claimed, “The evidence presented in support of the charges was inconclusive.”[43] A little over a month later, the Gary American reported on another white attack against Black citizens at Marquette.[44]

Exposing and challenging racism in Northwest Indiana became the goal for Whitlock and her husband. In an interview with Edward Ball, an American author who focuses on history and biography, she recalled just how influential the Gary American was when it came to dismantling segregation in her community:

The American was a local paper, and we fought to get black bus drivers in Gary, when there were none. We fought the electric utility to hire black women because they didn’t have any. Henry’s father, who started the paper, was on the board of the Urban League, and tried to get certain jobs in the steel mills opened to Negroes, because not all of them were. All our circle and all our friends belonged to the NAACP and attended annual meetings.[45]

The Gary American never reached the status of the Chicago Defender, which was in production less than an hour away, but its influence within The Region was wholly felt.

Living History

Henry Whitlock died on May 5, 1960, and the Gary American announced his death on May 13, saying “Henry Oliver Whitlock . . . gave his all to the community. He was for modern, efficient government. He was for the complete integration of Negroes into all facets of American life.”[46] Edwina continued to run the Gary American by herself until February of 1961, when she sold the publication to Edward “Doc” James and James T. Harris, Jr. The Gary American continued to operate until the 1990s, and even expanded its publication beyond Gary into East Chicago/Indiana Harbor.[47]

That same year, Whitlock moved south of Los Angeles with her four children on the edge of Watts, a predominately Black neighborhood that had been isolated from white California. The area faced intense poverty and inequality. Whitlock took on a job in public relations at Watts Savings & Loans. But in August of 1965, Whitlock found her family thrusted into turmoil when the Watts Uprising gripped the neighborhood. Stepbrothers Marquette and Ronald Frye were pulled over right outside their house by a white California Highway Patrol officer while driving their mother’s car, where Marquette was arrested after failing a sobriety test. Back up was called from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and a crowd of Black locals formed and watched the arrest unfold, causing one officer to pull his gun out. As a result, Frye’s mother, who witnessed the event unfold outside her house, went to defend her son. All three were arrested, enraging the residents of Watts, who took to the streets to protest police profiling and the conditions of their neighborhood.[48]

Getty Image, courtesy of “Looking Back on the Watts Riots, 55 Years Later: In Photos,” WSLS, accessed https://www.wsls.com/features/2020/08/11/looking-back-on-the-watts-riots-55-years-later-in-photos/.

Between August 11 and 16, Black residents engaged in a massive protest, confronting the LAPD and taking items from local stores to acquire the goods they were often unable to afford due to pay disparities. In the end, the United States dispatched in 14,000 National Guard troops to Watts, forcing protesters back into their homes. The movement took thirty-four lives and led to over 4,000 arrests. For Whitlock, however, the uprising only motivated her get back into the community, and she quit her banking job to train as a social worker. She told biographer Edward Ball, “I studied for the ‘War on Poverty,’ which is what the Lyndon Johnson administration called it. I guess I was one of those advanced soldiers in the war . . . they were idealists, and we all believed in what President Johnson promised about finding jobs for Blacks.”[49] After passing the civil service exam, Whitlock became a social worker, traveling throughout the city into both Black and white neighborhoods to help families less privileged than her.  Along with her new career, she continued her work in journalism with articles appearing in publications like the California Eagle.[50]

By the end of Whitlock’s life, encountered her long-lost cousin, white author Edward Ball, that she finally got the opportunity to tell the world about her family’s contributions to Black history.[51] After an extensive interview process, combing through letters and photographs and outlining her family lore, Ball and Edwina worked together to publish The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South in 2001. One year later, Edwina passed away Atlanta, Georgia in November of 2002, at the age of eight-six.[52] Edwina Whitlock’s dedication to highlighting issues of inequality illuminates many of the forgotten Black women at the heart of the long Civil Rights Movement. Through her work as a journalist and her continuous involvement in her community, she utilized her own privilege to promote and sustain equality. The Gary American will soon be digitized and incorporated into the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database and IHB’s own Hoosier State Chronicles, to give historians the chance to uncover Northwest Indiana’s often discounted, but rich Black history and unveil more stories like Edwina Harleston Whitlock’s.

 

Notes:

[1] Edwina H. Whitlock, “Gary, Ind., Negroes Help Run City Gov’t,” California Eagle, October 19, 1961, accessed Newspapers.com.

[2] William’s and Kate’s son, Edwin G. “Captain” Harleston proved to be an American pioneer, establishing a successful funeral business that allowed his five children to thrive. His son, Edwin A. “Teddy” Harleston, became a successful painter and renowned portraitist. Another son ran an orphanage, whose young Black children became musical prodigies in the group Jenkins Orphanage Band.

[3] Robert Harleston and Edwin A. “Teddy” Harleston were two of Edwin “Captain” Harleston’s seven children. Captain Harleston was Kate Wilson’s fifth child with white plantation owner, William Harleston. In Charleston, Captain ran a profitable funeral business that serviced the Black community.

[4] E. Rudwick, “W.E.B. Du Bois,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed Brtannica.com.

[5] Edward Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South, New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, 297, accessed Internet Archive.

[6] “Booker T. Washington,” Teach Democracy, accessed crf-usa.org; Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 297.

[7] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 297- 298.

[8] Teddy’s father, Captain Harleston, died in April of 1931, after catching pneumonia. A few days after his father’s funeral, Teddy caught pneumonia as well. Later in her life, Edwina recounted to Edward Ball that the doctor reported that Teddy had a good chance of recovery. However, the grief of losing his father superseded his will to fight the infection. Teddy Harleston passed one month later, on May 10th, 1931; [8] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 286-287, accessed Internet Archive

[9] Edwina was also a singer in the Avery glee club and president of her high school class; Ibid, 298.

[10] Ibid, 303.

[11] Joy Ann Williamson-Lott, Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order (New York: Teachers College Press, 2018), p. 21-22, accessed Google Books.

[12] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 308.

[13] “Freeman Briley Ransom,” Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, accessed indyencyclopedia.org.

[14] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 308-309.

[15] Douglas Martin, “A’Lelia Nelson, 92, President Of a Black Cosmetics Company,” The New York Times, February 14, 2001, accessed The New York Times; “Mrs. Nelson Heads Madam Walker Firm,” The Indianapolis News, February 10, 1951, accessed Newspapers.com.

[16] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 319-320.

[17] “Indiana City/Town Census Counts, 1900 to 2020,” StatsIndiana: Indiana’s Public Data Utility, accessed https://www.stats.indiana.edu/population/PopTotals/historic_counts_cities.asp; Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 328.

[18] Neil Bretten and Raymond A. Mohl, “The Evolution of Racism in an Industrial City, 1906-1940: A Case Study of Gary Indiana,” The Journal of Negro History, 59, no. 1 (Jan 1974): 52, accessed https://doi.org/10.2307/2717140.

[19] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 328.

[20] “Lay Foundation For First Unit to Roosevelt School, New Addition Will Be Ready Late in 1930,” The Gary American, July 2, 1929.

[21] The Gary American, April 5, 1929.

[22] “28 People Lynched in 1933, Says NAACP; One Freed by Jury,” The Gary American, January 5, 1934.

[23] “The Gary American Message,” The Gary American, November 30, 1934.

[24] Editorial: “Debating the Lynching Bill,” The Gary American, November 26, 1937.

[25] Justin McCarthy, “Gallup Vault: 72% Support for Anti-Lynching Bill in 1937,” May 11, 2018, accessed Gallup News.

[26] “An Open Letter to Hon. M. Clifford Townsend Governor of Indiana,” The Gary American, April 8, 1938.

[27] Ibid, 331.

[28] “Heart Attack Claims Publisher,” The Times, May 5, 1960, accessed Newspapers.com.

[29] “Pass Up Roosevelt High: Negro School to get No Funds for Facilities,” The Gary American, September 29, 1944; “Negro Taxi-Cab Company in Operation with 3 Cabs, Fleet of Five Cars Expected to be in Service Next Week,” The Gary American, November 23, 1945; “Continue Boycott of Kroger Stores, Attempts to Arbitrate Fail,” The Gary American, October 3, 1958.

[30] Edwina Whitlock, “First Person Singular,” The Gary American, October 8, 1948.

[31] Whitlock, “First Person Singular,” The Gary American, July 26, 1946.

[32] Bretten and Mohl, “The Evolution of Racism,” 59.

[33] Gary Housing Authority, The First Twenty Years: Report of the Gary Housing Authority, 1939-1959, n.d., 14, accessed HathiTrust.

[34] Whitlock, “First Person Singular,” The Gary American, July 1, 1949.

[35] Edwina Whitlock, “First Person Singular,” The Gary American, December 24, 1959.

[36] Whitlock, “First Person Singular,” The Gary American, July 19, 1946.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Gary Housing Authority, The First Twenty Years, 56.

[39] The Gary Post Tribune stated that the demonstration at Marquette Beach seemed “pointless” as there were no legal restrictions against Blacks utilizing the facilities there. This is just one example of the stark differences between white reporting and Black reporting within the city; The Terre Haute Star, August 31, 1949, accessed Newspapers.com.

[40] “Beach Project Leads to Violence: KKK Becomes Active,” The Gary American, September 4, 1949.

[41] “Youth Brutally Beaten at Marquette Beach, Girls Scream for Help as Police Stand By,” The Gary American, June 2, 1961.

[42] “500 Jam-Pack Council; Protest Actions of Police,” The Gary American, June 9, 1961.

[43] “Stimple Found Not Guilty,” The Gary American, July 7, 1961.

[44] “Hoodlums Attack Again At Marquette Park,” The Gary American, August 11, 1961.

[45] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 329-330.

[46] “The Death of Henry Whitlock,” The Gary American, May 13, 1960.

[47] “An Open Letter to 9,000 People,” The Gary American, March 24, 1961.

[48] Casey Nichols, Watts Riot (August 1965), published October, 23, 2007, accessed BlackPast.org.

[49] Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside, 338.

[50] “President John Kennedy, Gov. Pat Brown Electrify 600 Attending Links Inc., Affair,” California Eagle, November 23, 1961, accessed Newspapers.com.

[51] Whitlock’s experience as a journalist spurred a desire to document her rich family history. In 1970, after her daughter Sylvia wrote a term paper on Teddy Harleston, Edwina’s interest in genealogy was re-ignited.  She spent years going through the large collection of the Harleston family papers, photographs, and letters. While researching, she attended lectures at institutions like Mann-Simons Cottage to talk about her adoptive mother, Elise Forrest Harleston, one of the first Black female photographers in the US.  Whitlock’s goal, however, was to publish her family history.

[52] “Whitlock,” The Atlanta Constitution, November 22, 2002, accessed Newspapers.com.

Foster the People: How One Entrepreneur Cultivated a More Equitable Indianapolis

Andrew Foster, Crispus Attucks High School, January 1, 1938, Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, accessed digitalindy.org.

“Someone once suggested that the black man pull himself up by his bootstraps.”

“The black man agreed that it was a good idea, but he wasn’t exactly sure of how to go about it. First of all, he had no boots, and secondly, he considered himself lucky to be wearing shoes.”

Andrew “Bo” Foster perhaps related to the figurative Black man described by Skip Hess in his 1968 Indianapolis News article.[1] Foster’s adolescence was marked by hardship and instability. Despite this, he became a prominent entrepreneur and civic leader in Indianapolis. Not only did he manage to procure “boots,” but went on to ensure that others in the community had a pair. In doing so, he created opportunities for socioeconomic advancement.

According to his grandson, Charles Foster Jolivette, Foster was born along an alley near Riley Towers in 1919.[2] His father, Edward, died when Foster was a young child. For reasons that are unclear, he was not raised primarily by his mother, Eva. When not staying with father figure William W. Hyde, a local Black attorney, he spent his childhood in the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children, which had a history of corporal punishment and unsanitary conditions.[3] Nevertheless, Foster kept up with his education, graduating from Crispus Attucks High School in 1938.[4]

Foster during World War II, courtesy of the Foster family.

The Indianapolis News reported that after graduation he “hauled scrap iron on a tonnage basis.”[5] Shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Foster was sent to Camp Wolters, an infantry replacement training center in Texas.[6] By 1943, he had graduated as a second lieutenant from officer candidate school at Camp Hood and went on to serve on a tank destroyer unit.

After Foster’s service, he established a lucrative Indianapolis trucking company, enabling him to open and manage several businesses that served Black patrons in the segregated city.[7] His work ethic was second to none, as he worked most holidays, and reportedly said “You must be willing to work 26 hours a day if you want to be in business.”[8] Reflecting on his prolific career in 1983, Foster told the Indianapolis Recorder that he had no formal training, “just high school, the Army and common sense. I came out of the Army and started hauling trash. I saw a need for a black hotel, then added a motel three years later in order to survive.”[9]

Postcard, Evan Finch Collection, accessed Indiana Album.

By 1949, he opened Foster Hotel and the Guest House at North Illinois Street.[10] Both were listed in The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, which published the names of safe, welcoming businesses and accommodations across the country.[11] At a time when Black Americans were turned away from hotels, Foster’s were one of the only in Indianapolis to serve them. In addition to Foster Hotel and Guest House, he opened the Manor House, Motor Lodge, Carrollton Hotel, and private rooming houses.[12] These businesses accommodated tourists, “permanent guests,” and famed customers, such as Muhammad Ali, LaWanda Page, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, and Redd Foxx.[13] Unless these celebrities had friends or family in the city, they all stayed at a Foster establishment.

Patrons praised the facilities for their cleanliness, modern features, and hospitable staff. Foster opted against “frills” because “Negroes travel on a pretty tight budget” and he chose not to build a pool because of the liability insurance fees.[14] The Recorder attributed his “steady rise in the scale of fortune” to his “integrity, foresight, business acumen and high sense of fair play in his dealing with others.”[15] His bachelor pad reflected this burgeoning fortune. According to a 1954 Jet magazine profile, it was outfitted with “walls of black glass, a full-mirrored ceiling, monogrammed glass-enclosed tub and shower, and double lavatories in pink. The floor is pink and black marble and Foster had a lifelike nude painted on one wall.”[16]

Women dancing at Pearl’s Lounge, courtesy of the Foster family.

In addition to financial success, Foster founded his businesses to meet the need for a communal space in which to socialize, politically organize, and host civic and philanthropic events. According to the Recorder, Foster “saw blacks holding meetings at white-owned establishments ‘where they couldn’t always speak their peace’” and sought to provide a venue where they could.[17] Pearl’s Lounge, opened by 1970, did just that. Named for his wife, whom he married in 1962, the cocktail lounge at 118 West McLean Place (adjoining Foster Hotel). Foster later told the Recorder, “‘Many a black group has gotten its start here.”[18]

The Recorder considered the new addition “just about the most beautiful eating and drinking emporium in the Hoosier capital,” praising its “dim lighted lovers’ rooms of oriental design” and “beautiful mahogany bar with electronic stereo component for continuous music.” In a word, Pearl’s was “fantabulous.”[19]

Voting drive outside of Pearl’s, courtesy of the Foster family.

