By the time I got to Oakland City College, in January 1964, I was well on the road to what we used to call “radicalization.” (We were still calling it OCC even though the name had been changed to Merritt College that year in anticipation of closing the campus near Berkeley and opening a new one in East Oakland.) While a student at a Bible college in Georgia, I had spent several weekends in Tallahassee, 60 miles to the south, with Florida State University students who had been arrested the preceding year for participating in lunch-counter sit-ins with black students from Florida A and M. I had connected with these students through my friend Roy Eves, whom I had met while I was still in high school. These activists had brought me up to speed on the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and leftist issues in general. It was upon the advice of Roy and others in this group that I ultimately moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Also before OCC, I had been fired from at least two waitress jobs on suspicion of being a union organizer, even though I did not at that time know what a union organizer was, and from one waitress job in Atlantic City for singing Baptist hymns with the black cook while waiting for my order to come up. (The hymn? Quite apropo, it was “We’ll Understand It All By and By.”)
At OCC, I ate lunch daily with a bunch of people that included some who claimed to have spent time in a Mississippi jail for participating in the Freedom Rides. For historians, one of the people in this group (not a Freedom Rider) was the late Larry Maatz, who was at that time a stringer and later became a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. I first heard about the Free Speech Movement from my lunchtime companions. We had already been following the Mel’s Drive-in, ”auto row” and “hotel” sit-ins in San Francisco that brought on the FSM, and we were excited that these events meant that now one need not go to Mississippi or the south to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. When the spontaneous sit-in involving Jack Weinberg occurred, it appeared to us that now one need not even go to San Francisco.
At the same time that I was lunching with civil rights activists who had been to the south I was also involved in organizing an OCC chapter of SLATE, baby sister to the Berkeley organization of that name.. Because of this activity I became acquainted with the first person I ever met who claimed to be an actual communist and was pondering her statement to me regarding capitalist society, that “the whole thing is rotten to the core and is going to collapse from the inside.” I had not yet read Karl Marx (though I had been forced to read Ayn Rand at the Bible college), so it seemed like a very mysterious and shocking statement to me at the time, but not later or now.
My closest and, in fact, my only real friend at that time was a blind student I had been hired to read for, a folk singer known to frequenters of the Blind Lemon coffeehouse in Berkeley as Charles Bird. We had early on discovered our mutual interest in both political activism and folk music and had gone far beyond our employer-employee relationship to become friends. Charles had been arrested earlier in the demonstrations in San Francisco against the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Charles was also very involved in founding the OCC chapter of SLATE. We had become an official campus organization in order to address political issues at OCC, but the events on the Berkeley campus were a great inspiration to us in addressing our own issues.
One day after the police car sit-in in Berkeley, Charles and I were talking about what was going on at UC. Charles said, “There are rallies pretty much every day, let’s go down there, let’s see what’s going on.” So, Charles and I started getting on the bus and going to the UC campus frequently to attend the noon rallies.
The whole issue of the right of students to be politically active and organize on-campus was important to me, personally, because I had just been thrown out of two institutions of higher learning in the South and I was mad at those institutions because I knew that, dorm rule infractions notwithstanding, I had really been thrown out for my values and opinions. It had been based in large part on my political sympathies and I had felt very powerless because of that. There was nothing I could do about it. There was nothing I could say about it. I had just been thrown out with no due process or even a nod to due process. I had not even really been told what the charges were against me at FSU. Both administrations had reinstated me, one with the proviso that I never show my face there again, but my emotional balance had not been reinstated. My faith that I lived in a just society had not been reinstated. I still felt keenly the injustice of it all. I had been completely powerless against them. But, here was the FSM. Here was my chance to regain my confidence in my country and it’s alleged commitment to democracy. There was no way I could see what was going on at UC and not connect it to my experiences in the South.
