1597 Linen condom invented. Previous condoms had been made of animal membranes.
1869 The electric vibrator makes its debut with the invention of a steam-powered massager, patented by an American doctor and designed as a medical tool for treating “female disorders”.
1870 Twenty-four women admitted to the U. of I. (3 years after its founding).
1892 Katherine Merrill becomes the first female professor at the U. of I. (Assistant Professor of Literature).
1899 First vasectomy performed. Unfortunately it was on a prisoner in Jeffersonville Indiana, for purposes of treating chronic masturbation. It was not popularized as a form of birth control until the 1970s.
1906 Maudelle Brown graduates with honors in mathematics in 3 years from the U. of I. She was the first African-American female graduate.
1914 Polly Jacobs takes out a patent for the first bra. The purported inventor of the bra, Otto Titzling, never took out a patent, and most discount his claims. The same is true for Philippe de Brassiere. Olga Erteszek, however, held 28 bra patents. Ida (Maidenform) Rosenthal later added such refinements as sized cups. Prior to the invention of the bra, women were squeezed into corsets which, when tightened to stylish thinness,constricted their organs and caused serious illnesses. If they were large-breasted, women strapped their breasts down using bindings. Marie Tuceks did patent a “breast supporter” in 1893, but it didn’t take off.
1929 Tampons first marketed, though tampons had actually been in use for thousands of years. Around 550 BCE, an Egyptian described how lint inserted into the vagina could prevent conception.
1930 First stewardess employed by United Airlines. Early stewardesses were required to be registered nurses.
1940 Frances Nelson, Champaign, (for whom the Frances Nelson Community Health
Center is named) opens her home to African-American children in need. Later the local Optimist Club helped build her a new home, which became the Frances Nelson Home.
1945 First female Ph.D. in Engineering at the U. of I., Rosiland Yalow graduates along with a class of 400 men. Her degree was actually in Physics.
1945 Vashti Cromwell McCollum of Champaign files a writ of mandamus in the local Circuit Court, arguing the inappropriateness of the Christian Sunday School-type programs in her son’s public schoolcurriculum. As a result, she and her family suffered vandalism to
their home, harassment of their children, attempts to fire her husband, and termination of her employment as an adjunct instructor. (He had tenure with the U. of I., while she did not.) The Circuit Court decided that theprograms violated neither the Illinois nor the U.S. Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the decision was reversed in what was to become a landmark decision in Constitutionallaw. All First Amendment cases involving school prayers, aid to parochial schools, and other “church and state” incursions descend from this case. The Supreme Court decision was rendered in 1948, but it took Champaign schools three more years to comply.
1953 Polyester invented.
1959 Barbie Doll invented.
1960 The FDA approves birth control pills.
1962 A picket of J.C. Penney’s to protest the store’s racist hiring policies and treatment of customers was organized by Mary Alexander and other women members of the African American community in Champaign.
1962 Delores Huerta, a long-time Chicana labor activist, co-founds the United Farm Workers union.
1964 Patsy Mink (D-HI) becomes the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
1967 Organization of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Group, considered to be the first women’s group to use the term “liberation”.
1971 Jacqueline Flenner and Cheryl Frank purchase a duplex at 401 W. California, Urbana, for women in transition. This becomes the first battered women’s shelter in the United States. Champaign County WomenAgainst Rape is formed. These early efforts would, in time, become A Woman’s Fund, which serves as an umbrella over three other organizations: Rape Crisis Services, A Woman’s Place, and Eliminating Violence Through Education. Women in need can contact them at: (Rape Hotline) 355-5203; (Domestic Violence) 384-4390.
1972 First issue of “Cosmopolitan” published (also see 1980).
1973 Joan Severns elected to Champaign City Council. The first Champaign woman alderman was Gladys Snyder, elected in 1962. In 1979, Severns went on to become Champaign’s first and only female mayor.
1974 Women’s Studies Program established at Parkland College under the direction of Judy Riggs.
1976 The Lavender Prairie News, one of the longest running lesbian publications in the U.S., founded in Champaign-Urbana. It was published continuously until 2000.