Pearl’s banquet hall and ballroom facilitated numerous events. These included a fashion show, voter registration program, and IU alumni meeting regarding how to best serve Black students. Pearl’s also hosted numerous NAACP events, including a businessmen’s luncheon, at which executive director Roy Wilkins spoke in favor of busing as a means to educational equality.[20] Pearl’s also served as a venue for furthering race relations. For example, the Recorder reported in 1975, “In their first major attempt to acquaint the owners, coaches and players with the black community, the Indiana Pacers will host a reception and a buffet dinner” at the lounge.[21]

Robert Briggs (far left), Huerta Tribble (fourth from left), Richard Lugar (fifth from the left), Andrew Foster (sixth from the left, Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society, accessed https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/p0303/id/409/rec/3.

Pearl’s lounge hosted numerous political campaign events and debates—including those of Mayor William Hudnut, Judge Rufus C. Kuykendall, Senator Julia Carson, and Senator Richard Lugar.[22] It accommodated events for groups across the political spectrum, including Indiana Black Republican Council meetings and a Socialist Workers Party rally.[23]


Indianapolis Star, February 17, 1970, 26, accessed Newspapers.com.

Foster not only uplifted the community through his businesses, but also as president of the Indianapolis chapter of the National Business League (NBL) in the 1960s and 70s. Through the NBL—described as the “chamber of commerce of Negro enterprise” and a “type of professional group therapy”—Foster mentored Black business owners.[24] He helped them obtain grants and matched minority-owned businesses with “established corporate buyers.” Under Foster’s leadership, the NBL worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket to provide entrepreneurs with seminars about topics like accounting trends and business law.

Of this work, Foster said “We’re living in a new day and working with a new Negro who is more professionally and economically mature . . .  Negro businessmen today realize that they can not stand a chance individually. They must unite and mobilize their resources for a stronger voice and larger economic base.”[25] He also worked to increase capital for minorities by co-founding the Midwest National Bank in 1972. The bank publicly objected to redlining practices, issued “inner-city” loans, and appointed women to several leadership positions.[26]


Despite cultivating a small empire and a reputation as a civic-minded leader, Foster’s proverbial boots were nearly confiscated. In 1974, he was arrested for allegedly operating an interstate heroin ring.[27] His arrest followed a “‘super secret'” investigation conducted by the FDA and Indianapolis Police Department narcotic squad, which purported that he violated the Indiana Controlled Substances Act. The following year, the Indianapolis Star reported that a Marion County grand jury exonerated Foster, claiming in an eight-page report that his arrest was “‘politically motivated.'”[28] The report concluded that he was arrested because two informants were promised leniency in other cases against them if they would implicate Foster. Jurors opined, “‘We believe Andrew Foster has personally suffered a great deal as a result of these indictments.'”

Foster elaborated on this suffering. He told the Indianapolis Star that his wife was afraid to stay at home, fearing that the allegations would induce individuals in the drug trade to “‘kidnap one of our children or break into our home to rob us.'”[29] Another ramification of the indictment was Foster’s resignation from the board of the Midwest National Bank. He told the Star, “‘I was a successful black businessman and the younger blacks could look up to me and see a model for success,'” but after the arrest and prosecutors’ statements “some of the younger blacks felt I was discredited.'”[30] In his pursuit of accountability, Foster filed suit against Marion County Prosecutor Noble Pearcy and Chief Trial Deputy Leroy New for defamation.[31] Over the course of years and various appeals, the state ruled against Foster, concluding that “‘the prosecutor and his assistant were immune from being sued for anything they said in their official capacity.'”[32] The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state.

Broadcasters Hall of Famer Amos Brown (right) celebrating “Bo Foster’s Day” with Bo (seated) in 1982, courtesy of the Foster family.

The arrest ultimately failed to tarnish his reputation, which he went to various length to defend, including voluntarily taking a lie detector test.[33] He certainly felt a sense of gratification when hundreds gathered to celebrate “Bo Foster Day” on August 24, 1982.[34] At the event, the Marion County Sherriff’s Department presented him with a plaque, and Joe Slash, the city’s first Black deputy mayor, presented him with a letter from Mayor William Hudnut. Foster was also bestowed with the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash, which Governor Robert Orr awarded in recognition of his civic contributions.[35] The Indianapolis Recorder profiled the event and predicted “In the years to come the children and grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. Foster will remember him as a man who contributed endlessly to the well being of the Hoosier state and of his admiring contemporaries . . . a man who lived the American Dream.”[36]

Foster’s relatives at the 2023 historical marker dedication, former site of Foster Motor Lodge and Pearl’s Lounge, photo taken by author.

Andrew “Bo” Foster passed away in 1987, having increased capital and equity for Indianapolis’s Black community.[37] In the 1990s, Foster Motor Lodge and adjoining Pearl’s Lounge were demolished.[38] Fittingly, the site was replaced with the Hamilton Center, a non-profit mental health organization. This would be the location of a historical marker installed in 2023 to commemorate Foster. His family shares his sense of stewardship. His grandson, Charles, applied for the marker and manages a robust Instagram account documenting Foster’s life to ensure his legacy endures.

The marker dedication was a joyous occasion, one that resembled a family reunion. Relatives flew from across the country to commemorate the patriarch and learn about the Indianapolis of his time. Also in attendance was Joe Slash, who was effusive in his praise of Foster and his enduring impact. He and family members passed around a microphone, sharing memories and anecdotes that affirmed the Recorder‘s prediction.

Notes:

[1] Skip Hess, “No ‘Bootstraps,’ So NBL Evolves,” Indianapolis News, June 27, 1968, 56, accessed Newspapers.com.

[2] Andrew Foster Legacy Inc. Instagram account, managed by Charles Foster Jolivette. The account includes several primary sources, including newspaper clippings and images.

[3] Robert Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, August 26, 1969, 24, accessed Newspapers.com; “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Bo,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 22, 1983, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[4] Photograph, Andrew Foster, January 1, 1938, Crispus Attucks High School Collection, accessed Indianapolis Public Library Digital Collections; Photograph, Crispus Attucks Alumni, December 9, 1983, accessed Indiana Historical Society Digital Image Collections.

[5] Robert Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, August 26, 1969, 24, accessed Newspapers.com.

[6] “Andrew Daniel Foster,” U.S. World War II Draft Cards, Young Men, 1940-1947, Registration Date: October 16, 1940, accessed Ancestry Library; “Service Roll: Inductions and Enlistments into U. S. Forces,” Indianapolis News, October 21, 1941, 8, accessed Newspapers.com; Indianapolis Star, March 2, 1943, 22, accessed Newspapers.com; Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, 24.

[7] The Saint, “The Avenoo,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 27, 1957, 12, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, 24; “Andrew D. Foster, Owned Motor Lodge,” Indianapolis News, June 25, 1987, 39, accessed Newspapers.com; “The ‘New’ Pearl’s Management is Sponsoring Andrew ‘Bo’ Foster Memorial/Appreciation Day May 28,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 21, 1988, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[8] “Andrew Foster,” 1950 United States Federal Census, accessed Ancestry Library; George Vecsey, “For Many, It was Just Another Weekend,” New York Times, February 15, 1971, 13, accessed timesmachine.nytimes.com; Andrew Foster Legacy Inc. Instagram account.

[9] “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Bo,” Indianapolis Recorder, 1.

[10] Indianapolis Recorder, February 5, 1949, 7, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “’House of Strangers’ at Walker Sunday,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 8, 1949, 12, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[11] “Indianapolis,” The Negro Travelers’ Green Book: The Guide to Travel and Vacations (1955 Edition): 20, accessed New York Public Library Digital Collections; “Indianapolis,” Travelers’ Greek Book (New York City: Victor H. Green & Co., 1966-1967): 24, accessed New York Public Library Digital Collections; Alexandria Burris, “How the ‘Great Book’ Helped Black Motorists Travel across Indiana,” IndyStar, February 16, 2022, accessed indystar.com. (Foster Hotel and Guest House were printed in issues from 1955 to 1977).

[12] “Foster Opens Hotel in Downtown Section,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 22, 1955, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; Indianapolis Recorder, August 13, 1955, 7, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; The Saint, “The Avenoo,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 27, 1957, 12, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; The Saint, “The Avenoo,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 29, 1963, 12, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Ad, Indianapolis Recorder, July 8, 1967, 6, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[13] Ad, “Welcome Permanent Guest,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 6, 1954, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; The Saint, “The Avenoo,” Indianapolis Recorder, September 24, 1966, 10, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, 24; “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Bo,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 22, 1983, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[14] Robert Corya, “Dust Nothing New to Andrew Foster,” Indianapolis News, August 26, 1969, 24, accessed Newspapers.com.

[15] “Foster Opens Hotel in Downtown Section,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 22, 1955, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[16] Jet (November 11, 19540): 46, submitted by marker applicant.

[17] “Marriage Licenses,” Indianapolis Star, May 1, 1962, 30, accessed Newspapers.com; Ad, “Pearl’s Cocktail Lounge,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 9, 1970, 11, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Bo,” Indianapolis Recorder, 1; “The ‘New’ Pearl’s Management is Sponsoring Andrew ‘Bo’ Foster Memorial/Appreciation Day May 28,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 21, 1988, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[18] “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Bo,” Indianapolis Recorder, 1.

[19] Indianapolis Recorder, October 17, 1970, submitted by marker applicant.

[20] Renee Ferguson, “NAACP Leader Denounces Bills Prohibiting Busing,” Indianapolis News, February 23, 1972, 10, accessed Newspapers.com; “Women’s Luncheon Every Monday at Pearl’s Lounge,” Indianapolis Recorder, August 17, 1974, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Indianapolis Recorder, October 9, 1976, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Let’s Go: Leisure Time Calendar,” Indianapolis Star, February 27, 1983, 83, accessed Newspapers.com; “Special Notices,” Indianapolis News, October 26, 1984, 33, accessed Newspapers.com.

[21] “Pacers Get-Acquainted Buffet at Pearl’s Nov. 3,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 25, 1975, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[22] “Black Republicans Enjoy Reception,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 2, 1971, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “One Man in Life,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 6, 1973, 15, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Group Raises $67,075 for Lugar Campaign,” Indianapolis News, March 13, 1974, 20, accessed Newspapers.com; “Hudnut, GOP Mayoral Candidate, Plans Active Recruitment Program for Blacks,” Indianapolis Recorder, October 4, 1975, 1, 17, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Black Republicans Cite Kuykendall, Ms. Holland,” Indianapolis Recorder, February 28, 1976, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “C. Delores Tucker Arranges Series of Weekend Talks,” Indianapolis Star, October 10, 1976, 86, accessed Newspapers.com; William J. Sedivy, “Socialist Workers Vice Presidential Candidate in City,” Indianapolis Star, September 15, 1984, 22, accessed Newspapers.com.

[23] “Black Republicans Enjoy Reception,” Indianapolis Recorder, January 2, 1971, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; Sedivy, “Socialist Workers Vice Presidential Candidate in City,” Indianapolis Star, 22, accessed Newspapers.com.

[24] Pat W. Stewart, “Operation Breadbasket Ministers Outline Broad Program for Action in the City,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 30, 1967, 1, 14, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; John H. Lyst, “Negro Firms to Get Push,” Indianapolis Star, May 2, 1968, 73, accessed Newspapers.com; L. J. Banks, “NBL Ready to Aid Negro Businessmen,” Indianapolis News, December 4, 1968, 78, accessed Newspapers.com; “Opportunity Fair to Aid Minorities,” Indianapolis News, July 29, 1970, 25, accessed Newspapers.com.

[25] Banks, “NBL Ready to Aid Negro Businessmen,” Indianapolis News, 78.

[26] Robert Corya, “80,000 Shares OK’d for Newest City Bank,” Indianapolis News, April 20, 1971, 5, accessed Newspapers.com; “New Midwest National Bank Gets Approval to Sell Common Stock,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 24, 1971, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “The Best Kept Secret in Town: Midwest National Bank,” Indianapolis Recorder, November 28, 1981, 22, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[27] “Health Board Member Among 7 Arrested on Drug Indictments,” Indianapolis Star, September 7, 1974, 6, accessed Newspapers.com.

[28] Joseph Gelarden, “Jury Calls Indictment ‘Politics,'” Indianapolis Star, May 24, 1975, 1, accessed Newspapers.com.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Judge is Ordered to Consider Suit,” The Herald [Jasper, MI], June 21, 1978, 18, accessed Newspapers.com.

[32] “From Libel Suit: Court,” The Times [Munster, IN], April 4, 1979, 9, accessed Newspapers.com; “High Court Denies Hoosier’s Appeal,” Daily Reporter [Greenfield, IN], April 15, 1980, 1, accessed Newspapers.com.

[33] Andrew Foster Legacy Inc. Instagram account.

[34] “Bo Foster’s Day,” Indianapolis Recorder, September 4, 1982, 1, 8, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[35] William “Skinny” Alexander, “Time for Talk,” Indianapolis Recorder, September 4, 1982, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[36] “Bo Foster’s Day,” Indianapolis Recorder, 1, 8.

[37] “Andrew Daniel Foster, Sr.,” Indiana State Board of Health Medical Certificate of Death, June 23, 1987, Indiana, U.S., Death Certificates, 1899-2011, accessed Ancestry Library; “Andrew D. Foster, Owned Motor Lodge,” Indianapolis News, June 25, 1987, 39, accessed Newspapers.

[38] Mary Francis, “McLean Place was Truly Foster’s Place, and Now It’s Official,” Indianapolis Star, November 16, 1994, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; Howard M. Smulevitz, “New Mental Health Center will Stand on Site of Historic Lounge and Lodge,” Indianapolis Star, September 7, 1996, 16, accessed Newspapers.com.

The 1978 Blizzard and an Unforgettable Political Campaign

Indianapolis Star, February 21, 1978, 19, accessed Newspapers.com.

When it comes to mobilizing a political campaign, candidates are always trying to stand out to get publicity, whether it be appearing in commercials, putting up billboards, or simply knocking on doors. Visibility is always crucial to getting elected to office. However, never in the history of the Indiana General Assembly had a candidate utilized a blizzard to help them get elected—that is, until 1978. This is the story of Bill Montgomery and a storm that made history.

It all began that winter. Bill Montgomery at this time was a law student trying to figure out what to do with his life. On one casual evening hanging out with friends in Indianapolis, he posed to them the following question: “What do you folks think I’m good at?” Eagerly, several of Montgomery’s friends chimed in that they felt he would be good in politics. And then, the stars began to align in Montgomery’s mind. Recently, he had watched “The Candidate,” a film about a lawyer who is recruited to run for office, and now his friends were encouraging him to launch a political career. So, Montgomery began to reflect more on the idea in the days to come, eventually deciding to give it a shot. In turn, he began reaching out to local community members connected to politics to see what may be possible.

Blizzard of 1978, courtesy of IU-Indianapolis.

After talking to several people, Montgomery officially decided to throw his hat in the ring, despite being unsure of his chances due to the lack of name recognition. Thinking about the need for publicity, Montgomery started brainstorming (no pun intended) ideas with his college roommate, Mel, at DePauw University, while simultaneously a blizzard swept across Indiana. According to Montgomery’s Indiana Legislative Oral History Initiative interview, Mel brought up the fact that Montgomery’s father once completed the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska and still had sled dogs. Mel proposed, “Why don’t you play on this blizzard and you know, come up with some energy themes, and drive a team of sled dogs to the statehouse and file your declaration of candidacy?”