It was also clear to me that this was my chance to rectify any failures I had been guilty of by not being part of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. I had had the right instincts and I had been punished for having them, but I had done nothing that might have had some kind of an effect, nothing that might have really caused a change in the situation. I had not really, in the South, consciously decided that I was going to do something concrete and then taken the consequences for it. Being a white southerner had sort of eliminated me, in a way, from having anything to do with the freedom rides or Mississippi summer or the lunch counter sit-ins.
I had not had the opportunity, it is true, since no group action had ever taken place near enough to me that I could have joined it. The logistics were overwhelming. But, I felt that I had been, nevertheless, to some degree, chickenshit. I was not sure that, had I had the opportunity, I would have had the courage to participate. I knew that my friends in Tallahassee had done so and I told myself now, in the context of the FSM, that if they could do, it I could do it. I knew that if I did not take this chance that was happening right in front of me I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror for the rest of my life. And, I guess, there was just a little tiny bit of a feeling that I wanted my friend, Roy, busted in Tallahassee, to be proud of me.
The Free Speech Movement, for me, was a chance for power—a chance to be part of a larger group that WAS going to have an impact and a chance for me personally– a second chance to do something moral about segregation and racism. It was my chance to put my body on the line as so many had done before me. I decided that if there should be a sit-in, I would participate and if there were arrests, I would be arrested and that is what happened.
On December 3, 1964, Charles and I got on the bus from OCC and went to Berkeley, knowing that something big was going to happen. I had heard the rumors that there would be a sit-in and had gotten myself prepared psychologically to participate. I had left a message for my husband that I might not be home for a month or two. I thought I might be in jail for months in the same way that some of the freedom riders at OCC claimed to have been. The excitement was very tangible. There was electricity, anticipation and the joy of being in a huge crowd of people with similar feelings about something so important. There was not, as some have suggested, any hint of mass hysteria or mob psychology, no hypnosis, no mania, no manipulation, nothing but a sense of mature, rational, thinking, responsible students engaging in a peaceful demonstration in defense of their civil rights and the civil rights of others.
Mario Savio was saying, “Let’s just go in there, if this is our building. This university is for the students, isn’t it? We are going in there and we’re going to sit down and show these people that we have a right to protest the injustice in the world.” That’s a paraphrase, but I think I’m close. That’s what I heard him saying.
When Mario’s famous speech ended and the call came to go into Sproul Hall, I only hesitated for about two seconds, during which time I got a picture of my husband’s face in my mind and I thought about my hopes for an academic career. I thought, “What is this going to do to my life?” And then I just said to myself “to hell with it. I don’t care what it does. This is my chance to do something and I’m going to do it. I don’t care what happens.” And, I just went in.
Charles and I had been standing together listening to Mario and I had assumed all the way from OCC that Charles and I were doing this together but as I started forward Charles pulled me back into a tight bear hug and said in my ear “I’m not going in with you. It’s hard for a blind man in jail. I’ll be waiting for you when you come out.” He let me go and I started walking towards Sproul Hall.
I was among the first few hundred to go in. All of us were moving quietly but with determination. We knew that we were doing something right, that there was no question about it and that we were doing it together. I don’t think anybody was even being very intellectual about it, at that particular point. No one was asking, “Will this really work?” The time was past for those kinds of questions. I felt that I was in a group of people who knew that they were doing something important and that, no matter what happened later, just the doing of this, now, was important. And, that turned out to be true.
Once inside I found people urging us to keep moving to make room for those behind us so I kept moving about as far as you could and ended up on the third floor. However, once I had established my turf by sitting against the wall for a while, until it seemed that there was no more movement on our floor, I left my coat and some belongings to hold my place and headed out to see what I could see. Since Charles had not come in with me, I was completely alone and had no hope of finding any friends, but I saw no one who alarmed me. No violence, no pushing, no loud voices except for the monitors shouting instructions. Everyone seemed calm and alert. If anyone there was stoned on anything, it certainly didn’t show. Much has subsequently been made of one person busted for having a joint in his pocket, but I happen to know the truth of that story and that person really had borrowed the jacket from someone else who had forgotten about the joint. I know because I later met the owner of the jacket. Dope crazed rebels, we were not.
