Madison in the Sixties – the last week of June, 1966
On the 24th, the Common Council starts the process to end racial discrimination in private clubs by adopting a report from the Equal Opportunities Commission proposing six steps the city should take to ban such bias. Among them – that no new liquor licenses be granted to any private organizations which practice “invidious” discrimination in their membership policies. Three private clubs in Madison currently follow the “whites-only” clause in their national charters – the Eagles, Elks, and Loyal Order of Moose. The Council agrees with the EOC recommendation that “at some future date” after 1969, those clubs also have to end their racist membership policies, or lose their liquor licenses.
In a not-unrelated development, the Madison Board of Realtors may be inching away from its opposition to a new federal fair housing law. A majority of members attending the board’s meeting this week vote against continuing to support their national board’s long-standing opposition to fair housing as “forced housing.” But there aren’t enough members present for a quorum, so the meeting isn’t official, and the local board’s long-standing opposition to fair housing remains in place.
On Tuesday afternoon, June 28, three-year-old Ruth Ellen Freedman is with her mother, older brother and some other children at the Henry Vilas Zoo. The family is spending the summer in Madison because Ralph Freedman, an English professor at Princeton University, is about to start a guest lectureship at UW. The youngsters all want to see the famous elephant Winkie, brought here by the pennies and nickels of children in 1950. The mothers warn the children to stay back, but several crawl through an opening under the fence to approach the cage itself. Erected in 1926 as temporary quarters, the small cage has bars that are ten inches apart. Ruth Ellen goes with them, unknowingly teasing Winkie by stretching out her hand with popcorn, then bringing it back. Suddenly, the 7,500-pound pachyderm grabs the girl’s wrist with her trunk and pulls her through the bars, flinging her down like a doll and stomping on her as everyone screams. Keeper Melvin Bollig comes running as the elephant trumpets, but it’s too late. Two days after the tragedy, the zoo begins blocking the opening.
This is the first fatal accident at the Zoo since 1934, when nine-year-old Jimmy Caravello was killed by a polar bear after he slipped while climbing a tree near the bear’s cage and fell into the enclosure.
Friends and neighbors send $75 to the Freedmans, which they donate to the Madison Public Library in Ruth Ellen’s memory, for preschool picture books in the Children’s Room in the new main library, which this week celebrates its first anniversary; a special bookplate will mark each volume indicating the gift. In fall, the zoo trades Winkie and $3,500 to a breeding farm in Woodland, Washington, for a 420-pound, ten-month-old elephant, whom they call Winkie Two. Winkie is later moved to the Portland Zoo, where she resides until 1977, when she is moved to the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, where she dies in 1982 at age thirty-five.[i]
June 29, about 250 students rally on the Library Mall to protest President Johnson’s decision to bomb North Vietnamese oil supplies targets near the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. Among those speaking are philosophy teaching assistant Robert Cohen, who says America is “becoming known as a monster,” and sociology TA Evan Stark, acting chair of the Committee on the University and the Draft, who compares the action to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as “an attack on civilization itself.”
In a not-unrelated development, the Internal Security Subcommittee of the United States Senate issues a report alleging that political demonstrations at the UW and the University of California at Berkeley are backed by the Communist Party. The 41-page report calls the W.E.B. DuBois Club “the most direct link between the New Left and the established Communist apparatus,” and names 13 individuals it says consciously follow the Communist Party line, including Sociology Professor Maurice Zeitlin, Law Professor William Gorham Rice, Daily Cardinal writers John Gruber and Don Bluestone, and others. The report is based on testimony in 1965 from former Madison radio commentator Robert Siegrist. The students named dismissed Siegrist’s assertions as ludicrous.
On the 29-30, UW director of continuing education Dr. Katherine Clarenbach, chair of the Wisconsin commission on the status of women, is in Washington DC as a delegate to the federal Status of Women conference, where she plans to introduce a resolution demanding the federal Equal Opportunities Commission enforce the gender-based provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She’s “absolutely appalled” when the women running the conference won’t let her, for risk of offending the Johnson administration. It crystallizes her understanding of the need for a national lobby like the NAACP to apply outside pressure. So she organizes a like-minded group of activists, starting with Betty Friedan, to sit together at the closing luncheon, and founds modern feminism. The eight women decide on the name National Organization for Women (NOW), which Friedan writes on a napkin. The organization’s goal: “To take the actions needed to bring women into the mainstream of American society.” Others at the luncheon join the effort; by dessert, twenty-seven women have put down five dollars each, which Clarenbach collects (along with the napkin), becoming NOW’s first secretary. In October, Clarenbach organizes the temporary steering committee that organizes NOW’s founding conference, where she is elected chair of the board.[ii]
And the Madison Youth Commission is recommending that businesses and organizations which hold teen dances continue to ignore two state statutes concerning age and parental escorts. State Law currently provides that persons under 18 may not attend a public dance unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, and that the curfew for persons under 16 is 10 pm. Police Chief Wilbur Emery says starting to enforce the laws would probably end the growing activity of teen dances, but “if I get an indication the public wants the law enforced, I will enforce it.” The Commission makes ten recommendations, including that dance sponsors prepare a list of “objectionable persons” who are not allowed to enter.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, vaccine taking, war-protesting, feminist-supporting, teen-dancing WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo of Dr. Katherine Clarenbach, courtesy Madison Newspapers Inc.
[i] Roger Girbble, “Zoo Elephant Winkie Grabs, Kills Girl, 3,” WSJ, June 29, 1966; “City to Block Area under Gate Where Tot Entered Winkie’s Cage,” WSJ, June 30, 1966; James Maraniss, “Child Zoo Visitors Think Winkie Should Be Punished,” CT, June 30, 1966; Zweifel, “Zoo Begins Blocking Gate Opening at Winkie’s Cage,” CT, July 1,1966; “A Parting Gift to Madison,” CT, August 17, 1966; “Zoo Trades Winkie to Farm in West,” CT, October 14, 1966; Coyle, “With a Few Tugs and Heaves, Winkie Yields Her Home to Youngster,” CT, October 28, 1966; Larry Avila, “Just Ask Us,” WSJ, May 22, 2017; Becky Harth Landes, Facebook exchange[with author?], May 27, 2017.
[ii] Ellen Chesler, “Lives Well Lived: Katherine Clarenbach; NOW, Then,” New York Times, January 1, 1995; Katherine Clarenbach, 1987, OH# 0466, digital audio file, University Archives and Records Management Services, Madison, Wisconsin.