Initially, Montgomery considered the idea too outlandish, but gave it some thought. Not long after, Montgomery started to warm up (pun intended) to the possibility of launching possibly the most unique candidacy announcement in the history of the Indiana General Assembly. He contacted his father, who agreed to loan him several sled dogs to transport him to the statehouse. However, Montgomery still had to ensure that this would generate good publicity, so he decided to utilize his connection as the sports editor of the campus paper, The DePauw, and informed the Sports Information Director at DePauw Pat Aikman about his plan. Aikman loved this idea and informed his contact at the Indianapolis Star, Tom Keating, about the plan. With his plan in motion, Montgomery managed to obtain a police permit for his six-block trip and convinced two people to help handle the dogs.

Thus, on February 16, 1978, the day had finally arrived to make campaign history in Indiana. Little did the City of Indianapolis know that Saint Nick was not the only man with a sleigh to make an appearance this winter. And so it began. At the young age of 27, Montgomery careened down snow-packed Senate Avenue with his sled dogs to announce his campaign for the Indiana House of Representatives. To his own surprise, one TV crew was already in the area when he arrived. This resulted in Montgomery being televised, creating buzz across the state about this mysterious new legislative candidate. Additionally, the following week Keating featured Montgomery in a Star article titled “Spotting Publicity Hounds.” Keating concluded that, while unfortunate, the “ability to attract attention from the media often transcends all other talents. . . . So, when a young man with an unknown name launches a political career, exposure has the be the first order of business.”[i]

Journal & Courier (Lafayette, IN), November 3, 1978, 8, accessed Newspapers.com.

In the Star article detailing Montgomery’s innovative campaign strategy, Montgomery told the paper “’I know this was a gimmick. I needed something to set me apart. Maybe this isn’t the way it should be done, but I couldn’t think of anything else.’”[ii] Later, he took part in the Republican Primary in his district and went to bed learning he had lost by only four votes. The next morning though, his phone rang and shockingly he was told that the results were misreported. In fact, he had won the Republican Primary by eight votes.[iii] Montgomery would also win the general election, earning a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. He served from 1979 to 1982 before Governor Robert Orr appointed him to the Public Service Commission (known today as the Public Utilities Commission). However, he’ll likely be best remembered for his candidacy announcement, which serves as a reminder that sometimes fortune favors the bold in politics.

[i] Thomas R. Keating, “Spotting Publicity Hounds,” Indianapolis Star, February 21, 1978, 19, accessed ProQuest.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Thomas R. Keating, “Newcomers Hooked,” Indianapolis Star, May 4, 1978, 38, accessed ProQuest.

“The Gentlest Memory of Our World”: Robert Ingersoll and the Memorialization of Abraham Lincoln

Indianapolis Journal, May 4 1893, Hoosier State Chronicles.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most written-about subjects in all of human history; thousands of books, articles, and speeches have been published about his life and legacy. As such, there is an interesting interplay between history and memory that manifests whenever the sixteenth President is discussed. Historian David Herbert Donald, one of the foremost Lincoln scholars of the 20th century, wrote in his essay, “The Folklore Lincoln,” that “the Lincoln cult is almost an American religion. It has its high priests in the Lincoln ‘authorities’ and its worshippers in the thousands of ‘fans’ who think, talk, and read Lincoln every day.” What we know about him is interpolated through decades of stories, recollections, and reflections that separate Lincoln “the man” from the Lincoln “the myth.” None of this is necessarily wrong, as all historical figures are subject to mythologizing and memorialization. The task of the historian is to identify the difference between myth and reality, but in a countervailing twist, recognize the historical importance of the development of myths.

President Abraham Lincoln, from Great Speeches of Ingersoll, Internet Archive.

One such figure who mythologized Lincoln while humanizing him was the orator Robert Green Ingersoll. Among the most sought-after public speakers and intellectuals of the late nineteenth century, Ingersoll is best remembered today for his excoriating lectures on religion. Known as the “Great Agnostic,” Ingersoll became the outstanding leader of the “Golden Age of Freethought,” the era between the Civil War and World War I which saw a groundswell of religious criticism and secular activism. But his lectures, which were attended by thousands over the decades, were not limited merely to religion. In fact, he spoke on a variety of subjects, from William Shakespeare to the history of the United States. As a veteran of the Civil War, Ingersoll’s life deeply intertwined with arguably the most important event in the history of nineteenth century America.

Robert Ingersoll, from Great Speeches of Ingersoll, Internet Archive.

His memorialization of Lincoln and the Civil War era started in earnest within a matter of years after the war ended. In September of 1876, Ingersoll delivered one of his most influential speeches in Indianapolis, referred to as the “Vision of War” speech. Introduced as “that dashing cavalry officer, that thunderbolt of war, that silver tongued orator” by Brevet Brigadier General Edward F. Noyes, Ingersoll commemorated the sacrifices of Union veterans, as well as stumped for Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes in his remarks. Throughout his speech, Ingersoll used the memory of Lincoln to hit home his partisan political message. One such example: “Every man that cursed Abraham Lincoln because he issued the Proclamation of Emancipation—the grandest paper since the Declaration of Independence—every one of them was a Democrat.” Clearly the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a contentious document in its time, of which many politicos disagreed with. Nevertheless, Ingersoll’s rhetorical flourish used Lincoln’s political prescience to elevate the Republican party, which Ingersoll saw as the party of freedom and progress.

In the middle of his speech, Ingersoll’s tone shifted from partisan (and somewhat rancorous) to poetic and solemn as he reflected on the horrors of war, its fallen soldiers, and the society those who fought had left behind. “These heroes are dead,” he began:

They died for liberty — they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Palace of Rest. The Earth may run red with other wars — they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death! I have one sentiment for all soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.

As a man who fought at the Battle of Shiloh, who experienced horrors as a prisoner of war, Ingersoll’s words were not mere flights of rhetoric. He intimately understood the sacrifices his generation made in the service of saving the Union, and he wanted every person hearing his words that day to recognize those sacrifices.

The title page of the illustrated version of Ingersoll’s “Vision of War Speech,” published in 1899, Google Books.

His remarks received an immediate public reaction. The Indianapolis News praised his speech, albeit with slight criticism, writing “the orator justified all expectations by delivering a speech, bitter in perhaps of arraingment [sic], but comprehensive, eloquent, and inimitable.” The ‘vision of war’ section was later reprinted as a pamphlet with illustrations that reiterated many of its core themes. It was one of the orations that made Ingersoll a nationally-renowned public speaker.

By 1880, then a more accomplished orator, Ingersoll began to tackle Lincoln as a subject more directly, publishing a laudatory sketch of the president that was published in pamphlet form. This version focused less on biographical details and more on character impressions of the president. Right from the outset, Ingersoll was keenly aware of how Lincoln’s memory is shaped by the public, often to the negation of the real person. As he wrote, “Hundreds of people are now engaged in smoothing out the lines of Lincoln’s face—forcing all features to the common mold—so that he may be known, not as he really was, but, according to their poor standard, as he should have been.” The metaphor of “smoothing out” is certainly apt; upon his assassination in 1865, Lincoln’s visage appeared in countless artistic depictions which removed him from the realm of mortals and into the hands of providence. He became more of a symbol than a man.

A pamphlet of Ingersoll’s Lincoln Speech, 1880, Internet Archive.

Ingersoll sought to counter this with his 1880 pamphlet, reminding Americans that “Lincoln was a many-sided man, acquainted with smiles and tears, complex in brain, single in heart, direct as light; and his word, candid as mirrors, gave the perfect image of his thought. He was never afraid to ask—never too dignified to admit that he did not know.” Ingersoll’s portrait, while still quite laudatory, nevertheless centered Lincoln’s humility and complexity, reaffirming his humanity rather than attempting to deify him. Additionally, Ingersoll emphasized Lincoln’s dedication to education, despite the latter’s known history of scant instruction. “Lincoln never finished his education,” he noted, “To the night of his death he was a pupil, a learner, an enquirer, a seeker after knowledge.” This was in stark contrast to those who Ingersoll called “spoiled by what is called education. For the most part, colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.” This revealed an influential parallel between Ingersoll and Lincoln. Both were Illinoisans who received little formal education and became lawyers through independent study, rather than going to a university. Ingersoll saw much of himself in Lincoln, which one suspects impacted the orator’s portrait of the president as a self-educated, self-made man unsullied by the indulgences of the established ways of acculturation. In all, Ingersoll’s 1880 pamphlet depicted Lincoln as a moral, and even righteous, figure, but still relatable— a man dedicated to education, honesty, and self-improvement.

Indianapolis News, April 29 1893, Hoosier State Chronicles.

By the 1890s, Ingersoll’s renown for oratory made him constantly in demand, and for the 1893 Lincoln Dinner of the Republican Club of New York on February 11, he delivered a revised version of his speech as a keynote speaker. While much of the text is similar to the 1880 version, Ingersoll added a section of Lincoln’s own oratory as a means of memorialization. The passage, which Ingersoll described lovingly as “sculptured speech,” was taken from Lincoln’s remarks in Edwardsville, Illinois on September 11, 1858, during his run for the Senate against Stephen A. Douglas:

And when, by all these means, you have succeeded in dehumanizing the negro; when you have put him down and made it impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you have extinguished his soul in this world and placed him where the ray of hope is blown out as in the darkness of the damned, are you quite sure that the demon you have roused will not turn and rend you? What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoast, our army and our navy.

These are not our reliance against tyranny. All of those may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle.

Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defence [sic] is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere.

Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them.

Lincoln’s words placed liberty, not mere power, at the heart of the American experiment of self-government, a heart which would be torn asunder by the barbarism of slavery. In reflecting on Lincoln’s use of language, Ingersoll declared, “The orator loves the real, the simple, the natural, and he places thought and feeling above all. He knows that the greatest ideas should be expressed in the shortest words. He knows that a great idea is like a great statue, and he knows that the greater the statue the less drapery it needs.” Among other attributes, Lincoln’s use of simple, but poetic language during a time of deep of crisis, in Ingersoll’s estimation, cemented his place in American history.

Robert Ingersoll delivered his speech on Lincoln during a nationwide tour in 1893, with one of the stops being Indianapolis. He had spoken many times in Indianapolis since his “vision of war” speech in 1876, but the venue in 1893 was the illustrious English Opera House, which was located on Monument Circle and was a mainstay of the entertainment industry during the era. The Indianapolis News and Journal ran flashy advertisements in advance of his appearance, with the latter stating “Colonel Ingersoll’s treatment of the subject is said to be one of those rarely intellectual things that is to be heard but a few times in a lifetime.” Ingersoll arrived in Indianapolis at noon on May 4, 1893, mere hours from his scheduled performance, according to the News. The Journal ran a final advertisement in its early edition, noting that it would be Ingersoll’s “only appearance this season.”

Ingersoll’s Lincoln Speech in Indianapolis,1893, Indiana Memory.

The Standard Publishing Company of Indianapolis reproduced his speech, with commentary, in pamphlet form (a digital version is available via Indiana Memory). Ingersoll opens his speech with a fascinating coincidence of history: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, February 12, 1809. “Eighty-four years ago two babes were born,” he began:

one in the woods of Kentucky amid the hardships and poverty of pioneers; one in England surrounded by wealth and culture. One was educated in the university of nature, the other at Oxford. One associated his name with the enfranchisement of labor, with the emancipation of millions, with the salvation of the Republic. He is known to us as Abraham Lincoln. The other broke the chains of superstition and filled the world with intellectual light, and he is known as Charles Darwin. Because of those two men the nineteenth century is illustrious.

Ingersoll viewed Darwin and Lincoln as emancipatory figures, with Lincoln the emancipator of people and Darwin the emancipator of minds. As one of the first to popularize the theory of evolution in America, Ingersoll comprehended the profound implications of Darwin’s ideas in a deeply religious country. Perhaps Ingersoll linked Darwin with Lincoln in an attempt to soften the intellectual blow of his concepts; conversely, linking Lincoln with Darwin emphasized the importance of the former’s contributions to humanity, ones with transformative consequences for his nation.

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, Galapagos Travel Center/Wikipedia.

Later in his lecture, Ingersoll painted a portrait of Lincoln as a man of contradictions who nevertheless transcended them. “The sympathies of Lincoln, his ties, his kindred, were with the South,” he noted, “His convictions, his sense of justice and his ideals were with the North.” Born of upland southern ancestry and marrying into a southern aristocratic family, Lincoln could have easily given into the currents of his experiences. Yet, “he knew the horrors of slavery, and he felt the unspeakable ecstasies and glories of freedom,” Ingersoll continued, and “he had the manhood and independence of true greatness, and he could not have been a slave.” Lincoln’s abhorrence of slavery, and the political road that conviction took him on, made him, in Ingersoll’s eyes, a statesman rather than mere politician. “A politician schemes and works in every way to make the people do something for him,” the orator declared, while “A statesman wishes to do something for the people. With him place and power are the means to an end, and the end is the good of his country.” For Ingersoll, Lincoln’s sense of higher purpose allowed him to transcend his age and become a leader for the ages.

Near the end of his speech, Ingersoll directly addressed the question of memory in regards to the “Great Emancipator.” “The memory of Lincoln,” he said, “is the strongest, tenderest tie that binds all hearts together now, and holds all States beneath a nation’s flag.” With this passage, Ingersoll positioned Lincoln as the force which connected the Union and transformed the United States from a loose conglomeration of states into a single, unified nation. The nationalism of late-nineteenth century America was on full-display, with Lincoln as the catalyzing agent melding heart and hearthstone across the land. (This is an image of Lincoln that persists to this day; in times of crisis, politicians and the media often look to Lincoln for insights on how to unify and connect the people of America.) To reaffirm the importance of memory, Ingersoll ended his speech with the moving words, “Lincoln was the grandest figure of the fiercest civil war. He was the gentlest memory of our world.”

Indiana State Sentinel, May 10 1893, Hoosier State Chronicles.

Ingersoll’s appearance was a resounding success, with the Indiana State Sentinel writing, “English’s opera house was packed from gallery to pit Thursday to hear America’s greatest orator in his famous lecture, ‘Abraham Lincoln’.” Of his performance, the Sentinel also said, “Col. Ingersoll has lost none of his great ‘personal magnetism’ that enables him to move his audience to the feeling of his every emotion.” Its publication in pamphlet form ensured more people would consume his lecture, thus furthering Ingersoll’s memorializing of the sixteenth President.

Despite his success with audiences and readers, Ingersoll caught the ire of critics concerning his treatment of Abraham Lincoln’s religious views. Ingersoll, a religious skeptic who gave public speeches denouncing Christianity, was accused of asserting that Lincoln was a nonbeliever. As a March 26, 1893 editorial in the Indianapolis Journal remarked, “The assertion of Colonel Ingersoll in his address on the character of Abraham Lincoln, to the effect that he was a freethinker after the manner of Voltaire and Paine, challenged emphatic contradiction which was no more conclusive than the Ingersoll declaration.” The article then provides numerous quotations which give credence to the claim that Lincoln was a believer in God, such as the speech he gave in 1861 in Springfield before he left for Washington, wherein he said:

A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine aid which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support, and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain.