People were talking quietly, sitting against the wall or studying or reading or sketching. I was nearby when students on the first floor began dancing the hora, and it did occur to me that I knew how to dance the hora and could join them but I was too antsy. It was all too unfamiliar to me. I could not have relaxed enough to have enjoyed folk dancing. After a while, I finished my walkabout and returned to the third floor, where I became engaged in deep conversation about social change with the people around me, who were very interested in my experiences in the South. I remained there until I was arrested.
We all knew each thing that happened as it happened because news was shouted up and down the hallways, but the police didn’t get to the third floor for quite a while. We knew that when they arrived and when they came in downstairs. We knew that people had been arrested downstairs and we knew when they were about to come onto the third floor. By then, the adrenaline generated by their arrival at Sproul Hall had abated somewhat, at least in my case. But, when I saw them coming out of the stairs and elevators onto the third floor, I got a whole new shot. I was among those closest to them, so I got to experience the full blast of their entrance. They had helmets, they had batons, they had guns. I can’t remember exactly what else they had, but I seem to remember them as being loaded down with equipment, certainly as looking very large from my perspective from the floor. I was terrified and my first impulse was to run. I was holding onto the people next to me to keep myself from jumping up and running away.
Whereas Mario had impressed me most during the buildup to the sit-in, the person who impressed me the most during the arrest itself was Art Goldberg. Art was really not that appealing, on the surface of it. Unlike Mario, he did not look like he had just stepped out of a Renaissance painting. He was big and sloppy and loud and you would expect him, just based on his appearance, to be crude. He had a puckish, mischievous expression on his face so often that you had to wonder if he was just one of those people who were born with it and that’s what his face looked like in repose. At least, that had been my initial impression of him at the Sproul Hall rallies.
Art was sort of the leader of our floor. He was, in some way, in charge of us. When we knew the cops were coming to the third floor, Art took up a position about six feet from the lobby containing the elevators and started lecturing us on what passive resistance meant. It occurs to me now to wonder why we did not receive this lecture sooner, sometime during the long wait. But, perhaps someone fretted that we might forget it if we got it sooner. Or, perhaps Art timed it so that he could do exactly what he did. In any case, Art was doing a fine job of it. He told us not to badmouth the police. He said, “Now, when the cops come at you, you don’t want to fight them. You just want to go limp. You want to go into a fetal position, you want to cover your head. Don’t show any fear and here’s what I mean by going limp” and as he was saying that, the cops were charging in, batons raised, shouting. And, there is Art, looking right at them calmly, smiling his little smile, going limp as they grab him and talking all the way down to the floor.
I was sitting very close to where he was, within three feet of him. It was happening right in front of me. I could not have been in a better position to see the whole thing if I had planned it. He was saying “This is how you do it, watch me,” while the police were actually grabbing him and shaking him around violently. He was receiving blows from their batons as he went down in the middle of them. He was still talking as he was being beaten. He was curled up on the floor saying, ”This is the fetal position, this is the way you go limp,” as they are poking him and beating him and yelling at him. I believe that is one of the most courageous things I have ever seen, before or since. So, Art was my role model for courage and I vowed that when they came for me, I would try to be as courageous as he had just been.
Of course, that did not happen to all of us. They were just trying to scare the crap out of the rest us by attacking him. That was certainly not the only instance of police brutality I saw that day, but for most of us, it was threats of physical harm combined with psychological scare tactics.
After the initial scene with Art, the cops began arresting people, starting at the far end of the hall from the elevators. I was one of the last ones they got to, so I had a chance to watch a lot of people getting arrested before they got to me. I was trying to prepare myself psychologically, to plan my behavior. I wanted to do it with as much dignity as possible. As they got closer and closer to me, I saw that they had a tape recorder and were taping whatever you said when you got arrested. I was listening as best I could to what other people said when they came for them. A couple of people down from me, I heard what they were asking. They were asking the women, “Do you want to walk out like a lady or are you going to be dragged out?”
