On This Day in IUPUI History: April 8, 1982

April 8, 1982. 

On this day, two student groups hosted a debate on the IUPUI campus between two nationally prominent figures in the battle over women's equality in the United States. The discussion between Karen DeCrow, a New York-based attorney and former leader of the National Organization for Women, and Phyllis Schlafly, also an attorney and leader of the "Stop ERA" movement that opposed the proposed equal-rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution, attracted wide attention and a large audience. The IUPUI Progressive Student Union and the Women's Student Caucus sponsored the event.

The overflowing crowd--estimated to be between one thousand and 1200--packed into the Lecture Hall to witness the occasion. The two student groups moderated the event ably. After introductions, the speakers gave ten-minute opening statements in which they answered the question, "What is woman's role in society today?" Both women hewed to their established arguments in their statements and the rest of the debate. According to a report published in the Sagamore, the IUPUI student newspaper, Schlafly asserted that rising affluence in the United States allowing male workers to support their families afforded women the privilege of bowing out of the work force. A man, she said, was "able to take his wife out of the factories and the fields and the sweatshops and the mines... and allow her to have a better quality of life in the home." Forcing equality on women by passage of the amendment would compel the return to "drudgery." DeCrow countered that men and women should be equal under the law: men should enjoy the same privileges as Schlafly advocated for women.

According to the Sagamore reporter on the scene, the audience, overwhelmingly made up of women, was firmly on the side of DeCrow and her arguments for equality. DeCrow's lines: "Men should not be the wallet for women," and "A woman's place is every place," received much applause from the audience. She scored points with her audience when she stated sarcastically that the growing inability of two-earner households to make ends meet under Schlafly's view would mean resorting to "menage-a-trois" arrangements. "Her sentence was drowned out by the laughter and applause," reported the journalist. At other times audience members laughed and hissed at Schlafly's statements. In the end, of course, Schlafly won the national debate as ERA failed to pass the required number of state legislatures. 

Afterwards, a letter writer in the Sagamore offered congratulations to IUPUI students, staff, and faculty for turning out in "droves" on the occasion. While the debaters attracted large crowds wherever they went, IUPUI was notorious for low turnouts for comparable events. The two student organizations were owed thanks for running the event so well. Student activities fees had been well spent.

 Sagamore April 14, 1982

IUPUI has hosted many prominent speakers. To learn who has visited the campus, please consult records in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives. You can contact staff at speccoll@iupui.edu.

Updated Apr 08, 2019 by setowne