At the same time, Lincoln may have not accepted the mainstream consensus on Christianity, which the editorial granted. “Abraham Lincoln may not have troubled himself about dogmas,” the Journal acknowledged, “but no man was ever more devout in his reliance upon the great power which controls human acts and events, or whose conduct was more thoroughly in harmony with the truths of the Sermon on the Mount.”

The Religion of Abraham Lincoln, a dialogue between Ingersoll and Gen. Charles H.T. Collis, Internet Archive.

Ingersoll addressed these concerns head on in a series of letters between himself and Colonel Charles H. T. Collis, an Irish immigrant to the United States who also served in the Civil War. A book compiling their correspondence was published in 1900, shortly after Ingersoll’s death. Collis attended Ingersoll’s performance of the Lincoln speech in New York on February 11, 1893 and immediately wrote to him challenging his conclusions on Lincoln’s faith. With passion and conviction, Collis wrote, “no man invoked ‘the gracious favor of Almighty God’ in every effort of his life with more apparent fervor than did he, and this God was not the Deists’ God, but the God whom he worshiped under the forms of the Christian Church, of which he was a member.” Ingersoll retorted in a follow up letter, writing, “Lincoln was never a member of any church,” and that “he denied the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that he always insisted that Christ was not the Son of God, and that the dogma of the Atonement was, and is, an absurdity.”

As with much of history, Lincoln’s religious beliefs fall somewhere between Ingersoll’s and Collis’s. It is true that he never formally joined a church or was baptized, but he often asked for counsel from religious leaders and infused his speeches, especially the Second Inaugural, with meditations that bordered on theology. As historian and Lincoln biographer David R. Contosta has written, “he was no Christian in any conventional sense of the term, since there is no evidence that he ever accepted the divinity of Christ or ever joined a church,” but “what he had come to embrace in the end was the inscrutable omnipotence of a God who worked his will in history though persons and events of his own time and choosing.”

Lincoln’s Meditation on the Divine Will, September, 1862, Brown University.

One striking piece of evidence to support Contosta’s conclusion is Lincoln’s “Meditation on the Divine Will,” written in September of 1862. “The will of God prevails,” Lincoln reflected:

In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party – and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true – that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.

Lincoln’s theology centered the agency of God in human affairs, using people as agents of his divine plan. These musings emphasize Lincoln’s belief in fate, a holdover from his Primitive Baptist upbringing, which, Contosta noted, stressed “predestination and human sinfulness.” Lincoln was not an Agnostic like Ingersoll, but he also wasn’t the kind of Christian the Collis portrayed him as. As with many aspects of his life, Lincoln was a complex, often contradictory figure whose idiosyncratic religious views highlighted these tensions.

Lincoln’s Tomb, in Great Speeches of Ingersoll, Internet Archive.

The Civil War, with Lincoln as its central protagonist, was the defining event of Ingersoll’s life. It shaped his view of politics, oratory, and even religion. He placed a high priority on telling this story with eloquence, mastery, and tactfulness. As a result, it is not surprising that his lectures on Lincoln became so popular, as well as lauded. In commenting on his speech in Indianapolis, a pamphlet noted, “No man in the world could do justice to the memory of Abraham Lincoln with the same force and eloquence as Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.” While many books and recollections were published during Ingersoll’s time, he kept the public memory of Lincoln alive as only an orator could do. In some respects, it was a logical outgrowth of Lincoln himself, who was one of the most influential public speakers in American history. Robert Ingersoll’s orations on Lincoln, while somewhat forgotten now, nevertheless provided a unique contribution to the memorialization and mythologization of the sixteenth President—a vast tapestry of remembrance which exists to this day.

The Gas Boom, Sex Work, and Muncie’s Urban Economy

“Muncie, Indiana: The Natural Gas City of the West” (Muncie Natural Gas Land Improvement Company, ca. 1889), 15, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.
This post draws on more extensive research completed by the author, Cory Balkenbusch, and Jennifer Mara DeSilva. For a full article on this research, see “Toleration of Sex Work in East Central Indiana, 1880-1900” in the upcoming December 2023 edition of the Indiana Magazine of History.

In April of 1894, Muncie policemen Ball, Cole, and Coffey assisted Chief Miller on a raid of a “Palace o’ Pleasure.” When the officers arrived, they discovered “six very well-known young gentlemen,” who were “being entertained” by four women.[1] The Muncie Daily Herald revealed that the young men and their paid female company swiftly scraped together enough money and valuables to give bond, with one man even giving an officer a valuable diamond stud that was given to him by his mother.[2] The resort, located on Vine Street, was owned by a woman who went by the name of Rosenthal. It quickly became notorious for its illicit activities, with another raid occurring in May of 1894, in which four girls and seven men were arrested and charged with “associating.”[3]

Muncie newspaper readers during this era would not find the reports regarding Rosenthal’s “Palace O’ Pleasure” terribly shocking. During the Gas Boom, sex work was increasingly becoming a part of Muncie’s cultural and social landscape. By the end of the nineteenth century, a substantial reservoir of natural gas was discovered in East Central Indiana, prompting surrounding cities like Muncie, Anderson, and Kokomo to rush to discover their own supply.[4]  Despite commonly-held assumptions about American small towns and cities, they were not isolated from the influence of their distant metropolitan cousins. In the two decades before the twentieth century, new railway, telegraph, and telephone connections linked small towns and cities more intimately with the urban centers.

As historians Frank Felsenstein and James Connolly have argued, Muncie, Indiana reflected this rural-urban network. Their research has contrasted Robert and Helen Lynds’ depiction of a sleepy agricultural center recently industrialized in their landmark 1929 study Middletown.[5]  However, historians have chiefly focused on the city’s cultural achievements and technological progress brought upon by the Gas Boom, ignoring a large facet of the economy: the exchange of sexual services. Indeed, between 1880 to 1900, the Gas Boom and subsequent industrialization spearheaded the growth of Muncie’s sexual exchange network. This played an integral role within its growing economy.

The Gas Boom, Working Class Men, & The Rise of Sex Work

“Muncie, Indiana: The Natural Gas City of the West” (Muncie Natural Gas Land Improvement Company, ca. 1889), 28, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

By the spring of 1887, the Muncie Natural Gas Company laid gas mains across most sections of town and was piping inexpensive gas to individual households and businesses.[6] Within that same year, gas had replaced the need for coal, leaving the city free from soot and ash. Forward-thinking businessmen like James Boyce, a member of Muncie’s board of trade, energetically pursued business ventures both for personal gain and to bring new factories to town. Boyce persuaded the Over window glass plant, the Hemingray bottle plant, and the famed Ball Brothers Company to build in Muncie. The working population doubled from 5,500 in 1886 to 11,345 in 1890, and Muncie was quickly becoming the largest city in the Indiana Gas Belt.[7] In turn, the city’s industrial and demographic explosion after 1886 entirely transformed Muncie’s neighborhoods and entertainment districts.  By the end of the century, almost seven times the number of original saloons operated throughout the city and nearly double the number of boarding houses and hotels lined Walnut Street.[8]

As Muncie’s working-class male population grew, saloons became spaces for men to socialize and relieve the stresses of factory work. Relief could be found in conversation, intoxication, sport or musical entertainment, and female company. Sex work often accompanied the development of urban, commercial, and transportation infrastructure.[9] As the north-south artery running straight through the city, Walnut Street connected Muncie’s downtown district with the railway depot. It continued into a new residential area that grew beyond the railway tracks to support workers at the surrounding factories. The Southside neighborhood’s location, at the intersections of the C.C.C. & St. Louis Railroad Lines and the L.E. & W. Railroad Lines, coupled with its proximity to the commercial district, made it a hotbed for sex work. The steady flow of newcomers and addition of boarding houses and saloons around the train depots provided potential clients and encounter sites. As early as 1890, Muncie’s newspapers reported Southside sex workers and their clients being arrested and fined.

Establishing Networks & the Commercialization of a Sex Work

Boardinghouse located above a saloon at 815 South Walnut Street on the 1896 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, accessed Library of Congress.

While the Southside was largely cut off from Muncie’s wealthier commercial district by railway lines, the saloons that lined Walnut Street to the north continued to the south. The 1886 Sanborn map identifies a barber, grocer, jeweler, and three saloons that occupied a block between 1st and 2nd Streets. Sanborn maps show that east of Walnut Street, the Southside neighborhood was made up of houses, bringing businesses like the Muncie Lumber Company, the Artificial Gas Works, the Muncie Foundry & Machine Shop, and the Anheuser-Busch Beer Depot. Although it is hard to determine if these dwellings functioned as boarding houses, there was one known boarding house listed on the 1896 Sanborn map.

The boarding house was located off Walnut Street and might have offered factory men a livable space close to their place of employment. This boarding house occupied the same building as a saloon, with two additional saloons and one restaurant nearby, underlining the proximity to possible prostitution. Widows frequently ran boardinghouses to replace their lost husband’s income. However, the commercialization of women’s labor degraded her role as “keeper of the house.”[10] This highlights the effects of the Victorian middle-class ideals, as paid labor was viewed as a masculine activity.  Moreover, contemporaries viewed boarding houses with suspicion because they often sheltered single women and men in proximity, which undermined the idealized purity of middle-class homes. The possibility of sexual activity between unmarried men and women cast suspicion on boarding houses, and aligned them with brothels, which sometimes masqueraded as “female boarding houses” on Sanborn fire insurance maps.[11]

To find direct evidence of sex work, one needed only to follow South Walnut Street into Muncie’s Southside. Much like Chicago’s sex district, known as the Levee, Muncie’s Southside brothels operated openly, and some women used boardinghouses to meet clients.[12] Unlike middle-class neighborhoods in the northern half of the city that were cut off from factory development and train depots, the Southside sheltered working-class men and families that moved to Muncie as new factories opened. From the late 1880s, women engaging in the sex trade gravitated towards the neighborhood. The number of established brothels, sex workers employed in this area, and the prevalence of their arrests reported in the newspapers evinced this movement.

Walnut Street at Patterson Block railroad construction, Muncie, Indiana, ca. 1900s, Muncie and Delaware County Historic Photographs Collection, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

Not long after he acquired it from Henry Coppersmith, John Mullenix’s saloon earned a reputation for being an “awful, wicked, sinful joint,” and one of the “toughest holes in Indiana.” Mullenix arranged for Minnie White, also known as “Gas Well Minnie,” to use the saloon as a base for exchanging sexual services.[13] The saloon’s location positioned both Mullenix and White to make a profit from travelers, as well as local factory workers. The saloon, located about a block south of the railroad line, was surrounded by four large manufacturing plants, ensuring patronage.  Additionally, about twelve dwellings on the saloon’s block might have served as boarding houses for the men working close by. Elsewhere, tavern keepers relied on sex workers to attract customers, while women often relied on tavern keepers for a space to engage in their sexual services, much like Mullenix and White did in Muncie.[14]

However, women engaging in sex work did not limit themselves to working-class neighborhoods and saloons. Indeed, Muncie’s entertainment and business district offered some women the chance to profit from wealthier clientele. The High Street Theater reflected this trend noted by other historians, as concert halls and theaters became popular new venues for sex and entertainment by the beginning of the twentieth century.[15] Located directly across the street from Delaware County’s courthouse, the theater’s wine rooms were open all hours of the day. Initially, the newspapers portrayed wine rooms as a sign of the city’s metropolitan character, but by 1900 they were a source of communal outrage.[16]

(Delaware County) Courthouse square, Muncie, Indiana, ca. 1900, Muncie and Delaware County Historic Photographs Collection, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

Venues like the High Street Theater catered to a wealthier clientele than the Southside working-class. Clients paid an entrance fee, after which they climbed a stairwell that led to small apartments overlooking the theater’s main auditorium. These semi-private rooms were essentially pine boxes with lace curtains to conceal the activity from the audience down below. In these wine rooms, scantily clad women encouraged clients to buy drinks and other services. These costs required a clientele with sufficient disposable income, something most of Muncie’s factory workers could not claim.[17]

An undercover police officer noted that “Age and color [were] no disqualifications” to visit the theater, making it clear that vice activities attracted far more wealthier men than young factory workers. [18] While single factory workers might have money to spend, Muncie’s older and wealthier men also visited the theater. In 1895, Rhoda Jones arrived at the High Street Theater Restaurant and attempted to climb the staircase to find her husband, George Jones. Although the attendant claimed that the wine-rooms were closed at 11pm, Rhoda was insistent that her husband was present. She argued that each night he walked north from their grocery store on South Walnut Street to visit the wine-room women.[19] Although Rhoda’s arrival appeared in the next day’s newspaper, her husband’s departure was more covert. For men like George, the theater also had alleyway access to several city streets, allowing all clients to make easy escapes and discreet entrances.

Property Ownership & Economic Profitability

The Muncie Daily Times, January 26, 1896, accessed Newspapers.com.

Social reform efforts in the late 1890s underlined the development of a new vice district. By early 1896, Southside citizens had mobilized a reform campaign. On January 26, 1896, the Muncie Daily Times described an attempt to close organized brothels. Between Walnut and Vine Streets, stretching to the C.C.C. and St. Louis Railroad tracks, down towards Ninth Street, the Muncie Daily Times reported that citizens held a “feeling of disgrace” living among houses of “ill-repute.”[20] The tension and notoriety surrounding prostitution is apparent from the newspaper’s willingness to identify prominent brothel owners. Between 1887 and 1896, it had become clear to Muncie’s Southside that an extensive prostitution network had developed. Newspaper accounts sensationalized and corroborated citizens’ concerns. “Soiled Doves” and “Women of ill-repute,” such as Emma Bryant, Hazel Gray, and Kate Phinney, provided Muncie’s newspapers with frequent material for reports of their sexual escapades and commerce.

The effort to close brothels within the Southside neighborhood also revealed the prominent role that sex work played within Muncie’s booming economy. Numerous newspaper articles, like that published by The Muncie Daily Times on January 26, 1896, highlighted the extensive network of female-owned brothels and the way they generated city profits through county court fines. Despite the continuous raids these women faced, city officials never forced their brothels to shut down. Their services, and the fines that these raids produced, were an integral part of the Muncie’s urban economy.

“They Say It Is A Nuisance: Several Citizens File and Affidavit Against Kate Phinney,” Muncie Morning News, May 19, 1892, accessed Newspapers.com.

For example, in 1891, The Muncie Daily Times reported on a brothel raid that occurred on Third Street, outing five individual women working at the location, including the proprietress, Minnie Dwyer. Those arrested and put before the judge pleaded guilty to prostitution, paying fines of $16.85.[21] Dwyer was not the only woman running a brothel, however. In 1892, the Muncie Morning News reported that nearly “one hundred citizens” gathered to discuss Kate Phinney’s “house of ill-fame,” and ultimately decided it was a nuisance.[22] The Southside’s saloons, boarding houses, and brothels became woven into this area’s economy of leisure, transiency, and commercial sex.