I knew there was something wrong with that choice but I couldn’t put my finger right on it. So, I was trying to figure out the answer that would be recorded on the tape and point out the problem with the question. I was wearing my hair in one long braid down my back, something I learned that day not to do ever again at a demonstration. One cop said to the other, “Let’s drag this one out by the braid.” Clearly, they were trying to scare me before busting me and I cannot claim that they failed.
The cop grabbed my braid and started jerking my head around. Then he asked me, “Are you gonna walk out like a lady or do you want to be dragged out?” I mustered as much dignity as I could, looked him in the eye and made the comment that has been treated as a joke ever since. I said, very seriously, “I want to be dragged out like a lady,” causing everyone in earshot to crack up. I didn’t have much time to ponder that reaction, however, as one cop did grab my braid and the other grabbed the back of my shirt and they dragged me away from the wall. I had been sitting on my long coat and had not had the sense to put it on as they approached, so future bustees still on the floor grabbed it and threw it over me as I went by them, reducing even further any aspirations I had to do this in a dignified way.
My “drag me out like a lady” remark has been considered a witty comeback by fans of Berkeley in the Sixties ever since, somewhat to my chagrin. When I told the story around OCC as soon as I went back, my freedom rider friends immediately produced that day’s issue of the San Francisco Chronicle and showed me that the story had even made it into Herb Caen’s column. When Ernest Callenbach, co-author of the popular book, Ecotopia, reviewed my book about the counterculture years later, he asked me if he could mention it and I let him, by then resigned to its comical status.
The reality is that my aim had been to come up with some dignified and righteous remark that would illuminate the false dichotomy, the insinuation that if you got dragged out you weren’t a lady. I had no great ambition to be a lady, of course, and had ditched that aspiration in the sixth grade to spite my mother, who did care a lot that I should either be a lady or be seen as one. If you engaged in civil disobedience, the question implies, you would prove yourself to be some kind of scum. “Lady” was their shorthand word for not-scum. When I said I wanted to be dragged out like a lady, I was dead serious. I had intended to imply “I’m doing this, its an honorable thing and I am still not-scum.” As it turns out, the remark probably got a lot more circulation as a joke than it would have as a dignified statement and, as a joke, probably makes my point even better, so over the years I’ve gradually come to terms with it as a joke.
But, whatever it was, I was not the only person to have said it. I learned much later that something similar happened to at least one other person in Sproul Hall. At the 30-year reunion of the FSM in Berkeley, I was approached by another FSM bustee, a man, who asked me if I had really said that. I assured him that I had, whereupon he asked me what floor I was on. I told him the third. The Herb Caen reference had been to a woman on the first floor who had made the remark and, at the time, I had thought it was just a mistake about the floor I was on.
This man said that he had been on the first floor and they had asked him if he wanted to walk out like a gentleman and he had made exactly the same reply AND for the same reason I had. He hadn’t been joking, either. We agreed that Caen had made a mistake either about this guy’s sex or my location, we’ll never know which, or that he had chosen to conflate them and that great minds work in the same way or come to the same conclusions or however that saying goes. I think this fellow was a bit aggrieved that I should have gotten all the attention, but there is not much I can do about that except present his case here.
Once I was grabbed, it was all I could do not to fight them. The main weight was on the back of my shirt, so that the hair-pulling was not nearly as bad as it would have been otherwise. My every instinct was to fight them but I kept remembering Art and I kept saying to myself, “Go limp. Just don’t do anything. Stay absolutely still.” And, I did manage to do that all the way up to the processing tables that had been set up in the lobby at some point I don’t remember. Then they very quickly changed their mode of interaction with me and said,”OK, its all over, you can stand up now.”
