A Decade of Change
Lauren Meilleur, Amber Devillier, Megan Lavergne, Everett Germany
From 1960-1970 there was a shift in political, social, and economical aspects worldwide. This was a time of civil rights, the Vietnam war, JFK’s assassination, and integration. These changes began to impact the dynamics on LSU’s campus. Many students began to feel the need to speak up. Specifically, women on campus decided that they deserved more freedom. They were ready to fight against the strict dress code. The first change they decided to fight for was the ability to wear pants. In the early 60’s female students did not have the liberty to dress as they wished on or off campus. They were expected to abide by the L Book rules no matter where they went, unless they were visiting their families. The Associated Women Students, or AWS, was an organization that was created for the female students. Originally, this organization was quite inactive. They were never able to bring about changes that their fellow students proposed. A change in presidency of the club brought about renewed momentum. The club had a leader that was ready to negotiate with the higher ups. These women soon found an ally in the newly appointed Dean of Women, Margaret Jameson. Jameson accepted the position in 1966 and later went on to become the first Dean of Students from 1976-1989. The students had many doubts about their new dean. They craved change, but they feared Jameson would not comply to their requests. Little did they know that Jameson was the instrument they needed to accomplish their agenda.
Women at the time were limited in various ways, and dress code was one of the biggest areas of concern. According to the L Book of 1959-1961, women could not wear sports pants (slacks, jeans, Bermuda shorts, etc.) on or off campus unless they were in areas designated for women only. They could wear shorts during sports activities, but they had to wear a skirt over the shorts to and from the area in which the activity was taking place (L Book). Whereas, men were allowed to wear whatever they pleased. The L Book sectioned off rules for both men and women; however, the rules for women were more restricting. The rules for male students were summed up in nine key points, whereas, the rules for female students were longer and more detailed. While all students were expected to understand and follow the rules, women were held to a higher standard of responsibility. A test was given to all incoming women students to fully evaluate their knowledge of the rules (L Book). In addition to the L Book rules, there was a publication put out by the AWS and the Dean of Women in 1963
called Socially Speaking. Figure 1 depicts the front cover of this guide. This book was to be used as an all-encompassing guide for the freshmen girls enrolled at LSU. It outlined topics like how to dress, how to impress a friend, how to become popular and even the rules of dating. Essentially, the publication stated that girls were in competition with each other. The authors claimed that a nice hairstyle, clothes, and a neat appearance is needed to impress others. The dress code was broken down into a chart with how women should dress for different events. These included classes, concerts, church, receptions, sports events, and school formals. For example, what was considered acceptable for classes was a tailored dress or skirt with a sweater or blouse paired with loafers (Socially Speaking). These highly restrictive rules were unfair to women and they were tired of complying. Times were changing, and these women realized they wanted to be free to express themselves through their clothing. This change in dress code was going to be championed by the once muted AWS.
The AWS, shown in Figure 3, was established as a way that women students could have their voices heard. They claimed to fight for equality for women, but they had not actually accomplished anything. This was apparent to the female and even male students. According to an article in The Daily Reveille in 1967, this was about to change. The new president Cynthia Leigh was a welcomed change to the organization. Leigh was tired of the AWS being complacent. This was the year that the AWS finally became the voice of the collective women students at LSU (The Daily Reveille). Leigh was in luck, because she was able to find a confidant in Margaret Jameson, shown in Figure 4. Jameson had been Dean of Women for just a year, and students were ready to start by changing something small, being able to wear pants. Jameson was able to be a sounding board and help these women make great strides in changing regulations. After years of complaints falling on deaf ears, these women were finally about to make waves.
The first major change in dress occurred in 1968. An article in The Daily Reveille quotes Jameson saying “Clothing is one of the means by which we bolster our self-esteem and seek acceptance from others. I believe a person’s mood is often conveyed by the clothing he wears.” (The Daily Reveille). Jameson understood that the dress code was constricting the freedom of expression for the women. That same year, the AWS asked Jameson that women students be allowed to wear long pants. In addition to this request, they also asked that all of the dress rules for women be eradicated, unless they were in academic and administrative areas (Morning Advocate). Jameson had approved those requests just two days after the AWS presented the recommendation to her. Jameson went on to applaud the AWS for being “diligent, thorough, and sincere.” (The Daily Reveille). Jameson admired the women in the AWS and she was extremely willing to work with them to bring about change.
1969 brought a change in AWS presidency, Patti Hair was elected, and she was ready to tackle regulation issues. Hair wanted to have a direct line of communication between the club and Jameson (The Daily Reveille). That year, a rule was passed by Jameson that allowed women to dress however they liked, unless they were in academic areas. This meant that they could wear dresses, skirts, culottes, or pants dresses in those areas (The Daily Reveille). A whole section of the L Book that dictated what women could wear was removed. The campus soon saw a change in casual dress. Women were allowed to wear short skirts, pants, bell-bottoms, and shorts on the grounds. This is shown in Figure 5; women were now free from the restraints of the dress code. This was a huge step for bringing about the equality that these women wanted (First Day). Eventually, these very small changes led to the complete freedom of dress that we currently experience. Women were finally able to decide what they wanted to wear.
It is crucial to acknowledge these women, both those in the AWS and Jameson, for being pioneers for change. These women were able to gain freedom of expression for their fellow women. It might seem trivial that they were fighting for the ability to wear pants, but in the grand scheme of things, they were pushing for the equality they deserved. These miniscule changes led to grand changes, which ultimately led to loss of dress code for women completely. An interview with Jameson was done in the 90’s to get her side of the story on working as the Dean of Women and later Dean of Students. Jameson ended up being a crucial element to changing dress code. Her background helped her to gain leverage with men and women alike. She received a degree in engineering, which was and still is, a male dominated field. She knew how to approach the influential men on campus, something her female coworkers and the previous Dean, did not know how to do. It is important to give Jameson the recognition she deserves. She wanted to help the women in the club achieve what they wanted in a respectful and mature way. This guidance helped the students learn how to achieve what they wanted in an orderly way. Without Jameson, change would have been a lot harder, and could have taken a longer time to achieve.
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“AWS…” The Daily Reveille, 6 Dec. 1968, pp. 1-5. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“AWS Candidate Gives Views on Rule Changes, Jameson.” The Daily Reveille, 7 Mar. 1969, p. 4. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“First Day.” The Daily Reveille, 29 Apr. 1969. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“How to Dress Chart.” Socially Speaking, 1963.Accessed 10 April 2018.
Jameson, M. Margaret, interview by Pamela Dean, Margaret Jameson. 1993. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Judice, Carol. “Dress Rules Ban in Effect Today–Dean M. Jameson.” The Daily Reveille, 29 Apr. 1969. Accessed 3 April 2018.
L Book. Vol. 1967-1969, 1967. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“Long Pants OK Will Be Asked of LSU Dean.” Morning Advocate, 7 Dec. 1968. Accessed 10 April 2018.
“Margaret Jameson Working.” T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, 1967. Accessed 6 April 2018.
Read, Jennifer. “Dean Jameson Changes Coed Dress Rules.” The Daily Reveille, 3 Dec. 1968. Accessed 3 April 2018.
Simopoulos, Dennis. “The AWS No One Knew.” The Daily Reveille, 1 March. 1967. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“Socially Speaking Pamphlet.” Socially Speaking, 1963. Accessed 10 April 2018.
“The AWS in 1960.” Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1960, 1960. Accessed 6 April 2018.
“Women on Campus in 1970.” Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1970, 1970. Accessed 6 April 2018.