Emma Bryant was one of the most prominent sex workers and brothel owners in the area, appearing six times in the Delaware County Court Records for her involvement in vice activity, including prostitution, witness to prostitution, and witness to violent crimes.[23] However, the newspapers revealed that Bryant often paid hefty fines rather than serving jail time. As early as 1894, Bryant’s “bawdy house” was raided by police, but remained opened.[24] Her brothel on Council Street, known as Gaiety Commons, appeared later in 1895 in The Muncie Morning News when Bryant along with seven young men and two young women were arrested on charges related to the illegal monetary exchange of sexual services.[25] That same year, Bryant was arrested for selling alcohol without a license, but she paid $200 (equivalent to $6,117.81 today) and was released.[26] Despite the continuous raids these women faced, city officials never forced their brothels to shut down. As historian Ruth Rosen has described, sex workers’ services, and the fines that these raids produced, were an integral part of the urban economy in many American cities.[27] Muncie sex workers produced considerable revenue for the city through the fines they paid.

Prostitution on the Southside bolstered the city’s real estate economy. Muncie sex workers actively engaged in purchasing and selling property and securing mortgages. Kate Phinney and Hazel Gray weathered frequent raids, but always found a new location for their businesses. Phinney faced a plethora of fines and charges related to prostitution but remained an integral part of the vice district, moving her brothel from South Plum Street into Shedtown (current-day Avondale neighborhood). Hazel Gray, appearing as early as 1894 in the newspapers, moved her brothel from Second Street to Third Street. Like Phinney, Gray also faced numerous prostitution charges until she left town in 1897. Phinney’s and Gray’s ability to move around the Southside suggest that there was a tolerance of the profession among city officials.

“After Questionable Houses: There Will Be None Left in Muncie After March 10,” Muncie Morning News, February 20, 1896, accessed Newspapers.com.

The Southside citizens were seemingly successful in their efforts to close the local brothels. The Muncie Morning News reported that by March 1896, brothels run by Emma Bryant, Kate Phinney, and others had been shut down.[28] However, many of these “businesswomen of ill-repute” did not leave Muncie. According to the Muncie City Directory, Emma Bryant was still living on South Willard Street in 1901. Muncie’s 1897 city directory listed Hazel Gray as living at 138 Kinney Street. These directories reveal that, although their brothels were initially shuttered, these women moved freely about Muncie, redefining the vice district limits.


Muncie and Portland Traction streetcar, n.d., Muncie and Delaware County Historic Photographs Collection, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

By 1900, 347 manufacturing establishments operated within the city and Muncie boasted a population of 20,942. However, the industrial optimism brought on by the discovery of natural gas would not last long. By the beginning of the 20th century, gas pressure dropped to nearly 100 pounds and many large factories could no longer obtain the natural gas they had so heavily utilized during the previous decade. This caused many factories to find other means of production or shut down.  Unlike smaller cities in Eastern Indiana, like Fairmount and Eaton, the growth of Muncie’s railway lines provided convenient access to coal, raw materials, and markets for finished manufactured products, which maintained its industrial prominence after the gas ran out.  The movement of factories closer to the railway lines prompted Muncie to grow in all directions, with new industrial areas materializing at both the north and south ends of the city.

Muncie’s sex work industry continued to follow the Walnut Street corridor, then flowing out towards industrial areas. As in other cities, the industry maintained a connection to the city’s entertainment district throughout the Gilded Age, providing clients with easy access to vice. However, during the Progressive Era, sex work was forced underground. As social reformers sought to solves issues created by Gilded Age industrialization, Gas Boom Muncie offers historians a chance to understand how Gilded Age vices took hold of smaller-scale urban spaces, creating a new narrative of how these areas reflect larger city trends when regarding the link between sex work and the local economy.

 

Notes:

[1] “A Large Catch,” The Muncie Daily Herald, April 5, 1894, accessed Newspapers.com.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Vine Street Joint,” The Muncie Morning News, June 1, 1894, accessed Newspapers.com.

[4]  James Glass, “The Gas Boom in Central Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History 96, no. 4 (2000): 315.

[5] Frank Felsenstein and James J. Connolly, What Middletown Read: Print Culture in an American Small City (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015), p. 17-20; Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1929), p. 5-6.

[6] Remarkably, in 1892 the state reported that 2,500 square miles of natural gas could be located across Central Indiana making it the largest known gas field—larger than the Pennsylvania and Ohio fields combined. Glass, “The Gas Boom in Central Indiana,” 315.

[7] Glass, “The Gas Boom in Central Indiana,” 318.

[8] Charles Emerson, 1893-1894 Emerson’s Muncie Directory (Muncie: Carlon & Hollenbeck, 1893), accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

[9] Katie M. Hemphill, “Selling Sex and Intimacy in the City: The Changing Business of Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore,” in Capitalism by Gaslight: Illuminating the Economy of Nineteenth-Century America, eds. Brian P. Luskey and Wendy A. Woloson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), p. 169.

[10] Wendy Gamber, The Boardinghouse in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2007), p. 60.

[11] Kristi L. Palmer, “Fire Insurance Maps: Introduction and Glimpses into America’s Glass Manufacturing History,” The News Journal 20, no. 4 (2013): 4; Gamber, The Boardinghouse in the Nineteenth Century, p. 102-103.

[12] Cynthia M. Blair, I’ve Got to Make My Livin’: Black Women’s Sex Work in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), p. 27.

[13] “For Min White and Bomb Shell for The Quart Shop: The Police and Residents of South Walnut Street Very Sore on John Mullenix’s Wicked Joint,” The Muncie Morning News, March 12, 1893, accessed Newspapers.com.

[14] Hemphill, “Selling Sex and Intimacy in the City,” p. 172-173.

[15] Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994), p. 224; Ruth Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900 -1918 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 83-84.

[16] “A Wine Room,” The Daily Muncie Herald, November 15, 1892, accessed Newspapers.com.

[17] “Muncie’s Den of Iniquity,” The Star Press, January 28, 1900, accessed Newspapers.com.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “After Hubby,” The Muncie Morning News, April 5, 1895, accessed Newspapers.com.

[20] “After the Resorts: Southside Citizens Organize to Fight Them,” The Muncie Daily Times, January 26, 1896, accessed Newspapers.com.

[21] “A Third Street Joint Raided and Ten Victims Gathered,” The Muncie Daily Times, October 26, 1891, accessed Newspapers.com.

[22] Phinney had been charged with keeping a house of ill-fame as early as 1890, and then again in 1895 and 1898; Delaware County Circuit Criminal Court, Cause #2547 (1890), 3031 (1895), 3480 (1898); “They Say It Is A Nuisance: Several Citizens File and Affidavit Against Kate Phinney,” Muncie Morning News, May 19, 1892, accessed Newspapers.com.

[23] Delaware County Circuit Criminal Court, Cause #3546 (1897), 3494 (1898), 3737 (1900), 8409 (1927).

[24] “Bawdy Houses Raided: The Inmates of Three Bagino’s [sic] in Courts To-Day,” The Muncie Daily Times, January 1, 1894, accessed Newspapers.com.

[25] “It Comes High: But the Boys Will Stray Into The Path That Leads to Headquarters,” Muncie Morning News, March 19, 1895, accessed Newspapers.com.

[26] “In The Hands of U.S. Officials,” The Muncie Daily Times, March 2, 1895, accessed Newspapers.com.

[27] Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, p. 74-75.

[28] “After Questionable Houses: There Will Be None Left in Muncie After March 10,” Muncie Morning News, February 20, 1896, accessed Newspapers.com.

Subversion and Solidarity: A Pre-Roe History of Abortion in the Midwest

Chichester’s English Pennyroyal Pills advertising pamphlet, ca. 1887. New-York Historical Society Library, Bella C. Landauer Collection, accessed New-York Historical Society.

The 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health put the responsibility back on each individual state to determine abortion law for its citizens. In presenting a history of abortion in Indiana, I hope to share how both access and barriers to the termination of pregnancies have changed from the 19th century to the present. Due to the complexities of the abortion debate in Indiana, this article will only discuss the state of abortion prior to the 1970s.

While current laws seeking to ban abortion in Indiana and across the United States focus on the detection of a fetal heartbeat, legal cases between 1812 and 1926 were frequently concerned with “quickening,” which is defined as “the point in which the pregnant woman first feels the fetus move . . . usually between the sixteenth and eighteenth week of pregnancy.”[1] Prior to the point of quickening in a woman’s pregnancy, abortion was not considered a crime since the woman might not have been aware of the pregnancy, particularly if her menstrual cycle was irregular.[2] Instead, these women were often regarded as victims of their own actions in allowing themselves to become pregnant or as victims of an illegal abortion resulting in their death. It is this latter situation, unfortunately, that has allowed historians to learn about the history of abortion practices within the United States. The stories were often only publicly shared through inquest reports, which sought to investigate any deviations from acceptable medical practices that led to death.[3]

In the late 1800s, abortion became a statutory crime in Indiana, as in all states in America. This means that the criminality of the action was written into state laws rather than relying only on the precedent set by court decisions, also called “common law.”[4] The specific statute or law included the elements that an individual must satisfy to be found guilty of the crime, such as the action performed, their mental state when the act was performed, and proximate causation, which is defined as a link between the action and the effect of that action.[5] Despite statues and legal precedent asserting the criminal nature of abortions, women were frequently exempt from liability for their participation in terminating the pregnancy, with most charges instead filed against the individual who performed the abortion.[6]

Although women did not speak openly about abortions outside of their social circles, they did confide in their close friends and family members of their desire to be “fixed up” or to “bring their courses around.”[7] According to many historians’ investigations into the topic, women in the 18th and 19th centuries often turned to abortion as a common means of birth control, with some even asserting that it was safer than childbirth, which claimed the lives of numerous women annually. [8] Women often shared folk remedies or other methods for terminating the pregnancy in much the same way they would have discussed the treatments for other common illnesses.[9]

lady
The Post-Democrat (Muncie), March 20, 1936, accessed Ball State University Digital Media Repository.

At the turn of the 20th century, approaches to understanding and addressing the rate of abortions within the community involved comparing it with other birth control methods and encouraging the avoidance of pregnancy to prevent the need for an abortion. One such advocate was New York nurse Margaret Sanger,[10] who spearheaded the birth control movement, eventually leading to the approval of modern contraceptives. Sanger reportedly solicited the help of Roberta West Nicholson, a Hoosier legislator (1935-1936) and activist, who co-founded the Indiana Birth Control League in 1932, Indianapolis’s first Planned Parenthood center. A New York representative visited Nicholson in the city, describing the “very, very disappointing lack of progress they seemed to be making because there was apparently very little known about family planning and very little support in general terms for such a concept.” Nicholson was convinced that this should change and established a chapter in Indianapolis. Thus began her 18 years-long work as a family planning and social hygiene advocate.

Controversially, Sanger argued in favor of abortion for eugenics, though without the overtly racist undercurrent of most pro-eugenics writings. Instead, her arguments, which often referred to minority and immigrant women indirectly, called for increased access to contraception to assist in limiting the number of children born in their families.[11] At the core of Sanger’s arguments was the idea that “the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty.”[12] Indiana took Sanger’s beliefs a step further and passed a new law in 1907 that authorized the involuntary sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists,” following the argument that poverty, criminal behavior, and mental problems were hereditary.[13] According to the historical marker placed outside the Indiana State Library in 2007 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the law, approximately 2,500 people within state custody were sterilized under the mandatory sterilization approved by Governor J. Frank Hanly.[14]

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), accessed womenshistory.org.

In her work with minority, immigrant and working-class communities, Sanger often cared for women who were “relieved if there was a stillbirth, because they could not afford to raise any more children.”[15] As a result, it was these women that Sanger most commonly targeted with her advocacy for increased access to birth control in place of abortions; however, historians like Leslie Reagan and Joan Jacobs Brumberg have argued that abortions were sought by women in all sectors of society to prevent an unwanted birth or to protect a young woman’s reputation. Reagan found that mothers who helped their daughters seek illegal abortions often cited the double standard between males and females in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as the mother “knew that bearing an illegitimate child would stigmatize her daughter for life while the boyfriend could experience sexual pleasures without hurting his honor.”[16]

Alternatively, unmarried young women who were kicked out of their homes upon disclosure of their pregnancies were encouraged to bear their children in maternity homes, which often refused to admit Black women.[17] Women who lived in these homes until the birth of the children were required to repent of their sin, perform domestic tasks, participate in religious services, and breastfeed the infants for several months even if they planned to give the children up for adoption.[18] Historians like Regina Kunzel have uncovered evidence that many young women in maternity homes tried and failed to abort their pregnancies as opposed to remaining in the maternity homes.[19]

In the 1930s, particularly during the Great Depression, married Black and white women within similar socioeconomic classes sought abortions at approximately the same rate, often citing their employment or role as the family breadwinner as a critical factor in wishing to avoid another child.[20] Furthermore, data has indicated no significant distinction between abortion rates when classified by religious background; however, the timing of the abortions often differed. Catholic and Jewish women gave birth younger and chose abortion as they aged, whereas Protestant women often sought abortions at younger ages, choosing to give birth later in life.[21]

Throughout the 1920s and 1940s, women from Indiana and other midwestern states often visited downtown Chicago to obtain an abortion at the medical practice of Dr. Josephine Gabler, who had established herself as an expert in the field willing to accept referrals from other medical professionals, despite the practice being illegal in Illinois as well.[22] To protect her identity, that of her staff, and the women visiting the practice, Dr. Gabler and her staff instructed women not to call anyone else if they had issues following their procedure, with the clinic staffing a 24-hour phone line available to assist patients. When women arrived at the clinic, the receptionist, Ada Martin, would lead them back to the room and cover their eyes with a towel so they could not identify the physician performing the procedure prior to putting them to sleep. She would then provide them with instructions for aftercare. Dr. Gabler and her staff paid physicians a percentage of the procedure fees for referring patients to the clinics. The clinic also paid monthly bribes to police officers, which allowed them to continue providing abortions openly without criminal prosecution.[23]

Indianapolis Star, May 2, 1941, 23, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers

One police officer who received bribes from Gabler’s clinic was Indianapolis Detective Daniel Moriarity. In 1941, the clinic’s former receptionist Ada Martin, who had purchased the clinic from Dr. Gabler, was the victim of an attempted murder. Tragically, Moriarity murdered Dr. Gabler’s daughter, mistaking her for her mother. He was attempting to hide the bribes he had received from Gabler and Martin. His crimes exposed the clinic’s practices for the first time.[24] Despite raids on the office in August 1940 and February 1941, convictions against Martin and her receptionist, Josephine Kuder, were overturned because the evidence used to build the case had been drawn from illegally-seized patient medical records.[25] During the trial, numerous women were forced to take the witness stand, sharing their experiences and subjecting themselves to the scrutiny and stigma of the courts.[26] One woman’s medical record from the clinic was even published in the Chicago Daily Tribune as a “sample,” and other women had their names and photos printed, further exposing them to unwanted attention and questioning outside of the courts.[27]

From the late 1930s into the 1970s, poor white women and Black women in northern Indiana and Detroit began to visit Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer Jr., a Black physician practicing in Detroit. He was urged by his wife, another physician who had obtained an abortion herself while completing her medical training, to perform abortions.[28]  Dr. Keemer initially refused to perform an abortion for an unmarried woman, who later died by suicide, leading to his commitment to helping other women to prevent a similar tragedy. Many poor white women regarded Dr. Keemer as a preferable option despite his race and gender because he provided follow-up care and, in the case of the procedure failing, arranged for the woman to have care at a hospital, which he fully paid in addition to any lost wages from missing work.[29]