I did not seem to have any instructions in my head about how long the going limp was supposed to continue, so I did stand up. I am ashamed of that now because many people, I learned later, stayed limp throughout the whole procedure. I heard a story about a woman who had, because of that, gotten beaten in the elevator going down to the basement. I think I stood up because their repetitive commentary to sleep-deprived and terrified “newbies” to civil disobedience was so effective. It worked on me like hypnosis. I was by then stupefied with fear and easily handled by huge equipment-laden cops.
I believe they fingerprinted me there, but the details get blurry at about this point in the story. I got taken down to the holding cell in the basement. I was there the whole rest of the time while they arrested people and took them away. I saw a lot of very heavy things. I saw a guy, maybe he resisted, maybe he was a leader, being carried out, passing in front of the bars of the holding cell in the basement, with one cop on each leg and arm and another cop at his head. As they were walking by the cell, there was a sixth cop beating up on his balls with a baton. He was screaming and writhing. I saw many people taken by the cell who were so surrounded by cops that you couldn’t really see what was happening to them, but you knew they were screaming and hollering.
At one point, a non-campus cop came up to the bars and addressed one of the women near me. He said, “You know that guy who just went down the hall getting beat up?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “That was your boyfriend. I think we’ll have to take him to the hospital.” Just as he intended, she immediately freaked out and began sobbing. We all surrounded her and tried to hold her together. Then something else neat happened. A campus cop came over to the bars and said to her, very gently, “It isn’t true. He was just trying to scare you.”
I was pleased to meet that very cop later on, during my first semester at UC. Acting in my capacity as typist-clerk for the Lowie Museum of Anthropology, I was standing with another female museum employee who was also an FSM bustee. We were on either side of the door leading to the room where the Dead Seas Scrolls, then on tour, were being exhibited and we were using clickers to count people in the very long line as they went in. Standing with us as a guard for the exhibit was the cop who had been so kind.
We naturally fell into talking about the sit-in, since all three of us were excruciatingly bored with our jobs and you can use a clicker and talk at the same time. As soon as I heard his voice, I recognized him and said, “You’re the guy who comforted the woman sobbing in the basement.” He grinned a big grin and said, “That’s me.” A very enlightening conversation therein ensued about campus cops vs. Berkeley City and Alameda County cops, leavened with stories about things he had seen, and the three of us parted friends at the end of my shift. I was able to produce that story in later heated discussions condemning all cops in general, though it had little effect other than to make me feel more broadminded than the others participating in the discussion.
Last one standing
If I can claim anything at all unique about my FSM bust, it is that I was the very last bustee to leave Sproul Hall. I am utterly certain of that because I planned it. As the last group was taken out of the holding cell in the basement, I happened to be the second-to-last in line. As we walked to the outside door, I was struggling with the taunt some of the not-campus cops had been making to us–that everyone had gone home and nobody cared about us and we were just dupes, in this all alone.
I thought to myself that if I were the last in line, I might be able to drag my feet just enough outside the door and before we were put into whatever we were going to be put into to get a really good look at what was actually happening outside. I stepped a bit sideways and let the person behind me ahead of me. She was too out of it to notice. Then, I had the fleeting thought that, as unimportant as I was personally to this whole thing, I could now and forevermore claim that I was the last bustee out of Sproul Hall–a little intra-personal gallows humor to get me through the next couple of hours.
After believing for years that I was the last one, I did have the thought somewhat later that I may have only been the last woman. The sexes were separated in the basement and we had had ringside seats watching the men being beaten as they were dragged out. I looked around as we were being lined up to leave and saw no other students, only police, and there was certainly no one else in the cell the women had been in, but I guess I have no way of knowing if there might have been some more men being held somewhere out of sight. So, ok, I was the last WOMAN out!!