1977 Good Vibrations, a worker-owned, women-owned cooperative, publishes its first catalog, promoting sexual health and pleasure.
1978 The first Take Back the Night March was held in C-U, starting on the steps of the Wesley United Methodist Church.
1978 Weight Watchers encourages its members to eat liver and tuna five times a week.
1978 The anti-diet book “Fat is a Feminist Issue” is published.
1979 U. of I. Women’s Studies Program founded.
1980 Anorexia added as a diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
1981 First Champaign meeting of the National Council of Negro Women.
1981 One of the longest running radio shows in the area, “Women Making Waves”, first airs on WEFT. Tune in on Sundays from 1-3 p.m. at 90.1 FM.
1981 The Grassroots Group of Second Class Citizens, a radical feminist and lesbian direct action group, was founded in September of 1981. It lasted until 1992, and organized several acts of civil disobedience for ratification of the ERA in 1982, resulting in the arrest and jailing of members of the group.
1982 Jenny Southlynn, Peggy Shaw, Barbara DeGeneive, Susan Smith, Pauline Kayes, and a collective of 42 other women open the New Muse Art Gallery on Chester Street. The space operated as a professional gallery for one year, then fell apart due to divergent feminist views. Southlynn moved what remained of the collective to her studio at 115 W. Main in downtown Urbana. The New Muse enjoyed one more year of shows and events there. The UIUC’s Gallery 9 was spawned from the New Muse concept. Gallery 9 moved to Chicago and became I Space.
1984 Flora Faraci opens Jane Addams Book Shop in Champaign. The store is a general antiquarian store with an outstanding Women’s Studies section.
1986 Women Take Liberty, a feminist pacifist celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and a counter-demonstration to the corporate and militarized official celebration, organized from C-U.
1987 Susan Faupel, then Program Director of A Woman’s Place, walks from Chicago to the Arkansas state capital to increase awareness of domestic violence issues. The walk was dubbed “Off the Beaten Path”.
1988 Charlene Teters stands alone outside an Illini game to demonstrate her indignance at the use of “The Chief” as the team mascot, after it became evident that her teenage children’s self esteem was undermined by this use of the Native American image. A movement is born.
1990 Zelema Harris becomes the first female and first African-American president of Parkland College.
1990 Kristina Boerger founds Amasong, Champaign-Urbana’s premier lesbian/feminist chorus.
1994 “Hysteria” removed as a diagnosis from the DSM.
1994 Bonnie Blair, Champaign native, captures her sixth career Olympic medal and emerges as the most decorated American winter athlete in U.S. history, as well as the record holder for the most gold medals (5) won by an American woman in any sport.
1996 GirlZone offers its first workshop. GirlZone is a volunteer-run, non-profit, grassroots feminist organization in Champaign-Urbana which uses local resources to encourage and support girls in exploring, challenging, and celebrating their individual abilities and interests.
1996 A Woman’s Place moves into a new facility at 1304 E. Main, Urbana, under the directorship of Shirley Stillinger.
1997 SisterNet, a network of African-American women community leaders and activists dedicated to promoting women’s physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional health, is organized by Imani Bazzell of Champaign.
1998 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 1 million women are stalked each year, and an estimated 1.9 million are battered. About one-third of all homicides committed annually consist of women murdered by an intimate partner.
2000 Patricia Avery becomes the first female and first African-American chairman of the Champaign County Board.
2000 Jean Driscoll of Champaign is the only eight-time champion of the Boston Marathon in its 100+ year history, and is ranked #25 of the top 100 female athletes of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated for Women.
2001 American Airlines is sued when its employees learn that their health plan covers Viagra but not mammograms.
2001 Nancy Cantor appointed first female Chancellor of UIUC.
As titled, this timeline is a “smattering” of women’s history. If you know of any other local women’s history, please e-mail facts or anecdotes for future publication to firstname.lastname@example.org.