For women able to make the journey to either Chicago to see Dr. Gabler or Detroit to visit Dr. Keemer, there was often concern about the amount of time a woman would be away from home, leading to the risk of others finding out about her abortion and stigmatizing her for her choices.[30] Abortions at Dr. Gabler’s clinic ranged in price from $35 to $300, with most women paying $50.[31] The cost was higher for abortions performed later in the pregnancy due to the added complexity. This encouraged women to seek treatment as early in the pregnancy as possible to limit costs.[32] Dr. Keemer’s patients were charged $15 in the late 1930s, with fees increasing on a sliding scale to $125 by the 1960s. If the procedure failed, Keemer returned the fee paid and also covered all patient fees associated with the woman receiving a D&C at a local hospital.[33]

(L to R): Cincinnati Enquirer, November 25, 1879, 4; November 26, 1879, 4; November 27, 1879, 4, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Access to abortions was particularly difficult for women living south of Indianapolis without the opportunity to seek treatment from the Gabler-Martin or Keemer clinics. In this area, some women resorted to procedures performed secretly by other professionals. One such case that gained national attention was that of Eliza Francis Levesay from Decatur County, which is located southeast of Indianapolis.[34] Levesay had had an affair with a young man named William Myers, and she became pregnant. Because Levesay was from a poor family and Myers was from a wealthy family, they believed it was in the best interest of both of their reputations that she seek an abortion.[35] Her abortion was performed by Dr. C. C. Burns, a local dentist. When Levesay became ill and sought medical treatment, her physician reported the case to the state authorities. While an investigation was performed, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision against any of the parties, and the case was dismissed.[36]

Profiting from abortion restrictions and lack of access to safe clinics, entrepreneurs marketed various pills and remedies that women had shared with each other for free. Women either mixed their own concoctions or purchased various remedies through the mail, with them marketed under various different names to avoid seizure under the Comstock Act, which prohibited the sending of “obscene” or “unlawful” materials through the postal service.[37] Interestingly, such restrictions were often applied only to those packages crossing state lines, urging entrepreneurs to take up the cause within the state as well.[38] Such remedies were not regulated by the FDA; therefore, their safety and efficacy were not established.[39] It is unknown whether such treatments actually worked or how many people died or became ill from using these them. In fact, some state laws, such as those published in 1827 in Illinois, classified the treatments as poisons.[40]

Dr. Jackson’s English Tablets pill packet, 1880-1900. New-York Historical Society Library, Bella C. Landauer Collection, accessed New-York Historical Society.

In addition to physical harm resulting from such “treatments,” Dr. Keemer and others worried about women’s mental health should they be refused abortions. Despite state laws, demand for abortion increased in the decades following the Great Depression and World War II as more women entered college and the workplace.[41] Women needed to control when they would become pregnant because “once a woman was visibly pregnant, her school would expel her and her boss fire her . . . In short, pregnancy threatened to destroy a young woman’s life and ambitions.”[42] To protect their reputations and their futures, women from the 1930s to the 1960s sought illegal and unregulated abortions, which were often performed by individuals without medical training. Other women from the 1940 to the 1960s found sympathetic psychiatrists were able to secure abortions for “therapeutic reasons” to help prevent the “emotional distress and suicidal intentions” that women expressed in order to receive referrals for a medical hospital-performed abortion.[43]

Numerous state and national advocacy groups supported proposed changes to the laws in Indiana. In 1967, Robert Force, an Assistant Professor at Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, and Irving Rosenbaum Jr., a physician, drafted the new Indiana Bill (H.B. 1621) and published a statement in which they argued that physicians needed to fully assess a woman’s prognosis if not able to obtain a medical abortion, much as they would when considering treatment for any other medical condition.[44] Additionally, they encouraged the incorporation of protections for women who were victims of crimes, such as rape or incest, and women with mental conditions who could not adequately appreciate their conditions or care for a child after its birth.[45] [46]

Proposed amendments to the Indiana abortion law, 1967. Robert Force, “Legal Problems of Abortion Law Reform,” accessed JSTOR.

Some of the groups lobbying for change and supporting the Indiana Bill represented bipartisan, secular, and religious organizations, including the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Indiana State Medical Association, American Protestant Hospital Association, Indiana Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Indianapolis Star, and other independent advocates.[47] In 1967, these advocacy groups called on legislators to consider legal precedents in which suicidal tendencies had been grounds for granting an abortion in drafting laws that would protect both the mental and physical health of women seeking an abortion.[48] The Indiana Bill passed the House, but the Senate made substantial changes, which essentially removed most of the proposed amendments, which would have made abortion legal without exception, and it was ultimately vetoed by the governor. While abortion was not legal at this point, Indiana had relaxed its anti-abortion laws to protect the mother’s life.[49]

Ruth Mahaney (right), n.d., in Madison Stacey, ‘It was hidden, you had to hunt,’ accessed WTHR.com.
Women’s Crisis Service ad, Spring 1975, in Julia Kilgore, “Ruth Mahaney & Nancy Brand: Insight into IU’S History of Women’s Reproductive Rights,” accessed IUB Archives.

In 1968, the women’s liberation movement reached Bloomington. During weekly meetings of the IU Women’s Caucus, various women shared their challenges with being able to access abortions, which remained illegal.[50] In response to these challenges, including her friend’s horrifying experience in which an abortionist refused to perform the procedure until she had sex with him, Indiana University graduate student Ruth Mahaney started an abortion counseling center, which came to be known as the Midwest Abortion Counseling Service. This center fielded calls from women in surrounding rural areas, students, and women in Bloomington, and offered support from local ministers and doctors who provided counseling services.[51]

The Midwest Abortion Counseling Service center helped connect women to sympathetic providers both in southern Indiana at IU and in the Chicago area through referrals to the Jane Collective for women to receive safe abortions from respectable providers.[52] In an interview as part of the Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project, Mahaney recalled driving young women to a municipal airport in Bloomington to be able to get to Chicago as soon as possible for their procedures.[53] After the legalization of abortion under Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Midwest Abortion Counseling Service transitioned to become the Women’s Crisis Service, which not only continued Mahaney’s work in supporting women seeking abortions but also provided support for women in other crises, such as rape or divorce. The center also to connected women to legal resources, daycares, and other available resources.[54]

Protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building to support their position in the ongoing abortion debate, accessed law.harvard.edu.

Force’s and Rosenbaum’s changes to the laws remain present in modern Indiana abortion laws nearly 60 years later. The 2022 Dobbs decision spurred further debates about women’s reproductive rights. The Indiana Legislative Oral History Interview project provides a window into the perspectives of former Indiana lawmakers regarding abortion access.

For a bibliography of sources used in this post, click here.

Notes:

[1] Samuel W. Buell, “Criminal Abortion Revisited,” New York University Law Review 66, (1991): 1780.

[2] Buell, 1782; Julie Conger, “Abortion: The Five-Year Revolution and its Impact,” Ecology Law Quarterly 3, no. 2 (1973): 312.

[3] Leslie J. Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 22.; Buell, 1782.

[4] “Criminal Law,” Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, accessed May 7, 2023, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/criminal_law.

[5] “Criminal Law.”

[6] Buell, 1783.

[7] Reagan, 23.

[8] Tamara Dean, “Safer Than Childbirth: Abortion in the 19th Century Was Widely Accepted as a Means of Avoiding the Risks of Pregnancy,” The American Scholar, 97; Reagan, 22.

[9] Reagan, 26.

[10] Debra Michals, “Margaret Sanger (1879-1966),” National Women’s History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/margaret-sanger

[11] Melissa Murray, “Abortion, Sterilization, and the Universe of Reproductive Rights,” William & Mary Law Review 63, no. 5 (2022): 1607.

[12] Debra Michals, “Margaret Sanger (1879-1966),” National Women’s History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/margaret-sanger

[13] “Project Overview,” Indiana Eugenics History & Legacy 1907-2007, accessed June 28, 2023, https://eugenics.iupui.edu/ ; “1907 Indiana Eugenics Law,” Indiana Historical Bureau, accessed June 28, 2023, https://www.in.gov/history/state-historical-markers/find-a-marker/1907-indiana-eugenics-law/.

[14] “1907 Indiana Eugenics Law,” Indiana Historical Bureau.

[15] Ingrid Mundt, “Margaret Sanger, Taking a Stand for Birth Control,” History Teacher 51, no. 1 (2017): 124.

[16] Regan, 28.

[17] Regan, 28.

[18] Reagan, 28-9.

[19] Regina Kunzel, Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993): 68-69, 81.

[20] Reagan, 135.

[21] Reagan, 137.

[22] Reagan, 149.

[23] Reagan, 155.

[24] Reagan, 155.

[25] Reagan, 311. Mrs. Martin estimated in court testimony that she worked as a receptionist for Dr. Gabler for approximately 12-15 years. She purchased the practice from Dr. Gabler in January 1940 and later hired physicians, including Dr. Henry James Millstone, to perform abortions in the clinic. While under indictment following the raids, Dr. Millstone died by suicide from drinking poison on April 17, 1941, with his wife dying by suicide from drinking ammonia shortly after on May 1.

[26] Reagan, 167-168.

[27] Reagan, 167.

[28] Reagan, 156.

[29] Reagan, 157-158.

[30] Regan, 151. Dr. Gabler used surgical techniques for the abortion, including general anesthesia and dilation and curettage (D&C) similar to the procedure following a miscarriage, with after-instructions provided similar to those for women who had just given birth, such as avoiding hot baths or avoiding intercourse while they healed.

In contrast to Dr. Gabler, Dr. Keemer used the Leunbach method, which was reported to be safer and less painful.[30] The process utilized a compounded paste and potassium soap solution inserted into the uterus via a syringe.  The vagina was then packed with a sterile gauze tampon, which would be removed 18 hours later at home. Women receiving an abortion via the Leunbach method, on average, spent only 10 minutes on the doctor’s table and reported minimal cramps, with aspirin prescribed to blunt the pain. Women could return home the same day, and a nurse would visit women at home the following day. Dr. Keemer also arranged a follow-up visit as well to ensure all of the contents had been properly expelled to prevent infection.

[31] Reagan, 154-155.

[32] Reagan, 155.

[33] Regan, 157-158.

[34] Madeleine Boesche, “19th Century Anti-Abortion Laws Enforcement in the Rural United States,” Vassar College Clark Fellowship, accessed May 7, 2023, https://www.vassar.edu/history/clark-fellowship/2012/anti-abortion-laws-enforcement-rural-united-states.

[35] Various sources utilize different spellings for Mr. Myers’ last name, with “Myers” utilized in newspapers covering the case and “Miers” as the spelling in the Boesche article detailing her research into the case.

[36] Boesche, https://www.vassar.edu/history/clark-fellowship/2012/anti-abortion-laws-enforcement-rural-united-states.

[37] Reagan, 13.

[38] Melody Rose, Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide (London: Greenwood Press, 2008): 31.

[39] Sarah Gordon, “Female Remedies: A Little Show Draws a Big Response,” New York Historical Society Museum & Library, June 10, 2019,  https://www.nyhistory.org/blogs/female-remedies-a-little-show-draws-a-big-response.

[40] Reagan, 10.

[41] Reagan, 194.

[42] Reagan, 194-5.

[43] Reagan, 202.

[44] Robert Force, “Legal Problems of Abortion Law Reform,” Administrative Law Review 19, no. 4 (1967): 370-372.

[45] Force, 372.

[46] Force, 372.

[47] Force, 365.

[48] Force, 365.

[49] Force, 365.

[50] Mary Ann Wynkoop, Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002): 136.

[51] Julia Kilgore, “Ruth Mahaney & Nancy Brand: Insight into IU’s History of Women’s Reproductive Rights,” IUB Archives (blog), October 28, 2016, https://blogs.libraries.indiana.edu/iubarchives/2016/10/28/ruth-mahaney-nancy-brand-insight-into-ius-history-of-womens-reproductive-rights/.

[52] Madison Stacey, “’It was hidden, you had to hunt’ | How covert networks helped women access abortions before Roe v. Wade,” WTHR.com, last modified August 24, 2022, https://www.wthr.com/article/features/how-covert-networks-helped-women-access-abortions-before-roe-v-wade/531-8839cfb4-8eff-475f-bd6a-27643eea675b.

[53] Stacey.

[54] Kilgore.

“If Even a Sparrow Should Fall:” The Conservation Work of Ornithologist Jane L. Hine

Historians tend to write about the leaders of movements – the “big picture” people espousing new ideologies or courses of action. This focus makes sense. These larger-than-life historical figures had an outsized impact on our past and they lend themselves to more dramatic stories. But what about the lesser-known folks who make change at a local level? Can we make space to honor these quieter voices and their work putting big ideas into action? In this post we’ll look at the late-in-life work of Jane L. (Brooks) Hine to save Indiana’s native bird species. While not one of the major voices of the burgeoning conservation movement, Hine’s ornithological work helped convince Hoosiers that birds were worth protecting as part of delicate ecosystems, from forests to farms.

Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, accessed  GoogleBooks.
Photograph of Hines courtesy “Charlie Chat” from the Elkhart Public Library, accessed https://eplcharliechat.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/throwback-thursday-jane-brooks-hine/

Jane Levisa Brooks was born in Ohio in 1831 and studied literature at Oberlin College, graduating in the 1850s. She married her sister’s widower, Horatio Hine, adopting children from that union and having three more of her own. The family moved to a farm in Sedan, DeKalb County, Indiana in December 1861. Jane Hine focused on raising her children and helping with the farm work over the following decades. (The family also returned to Ohio for a time before circling back to the Sedan farm permanently). [1] It was not until the mid to late 1880s, when Hine was in her late fifties, that she began to study ornithology (the branch of zoology focused on birds). [2]

Photograph of Hine’s Farm in Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, GoogleBooks.

Women around the world were engaged in scientific work long before they were allowed to study at universities and gain accreditation. Hine joined an informal coterie of women doing physics equations, tinkering with inventions, and categorizing plant species at the kitchen table instead of the university laboratory. Without an avenue open for formal study, Hine simply followed her passion for birds. She became an ornithologist by doing ornithology. That is, she began keeping careful, scientific observations of the birds that populated the farmland and forests around her home in a journal. She also began attending the same meetings and reading the scientific journals of professionally-accredited ornithologists. For example, in 1890, Hine attended a meeting of ornithologists, mainly professors, which was part of a larger meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Indianapolis. [3]

Pamphlet, Amos W. Butler, Birds of Indiana with Illustrations of Many Species (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, First Published 1890), 29, accessed GoogleBooks.

Soon, other scientists came to respect and seek out her data. Amos Butler, a prominent ornithologist and a founder of the Indiana Academy of Science, sought Hine’s data for his Birds of Indiana report for the Indiana Horticultural Society. Amos extensively cited Hine’s observations on bird species around her Sedan home and called her “a faithful observer of nature and a careful recorder of her observations.” [4] Butler’s report was widely circulated by various organizations and the Horticultural Society made Hine a member. [5] After the publication of this report, Hine rocketed to prominence in naturalist circles.