My sense of time had at some point vanished but, when I stepped outside the door, I saw that it was now daytime. I noted the paddy wagon, its door backed up to the steps, open and ready to receive us (most bustees had been put into buses, but there were some paddy wagons, playfully referred to later, in my crowd, as “Black Mariahs,” pronounced with a long “i,” referencing what had been used during strikes in the early days of the labor movement.) The next thing I saw was well worth my last-in-line maneuver. There were people everywhere, crowding as close to the steps as the police would allow, hanging from balconies and tree limbs, sitting on each other’s shoulders, waving at me from the roofs of the buildings across the street. It seems to me now, in memory, that there was no place I could look that was not filled with cheering, smiling, waving people.
(All the FSM photos below were taken by Dr. Jim Jumblatt and provided courtesy of FSM archives. There are more at http://www.fsm-a.org/Jumblatt Photos.html)
I stopped still and drank it all in, smiling back at everyone, which was not hard in spite of how down I had been two seconds earlier, until I received a firm push from the officer behind me that sent me stumbling down the stairs. I was not the only one who had gotten recharged between the Sproul Hall door and the paddy wagon door. Several, but not all, of us immediately started grabbing each other’s hands and laughing and talking a mile a minute about what we had just seen and experienced. We told each other, “They were there, the people supported us, we are not alone.”
She’s in the Jailhouse Now, Sort Of
We were taken to the San Lorenzo armory before we were taken to the Santa Rita Jail. The only thing I remember about the armory was that they tried their best to make it into a jail. The matrons indicated the lines of the basketball court and told us, “this line is the wall. Don’t step over this line.” By that time we were all punchy from lack of sleep and everything else. I remember getting into a giggling session with another woman about our pretend jail. “They want us to think it’s a jail. How funny!” We held onto each other and giggled crazily.
At one point, it got very cold. It was an enormous building, probably hard to heat. They brought blankets out. People began running for the blankets, almost fighting for them. I remember thinking, “ Geez, all these people were very together a few hours ago, is it going to break down so quickly over blankets? Is it gonna be Lord of the Flies?” I hung back a bit and it didn’t get as bad as I thought it might. Eventually, somebody noticed me alone and shivering and came over and shared her blanket with me. By then the giggling fits had passed and gloom was setting in.
I don’t remember how we got to the Santa Rita Jail or arriving there. My memories start up again inside the holding cell at Santa Rita late at night December 4 or in the early hours of December 5. There were too many people in the holding cell. We were crammed in there, tight. I was only in there for a few hours but during that time a lot of rumors were circulating. One was that the next stop was a real jail cell. I fully expected that I would remain in jail for some time and had little hope that UC would give me a second chance after this, so I was trying to deal with the possibility of still another setback in my academic career, as well as my new jailbird status. No one else seemed to have any idea what to expect, either. There probably were other people in the holding cell who had had experience with sit-ins and knew that there were lawyers outside working on our behalf but I did not know that. I started asking around what I should do if I was given a chance to call someone. At that point, a woman offered to give me the number of the ACLU. I scrounged up a pen and a scrap of paper, a bit of Spice Island advertising, to write down the number of the ACLU in case I found an opportunity to use it. I can’t imagine how I managed to do that since, more than likely, our purses had been taken from us by then. Probably the ad and the pen were in somebody’s jeans or jacket pocket. I do remember that I felt a great sense of relief that there would be someone to call if I got to make a phone call.
I really had no one to call, no conception that I, at least, would be bailed out, since there was no one in my world with the money and the motivation to bail me out. It would have been pointless to call my husband, Mike, if only because I knew how penniless both of us were. I began to realize that many of the other women had mommies and daddies to help them. It began to dawn on me about that time that there was actually no one in my life that was sympathetic to anything I was doing and that was a bit of a breakthrough for me. It was freeing in a strange kind of way. If I was on my own, then I was beholden to no one.
It came to me in a lightning flash that, if you want to make your own decisions and you want to be your own moral person, then you are probably going to be alone and you are going to be alone, probably, for the rest of your life. So I just cut loose of all my emotional attachments, then and there, except for Roy and Charles. Support from them I had in plenty and Charles this promise that he would be there for me when I came out of jail and I assumed that was whenever I came out sooner or later, but as down as I was at that point, even Charles’s promise seemed iffy. Roy was really only a pen pal, at that point, and it was hard to know if Charles and I would remain friends, once I started going to UC, if indeed I were still allowed to go to UC.