By 1891, Hine was speaking regularly at Farmers’ Institutes, first in the nearby town of Waterloo, and then around the state.  [6] Through these talks, she made a significant impact on bird conservation. At this time, many farmers saw birds as pests, nothing more than thieves of seeds and fruits, and shot them on sight. Hine knew she wouldn’t be able to convince everyone to love birds for their own sake as she did, so she found a more practical approach. She painted a larger picture of the ecosystem around farms, with birds as an essential component. Most significantly, Hine told farmers, birds ate the insects that ruined crops. This got their attention. After presenting at the Waterloo Farmers’ Institute in February 1891, the local newspaper reported:

Mrs. Hine is well known not only in this State, but throughout the U.S. among ornithologists, as one [of] the best among them in everything that pertains to the life and habits of the different birds that inhabit the forests and fields on our farms. Her description of different species of birds that were valuable to farmers as insect destroyers was listened to with marked attention by the many farmers present. [7]

Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, accessed GoogleBooks.

In addition to her talents as a reliable collector of scientific data and a convincing speaker for bird preservation, Hine was a colorful and engaging writer. While she continued contributing ornithological data for scientific reports, she also began writing articles for scientific and  general audiences. For example, she wrote “Tyrant Flycatchers” for the Waterloo Press in 1891 and contributed an article on thrushes, bluebirds, and robins to the Indiana Board of Agriculture report in 1893. [8] Most popular were the articles she penned for the Farmer’s Guide, which was published in Huntington, Indiana, but had statewide circulation and a large readership. She wrote “Birds That Befriend Our Trees” and “Farmers, Take Care of Your Birds,” both arguing for conservation of bird species. [9] In 1896, she contributed a series of articles under the title “Farm Birds in Northern Indiana,” carefully and colorfully describing bird species. [10] Readers, especially the young ones, couldn’t get enough of these articles from “Aunt Jane” and they clamored for more in their letters to the editor. [11]

The Farmer’s Guide 14, No. 7 (February 15, 1902), 97, accessed GoogleBooks.
Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, GoogleBooks.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Hine’s influence continued to grow. Butler again cited her data in a widely-circulated report for the Indiana Academy of Science. [12] She continued to present to Farmers’ Institutes but also to more general audiences, such as literary clubs, around the state. [13] Reporting on the 1899 meeting of the Indiana Audubon Society, the Waterloo Press called for several actions to protect birds. One of these was to have Hine speak widely to the public and especially school children to “awaken an interest in the dear birds by telling of their habits and her own experience watching them.” [14] The article highlights both her expertise and the regard to which her knowledge was held in her community, hinting at how contagious her enthusiasm must have been.

Hine also successfully advocated for the “Indiana Bird Law,” which protected insect-eating birds essential to the ecosystem and especially certain species of trees used in orchards and for timber. She told the Waterloo Press in 1904:

The people of DeKalb county have reason to be proud of our Indiana Bird Law. Only two counties of the state sent petitions, through their Farmer’s Institutes, to the State Legislature for its passage, without which no action could have been taken. Our county, DeKalb, was one of the two counties. The law provides for the protection of our insectivorous birds . . . Our timber and orchards have need of them. Sometimes, both before and since the passage of this law, there has been much slaughter among our woodpeckers . . . but that is in the past; and now boys let us loyally stand by our Indiana Bird Law. [15]

Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, accessed GoogleBooks.

The farmers who attended the institutes where Hine regularly spoke had evolved from shooting the birds on their property to petitioning the Indiana General Assembly for their protection. Hine could have stopped there. She had influenced bird conservation and been accepted by the scientific community as an expert in her field. In fact, in 1906, she presented at the prestigious Twenty-Fourth Annual Congress of the American Ornithologists’ Union. [16] The Indianapolis Daily Sun referred to her as “one of the foremost authorities on native birds in the state.” [17] Fortunately for Hoosier bird lovers, she still had more to contribute.

In 1911, at the age of eighty, Hine made perhaps her most notable contribution to Indiana ornithology in the form of “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” published in the Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game. [18] In this collection of articles on twenty-nine families of birds, Hine wrote vividly on her personal experiences with the various species and their characteristics and habitats. Her serene and poetic writing painted an idyllic picture of her farm and its feathered residents. She wrote:

I have seen, on a misty morning, an Egret that seemed, as it rose white and beautiful in the mist, more like a spirit than a bird. [19]

Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, accessed GoogleBooks.

Each featured bird was accompanied by a full color photogravure (a type of photographic engraved print) taken by Hines. She also included a poem, “My Birds,” in which she made a passionate argument against the killing of birds for fashion or agriculture. [20] Instead she advocated for their protection, based in part on a religious argument and partly through descriptions of their unique beauty, characteristics, and contributions to the natural environment. The poem begins:

No bird that the Lord has created
Shall come to misfortune through me;
Not one of my jolly old Robins,
Though they take the fruit from my trees [21]

After several more stanzas describing all of “her” birds, she concluded:

Not one of my beautiful Wax-wings,
Though they take my cherries I know;
Not one of the birds God has given me;
Not even my jaunty old Crow.

Shall have from me aught but kind treatment,
When He who created them all,
Would feel both compassion and sorrow
If even a Sparrow should fall. [22]

Newspapers and magazines raved about the collection of articles, reprinted large sections, and included her poem as well. She became known far and wide as “the bird woman of Indiana.” [23] For the next few years she continued speaking to local clubs, but her major work was complete. Jane L. Hine died in Sedan on February 11, 1916. [24] The Waterloo Press praised her as “an authority” on ornithology and the natural sciences. [25] Other newspapers, scientific journals, and the Indiana Audubon Society also paid tribute to her contributions. [26]

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, August 6, 1911, 1, accessed Newspapers.com.
Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” Biennial Report of the Indiana Commissioner of Fisheries and Game (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, accessed GoogleBooks.

It would be difficult to quantify Hine’s impact on the conservation movement or summarize her exact place in the history of women in science. But maybe each spring when we hear the birds chatter outside our windows we can just take a minute to thank Hine for protecting our native species at a time when they had few voices to speak for them.

Learn more about bird conservation in Indiana through the Indiana Audubon Society.

Notes

[1] 1850 United States Federal Census, Berlin Township, Erie County, Ohio, August 29, 1850, National Archives, Record Group 29, Series Number: M432, Page 460A, Line 10, AncestryLibrary.com; 1860 United States Federal Census, Berlin Township, Erie County, Ohio, June 14, 1860, National Archives, Record Group 19, Series Number: M653, Page 172, Line 38AncestryLibrary.com; 1870 United States Federal Census, Lawrence / Richland Township, DeKalb County, Indiana, Roll: M593_309, Page 364B, National Archives and Records Administration, Ancestry.com; Seventy-Fifth Anniversary General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1833—1908, (Cleveland, OH: O. S. Hubbell Printing Co., 1909), 121, HathiTrust; Marriage Record, Lake County Ohio Courthouse Records, p. 160, Various Ohio County Courthouses, 1853-1875, Film Number 000974916, AncestryLibrary.com; History of DeKalb County, Indiana (Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1914), 991-92, GoogleBooks; “Mrs. Jane L. Hine Died Early Saturday Morning,” Waterloo Press, February 16, 1916, 1, 8, Newspapers.com; “Jane L. Hine,” photograph of grave, Waterloo Cemetery, DeKalb County, Indiana, Find A Grave Index, AncestryLibrary.com.
[2] “Noblesville,” Waterloo Press, June 14, 1888, 8, Newspapers.com; Jane L. Hine, “Water Birds and Waders of Our Indiana Farm,” [Hine’s journal], circa 1880s, transcribed in Terri L. Gorney, Jane Brooks Hine: An Indiana Bird Woman (self-published, 2014), Indiana State Library.
[3] “The Men of Science,” Indianapolis News, August 21, 1890, 1, Hoosier State Chronicles.
[4] Amos W. Butler, Birds of Indiana with Illustrations of Many Species, pamphlet (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, First Published 1890), 5, 59, 63, 83-84, 92, 100, 102, 104-105, 117, GoogleBooks; Amos W. Butler, “A Catalogue of the Birds of Indiana” in Transactions of the Indiana Horticultural Society for the Year 1890 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1891), Appendix C, GoogleBooks.
[5] Transactions of the Indiana Horticultural Society for the Year 1890 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1891), 12, GoogleBooks.
[6] “Farmers’ Institute,” Waterloo Press, March 5, 1891, 1, Newspapers.com; “Sedan,” Waterloo Press, January 28, 1892, Newspapers.com.
[7] “Farmers’ Institute,” 1.
[8] Jane L. Hine, “Tyrant Flycatchers,” Waterloo Press, March 19, 1891, 5, Newspapers.com; Jane L. Hine, “ A Family of Feathered Friends,” in Forty-Second Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, 1892-1893 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1893), 555-56, GoogleBooks.
[9] Jane L. Hine, “ A Family of Feathered Friends,” in Forty-Second Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, 1892-1893 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1893), 555-56, GoogleBooks; W. S. Blatchley, ed., Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources Twenty-Second Annual Report (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1897), 544, GoogleBooks.
[10] W. S. Blatchley, ed., Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources Twenty-Second Annual Report (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Buford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1897), 544, GoogleBooks.
[11] Farmer’s Guide, July 3, 1897, 11, GoogleBooks; Farmer’s Guide, July 17, 1897, GoogleBooks; Farmer’s Guide, August 28, 1897, 11, GoogleBooks; Farmer’s Guide, September 4, 1897, 11, GoogleBooks;  Farmer’s Guide, September 11, 1897, 11, GoogleBooks; Farmer’s Guide, November 13, 1897, 11, GoogleBooks; Farmer’s Guide, February 22, 1902, 123, GoogleBooks.
[12] A. W. Butler, “Additional Notes on Indiana Birds,” in Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, 1894 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1898), 162-166, HathiTrust.
[13] No Title, Waterloo Press, January 20, 1898, 1, NewspaperArchive.com; “Institute Proceedings,” Albion Noble Democrat, February 10, 1898, 1, NewspaperArchive.com; “Sedan Bulleted,” Waterloo Press, October 13, 1904, 8, Newspapers.com; “Sedan,” Waterloo Press, October 12, 1905, 8, NewspaperArchive.com.
[14] “Our Native Birds,” Waterloo Press, March 9, 1899, 5, Newspapers.com.
[15] “Our Indiana Bird Law,” Waterloo Press, November 24, 1903, 1, Newspapers.com.
[16]“The Twenty-Fourth Annual Congress of the American Ornithologists’ Union: Program,” in Bird Lore, edited by Frank M. Chapman (Harrisburg, PA and New York City: D. Appleton & Co., 1906), 212, GoogleBooks.
[17] “Local and General,” Indianapolis Daily Sun reprinted in the Waterloo Press, August 3, 1911, 4, Newspapers.com.
[18] Jane L. Hine, “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm,” in Biennial Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries and Game for Indiana (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, State Printer, 1911), 294-470, GoogleBooks.
[19-22] Ibid.
[23] “Game and Land Birds of an Indiana Farm, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, August 6, 1911, 1, NewspaperArchive.com; “Talked on Birds,” Waterloo Press, May 16, 1912, 1, Newspapers.com.
[24] “Personal Mention,” Waterloo Press, April 25, 1912, 5, Newspapers.com; “Local and General,” Waterloo Press, January 28, 1915, 8, NewspaperArchive.com; “All Around Pick Up,” Waterloo Press, May 27, 1915, 4, Newspapers.com; Indiana State Board of Health, “Jane Hine, Certificate of Death, February 11, 1916, Richland Township, DeKalb County, Indiana, p. 127, Indiana State Board of Health Death Certificates, 1900-2017, microfilm, Indiana Archives and Records Administration Roll Number 04, AncestryLibrary.com; “Mrs. Jane L. Hine Died Early Saturday Morning,” Waterloo Press, February 16, 1916, 1, 8, Newspapers.com.
[25] “Mrs. Jane L. Hine Died Early Saturday Morning,” 1.
[26] “Reports of Affiliated State Societies and Bird Clubs: Indiana Audubon Society” in Bird Lore, edited by Frank M. Chapman (Harrisburg, PA and New York City: D. Appleton & Co., 1917), 447, GoogleBooks; John Hall Sage, “Thirty-Fourth Stated Meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union,” in The Auk: A Quarterly Journal of Ornithology 42, (1917), 76-77, GoogleBooks.

“I’m Lonely! Please Write:” The Search for Solidarity and the Indiana Crossdresser Society (IXE)

Members of IXE, Courtesy of The New Works News (August 1989): 7, accessed Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives, IUPUI Library.

A note on terminology: This post examines gender non-conforming or gender-questioning individuals. This includes those who identified as “cross-dressers [CDs],” male/female “impersonators,” “transvestites [TVs],” “transsexuals [TSs],” and, in modern terminology, “transgender.” When unsure about how individuals identified or what pronouns they preferred, they will be referred to as the name that appears in relevant publications.

For gender non-conforming Hoosiers, the pursuit of kinship and shared identity was often fruitless, if not outright dangerous. Before the connectivity of the internet and the advocacy of organizations like Indiana Youth Group and GenderNexus, many were bereft of social opportunities and emotional support. Beginning in 1987, the Indiana Crossdresser Society (IXE) served these Hoosiers by providing social forums and offering resources to individuals struggling with gender identity. The group also challenged instances of discrimination within and outside of the LGBTQ community.

The Works newsletter provides a bit of insight into early Hoosier female impersonators (at least in predominantly-white areas of Indianapolis), who performed at bars along Virginia Avenue from the early 1900s until World War II. Articles in 1982 remarked on the resurgence in popularity of impersonators, noting that the Alley Cat Lounge and Disco had begun hosting weekly shows. By the mid-1980s, however, The Works reported that the queer community had been gatekeeping gender non-conforming or gender-questioning individuals, approximately 20,000 of whom lived in Indianapolis. In a 1984 Works article, Jim Chaffin—a gay, cisgender man—chastised the “drag queen” mentality among Indiana’s LGBTQ community. He implied that because society considered gay individuals too effeminate “more ‘normal’ acting gays” needed to come out. Couching his criticism in masculine rhetoric, Chaffin alleged of those who kept their identities private: “you guys don’t have the b*lls to just go ahead and say what you are.”

In the following issue, Roy Pershing, also known as LaNora Takie, fired back at Chaffin’s narrow view of queerness and Chaffin’s insistence that masculine gay men live publicly. The author noted that while Chaffin likely had good intentions, it is the “individuals’ business and no one else’s,” that:

‘We are told that we are wrong everyday by straights and others; so is it necessary for this kind of behavior to go on within the community?’ Furthermore, ‘Could you please tell me what your idea of a normal acting gay person is? Is it an overweight, big mouth who runs a male wh*re house or is it someone who dresses in leather from head to toe? . . . To me, a normal acting gay person is a person who is himself and doesn’t run around forcing him or her lifestyle’ on others.’

The author also felt that Chaffin’s use of “drag queen” was derogatory, and that Pershing/Takie considered themself to be an “entertainer” and “impersonator.”

Facing alienation in the Indianapolis area, some Hoosiers like Betty and Lori attended meetings in Cincinnati hosted by Cross-Port, a group that provided support and social opportunities for gender non-conforming people. According to Cross-Port’s newsletter InnerView, Lori was one of the first Hoosiers to attend these meetings, where she “stood close to seven foot in those spike heels, and spent much time ducking the beams in Heather’s basement.” By early 1987, Betty and Lori helped form a similar group in Indianapolis, called Iota Chi Sigma, better known as the Indiana Crossdresser Society (IXE). About thirteen people attended this first meeting, presided over by Chairperson Laura, who “received special recognition for wearing a dress.” In a Q&A published in InnerView, IXE described itself as a “gender group interested in helping gender conflicted persons in the context of a social meeting.” This included a broad range of individuals, who could “be anybody from the transvestite who just wants to wear womans [sic] panties to the transexual person who believes themselves to be of the opposite sex.” Cross-Talk, the “gender community’s news and information monthly,” remarked that IXE members, feeling that the “gender community was always too hard on itself,” sought to “show a ‘happier’ side.”

Kyle Niederpruem, “Cross-dressers Seek Society’s Acceptance,” Indianapolis Star, 1989, H1, accessed Newspapers.com.

After their first gathering, IXE met the first Thursday of every month at the 21 Club, and within a year, attendance outgrew that of Cross-Port. InnerView noted that Cross-Port members sometimes traveled from Cincinnati to Indianapolis to attend IXE meetings and Christmas parties. While in town, visitors shopped at Glendale Mall and Stuart’s Shoes, and participated in fashion shows at the downtown Hyatt Regency. One self-conscious visitor reported that they were treated courteously at these shops.

By 1989, IXE had over 100 members residing in the tri-state area—which included Kentucky—helping forge a social network of support for the marginalized community. According to an Indianapolis Star piece entitled “Cross-dressers Seek Society’s Acceptance,” most members were heterosexual men experiencing “gender conflict,” and came from a variety of professions, including carpentry, business, and law enforcement. The paper noted that once a month, about thirty members socialized at a Westside apartment clubhouse, many bringing their spouses. At one meeting, cosmologists gave members make up tips. At another, police officers advised them on how to avoid a “scene” in public.

The Star piece profiled IXE member Sharon Allan, who spent about 30% of his life dressing as a woman, undergoing “painful electrolysis” to achieve smooth skin, perming his hair, and piercing his ears. Sharon married his high school sweetheart, Ann, who knew about his cross-dressing from the beginning of their relationship. On their first date, she removed the choker from her neck and placed it around his. Ultimately, the couple divorced because Ann felt that although Sharon “is a wonderful person . . . his cross-dressing left no room for me as a woman in the marriage.'” Despite this blow, Sharon chose to be transparent about his identity with his young son in order to facilitate trust, stating, “‘I came to decide there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. There was nothing wrong with feeling feminine, inside or out.'”

Adam, a middle-aged health care professional, did not share Sharon’s perspective. According to the Star article, he began wearing women’s clothes as a teenager, but reported, “It’s not something I want to do. I got tired of feeling bad about myself. There were times I couldn’t control it.” Despite undergoing aversion therapy, Adam continued to dress in feminine clothing. His wife divorced him when she found out, and Adam noted, “It felt degrading to her and me as well. The discovery certainly was unpleasant. And it didn’t feel good to me. It was shaming.” Rita could empathize with Adam’s despair, having experienced two painful divorces. The northern Indiana police officer considered ending his life. Unlike Adam, Rita ultimately concluded that, despite having to keep the crossdressing aspect of his life private, “I wouldn’t give it up. If there was a magic pill, I wouldn’t take it.” The Star profile noted that Rita had begun wearing feminine clothing in elementary school. While in the Marines, he was able to shave his arms and legs “without attracting undue attention from his fellow leathernecks.”

Despite their personal struggles with shame and acceptance, gay bars afforded gender non-conforming Hoosiers a degree of shelter from harassment and discrimination. The Star noted that the venues were particularly important to this minority group because they provided a “place where men won’t try to pick them up.” However, these spaces dwindled when the 21 Club and G.G.’s closed, which according to the New Works News, prompted an influx of gender non-conforming patrons to other local gay bars. As demographics changed, some bar owners implemented exclusionary policies, perhaps reflecting the assertion of transgender activist Evan Greer in her 2018 piece for The Washington Post, that historically “the predominantly white, cis, gay, male leadership saw trans people as a threat to their slowly but surely growing social and economic political power.” Perhaps these discriminatory measures were an attempt to safeguard this hard-fought increase in social “legitimacy.”

In 1989, the New Works News reported on the fallout of the bar closings. Articles reported instances in which bar owners refused to serve cross-dressing and transgender individuals like Roberta Alyson and Kerry Gean. Dressed as the “woman I am deep inside of my biological male self,” Gean and friends went to the Varsity Lounge in February 1989. After they were seated, their server singled out Gean with a request for identification. The server then informed her that she was breaking the law because the photo on her I.D. did not identically match her face. Humiliated and hurt, she returned home, changed into “male” clothes, and upon return was immediately served.

Roberta Alyson, courtesy of The New Works News (August 1989): 1, accessed Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives, IUPUI Library.

By June, things were no better for Roberta Alyson, described by The Works as a “pre-operative transsexual.” Alyson was denied entrance to the gay bar Our Place on the grounds of not meeting dress code and identification not matching Alyson’s face, despite having a doctor’s note confirming the necessity of dressing as a woman. Bar officials got an off-duty officer who worked security to check the 31-year-old’s ID. The officer crumpled up the doctor’s note and Alyson “regrettably began to panic,” walking away from the parking lot. The officer pursued and arrested Alyson, who later said one of the back-up officers was abusive and tried to lift Alyson’s skirt. Alyson was charged with and fined for fleeing an officer. Alyson addressed the implications of such discrimination in a letter to the editor of The New Works News, noting Our Place’s dress code “flies in the face of the Stonewall Riots and sends a terrifyingly repressive message to the ‘straight’ community.”

Alyson received assistance from IXE, of which she was a member. That year, IXE had “joined Justice, Inc., a statewide umbrella organization for support and activist groups working in and with the gay/lesbian community. Justice has a full time lobbyist at the state capital.” Forging such partnerships would prove critical in challenging discrimination. With Justice’s help, IXE initiated a series of meetings with bar owners, excise police, and allies like the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. These gatherings provided a forum to exchange perspectives and to gain a better understanding of excise laws.

The groups initially gathered in July for a meeting facilitated by police officer and community liaison Shirley Purvitis. Remarking on the conflict within the queer community, she noted in the Star profile that crossdressers are “‘professional people with good jobs. They’re taxpayers. A lot of them have families. It’s time we started learning about them.'” As expected, the meeting was tense. Some owners claimed that they implemented policies, like denying entrance to those whose photo I.D.s did not reflect their apparent gender, because they feared breaking excise laws and making their businesses vulnerable to legal issues. Responding to these concerns, Excise Chief Okey reassured that “the only requirement that excise has for a person being served alcohol is that they be 21 years of age or older. . . . crossdressing, either male or female, is not grounds for refusal of service.”

Courtesy of The New Works News (August 1989): 7, accessed Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives, IUPUI Library.

Other bar owners stated blatantly that they refused to admit these patrons because they intended to “‘preserve the established atmosphere of their bars.’” A 501 Tavern spokesperson stated that these individuals “‘were not wanted there,’ and if they had been admitted violence might have resulted. The bar owners also voiced the fear that if they admitted people in drag their regular patrons might leave.” Our Place owner David Morse sympathized with the 501 Tavern representative. He complained at a later meeting that new patrons had filled his bar with “boisterous, outrageous drag queens in double Dolly Parton wigs and that their presence was very disruptive” to the bar’s masculine ethos.

Works writer E. Rumbarger came away from this first meeting with a greater understanding of those who had been excluded from gay bars. Prior to attending, he had mused, “Did they eat their young? . . . Did they have two heads?” However, he was “very surprised and pleased to find that they were simply a group of very relaxed and congenial people who were ‘doing their own thing. . . . These men quite simply looked and acted like women or to be more precise—ladies.” He added that he could not fathom how any establishment would “object to their presence” and urged that “Greater knowledge and understanding is needed (and quickly) in the gay community regarding the wide diversity of groups that make up the community.” Similarly, Stan Berg, Works publisher and owner of the Body Works bath house, addressed Dee Gordon’s editorial, which criticized the push for greater inclusion. Berg opined that Gordon had articulated the:

feelings and actions of another owner of a gay business who, at one time, and for many years, kept out drags. Now, whether old age, an increasing tolerance for gays of all persuasions, or just the realization that bigotry was wrong, actually changed this business owner’s mind, I can’t tell you. But, that business owner is me. The bottom line is that your arguments are bigoted bullsh*t. My own reasons for keeping drags out of THE WORKS for seven years were also bigoted bullsh*t.

Kyle Niederpruem, “Cross-dressers Seek Society’s Acceptance,” Indianapolis Star, 1989, H1, accessed Newspapers.com.

While the initial meeting spurred greater understanding among certain individuals, it failed to resolve turmoil within the broader community or result in specific policy reform. Upon IXE’s request, Justice, Inc. conducted a survey of those parties involved in the conflict and hosted a subsequent workshop in September. This workshop provided an opportunity to discuss injustices experienced by various groups within the community. Many voiced their anguish about discrimination within the lesbian community, against persons with AIDS, and along racial lines. At the center of the meeting, however, remained the exclusion of gender non-conforming individuals. IXE vice president Sharon Allan detailed the trials faced by crossdressers and drag queens, noting that they “are currently experiencing problems which the gay community faced years ago.”

However contentious, these meetings led to the reversal of policies at some bars and helped open the door to acceptance for other gender non-conforming individuals in Indianapolis. IXE members reported in September that they encountered less hostility at local establishments. Although bars like The Varsity maintained stringent policies, Tomorrow’s was much more welcoming. And while Jimmy’s did not reverse its I.D. policy, employees were more lenient about its enforcement. Roberta Alyson patronized the bar with a friend, who was also dressed in “female attire.” When the server approached, this friend instinctively searched their purse for identification, to which their server said “’Don’t worry about that, honey, we don’t do that kind of discriminating here.’” The Works noted that this action “on the part of Jimmy’s shows that people can change their mind” and should be commended for doing so.

Booth at Pride Week Picnic, New Works News, August 1989, 13, accessed Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives, IUPUI Library.

As the 1980s came to a close, the queer community seemed more tolerant—and perhaps welcoming—of gender non-conforming individuals. The Works announced in January 1990 that the owner of the 21 Club was opening 3535 West, which would “cater to all segments of the gay community.” The piece added, “Now that Indianapolis will finally have a gay meeting place where everyone is welcome, perhaps our gay visitors from out of town who have avoided coming here in recent months because of all the discriminatory nonsense taking place in some of the local bars, will once again return to Indy for a renewal of good times shared in the past.”

In 1990, at the first large outdoor Pride celebration, which took place on Monument Circle, people who staffed IXE’s booth reported that they were generally accepted, if not entirely understood. An unidentified member mused in the Works:

‘We all had lots of fun watching and talking. More often than not people would come up to our table and say hello and then look at what was on display and read the titles of the magazines and books, see the word ‘crossdressing’ and then look up at us and then down at the book and then back at us as a look of surprise and realization passed across their faces. . . . One girl was talking with Emily for five minutes before she looked down and saw the title ‘Understanding the Crossdresser’ and said with utter surprise, ‘Oh, I get it! You’re a guy! That’s cool. You know, I never understood why I can wear anything I want and guys can’t wear skirts.’

Similarly, public acceptance of crossdressers increased slightly following media profiles like that published by the Indianapolis Star about IXE. The feature’s author marveled that not only did she not receive vitriolic phone calls from readers after its publication, but got calls asking for more information about IXE. Indeed, Genny Beemyn contended in “Transgender History of the United States,” that in the early 1990s a “larger rights movement” emerged. Beemyn noted that this movement was “facilitated by the increasing use of the term ‘transgender’ to encompass all individuals whose gender identity or expression differs from the social norms of the gender assigned to them at birth.”

Dan Riley, courtesy of Tapestry: The Journal for All Persons Interested in Crossdressing and Transsexualism 58 (1991): 129, accessed Digital Transgender Archive.

Reflecting this movement, the Louisville Gender Society was formed in 1992, serving people living in southern Indiana and Illinois, as well as Kentucky. At the same time, IXE’s membership notably increased, as gender non-conforming Hoosiers searched for solidarity. In a 1991 Tapestry issue, Gloria C., a 33 year-old “transvestite” who lived in a small town, pleaded “I’m lonely! Please Write.” The auto racing and fishing fan hoped to meet “TV/TS” friends. IXE drew members like Michelle Michaels, a 40-year-old self-described transvestite who struggled with addiction resulting from the “guilt, shame, & confusion” of crossdressing. After getting sober, Michaels—who had three children and a supportive wife—joined IXE because of an ongoing struggle with “acceptance, self-esteem and balance.” Member Vickie Mansfield, “a young 47,” was involved in the Catholic Church, enjoyed “fine wines,” and was only “recently out of the closet.” Dan Riley, a 40-year-old “female-to-male” crossdresser, who enjoyed hiking and t’ai chi, joined the organization, in part, because Dan liked “helping others ‘coming out.’” Indianapolis funeral service supplier Yvonne Cook was not only a lifetime member IXE, but a leader and board member of the International Foundation for Gender Education.

IXE served such members until at least 2005. Although, no longer an organization as of 2023, IXE provided solidarity to so many Hoosiers in distress or suffering from loneliness. Additionally, its members’ activism and willingness to facilitate discussion helped change public perceptions about gender non-conforming individuals and contributed to greater inclusivity within the LGBTQ community. The struggle to obtain societal acceptance and secure civil rights in Indiana endures, as evidenced by recent debates about gender-affirming medical practices. Like the Indiana Crossdresser Society, groups like Trans Solutions Resources and Research, continue to fight, in the words of Sharon Allan, for “‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s a fundamental right.'”

 

Sources:

Genny Beemyn, “Transgender History in the United States,” in ed. Laura Erickson-Schroth, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, p. 28, accessed UMass Amherst.

Cross-Port InnerView (March 1987, June 1987, July 1987, August 1987, December 1987, July 1988, November 1988, January 1991, August 1991, September 1991, December 1992, June 1995, June 1996), Digital Transgender Archive.

Cross-Talk: The Transgendered Community’s Newsletter (September 1991, July 1992), Digital Transgender Archive.

Editorial, Jim Chaffin, “‘Hoosier Gay Boy, Come on Down!,'” The Works (October 1984): 7, accessed Chris Gonzalez GLBT Archives, IUPUI Library.

“Indiana,” Tapestry: The Journal for All Persons Interested in Crossdressing and Transsexualism 78 (Winter 1996): D38, accessed Digital Transgender Archive.

“National Gender News,” Renaissance News 3, no. 1 (January 1989): 9, accessed Digital Transgender Archive.

Kyle Niederpruem, “Cross-dressers Seek Society’s Acceptance,” Indianapolis Star, November 26, 1989, 115, accessed Newspapers.com.

“North American Support Groups,” Lady Like (Winter 2005): 44, accessed Internet Archive.

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