Then, I noticed that people’s names were being called and that those people would be allowed out of the cell and did not come back, but I had no idea where they were going. When my name was called, I assumed I was about to be taken to another cell but then I was told that I was being released, that my bail had been made. I was dumbfounded. Apparently, some organization in sympathy with us was making bail for either all of us or those of us that appeared to be too poor to make bail. It had never occurred to me and I had never been told that my bail could come from donations by Free Speech Movement sympathizers, but that was not the only pleasant surprise I got that night.
In the early morning hours at Santa Rita, rumors had began to circulate that they were driving released bustees (I had assumed these were people whose families had made their bail) to the gate and dumping them on the highway, miles and miles away from any town, with no way to get home. Santa Rita Jail was way out in the boonies. So, now that I was over worrying how I would get out, my fear became how I would get home. I began to panic. It was 3 am. I had not yet learned to hitchhike. I didn’t even know which direction Berkeley was from there.
From the jail to the gate, on the bus, I chewed on that problem. By that time I was beginning to shake from the whole experience. We stopped and I walked with shaking knees to the front of the bus, unable to see anything outside because the windows were painted over. As I stepped down, wobbling, someone reached in from outside to help me. I was very surprised. It was the last thing I expected. Then, I looked up and saw what looked like miles of headlights along the side of the road disappearing into the distance. I stepped down from the bus, bewildered, blinked at the woman reaching for me and said,”Who are all these people? Who are you, who are all these cars?” And, she said, as I fell, holding back sobs, into her arms, “We’re the faculty. We’ve come to take you home.”
That did it. I burst into tears. I hadn’t cried throughout the whole thing. I had been very careful not to cry, even though other women around me were breaking down and were being supported by the women near them. I have to admit that I had actually been a little scornful of some of the crying women and had restrained the urge to go slap them and tell them to shape up and stop being babies. But, the plug had now been pulled and I felt that I was finally released from having to maintain a brave face.
On the long way home, I told the occupants of the car, students and faculty, that this was probably the end of my marriage and I only hoped it wasn’t the end of my college career. I was coming down hard, but everyone there was supportive. The driver, the same woman who had gotten me out of the bus, assured me that my status at UC would not be compromised but she could offer no predictions about my marriage. I told her that, unless some unforeseen miracle occurred, this was probably the last nail in the coffin. When she let me out at the front door of my apartment building in north Oakland, it was all I could do to climb the stairs. Then my husband stuck it to me.
The first casualty of the free speech movement for me personally was my marriage. I had been right to worry. I got home from Santa Rita about dawn, very tired and feeling that I had been through hell in a certain kind of way—certainly not in a physical way, as the freedom riders had, but definitely in a psychological and emotional kind of way. I walked into my apartment and Mike said, “There you are,” and gave me a hug. Then he held me off at arm’s-length and said, “Go take a bath, you stink.” I thought, “Gee, I would have thought there might be a little more sympathy from him if he really loved me the way he says he does.” But, that was it. “Go take a bath, you stink.”
Mike and I, about to take a day trip with his newly licensed pilot cousin, not long before my FSM bust.
As I headed to the tub, I thought to myself, “Okay. If that’s the way you feel about it, I’m just going to go and live my life.” The song I was singing between then and when I left, while playing my clunker guitar, was Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” I didn’t actually leave physically for a few more weeks. I was waiting for the spring semester to start at UC, but I was gone emotionally not long after I got home from jail. What Mike’s remark did was reinforce the breakthrough I had had in the darkest hours at Santa Rita jail. I now entered into a new, much more independent phase of my life.
In trying to talk me out of becoming involved in the FSM, Mike had pointed out that he was going to be a lawyer and anything I did that got me busted could implicate him and impact his legal career. I had never been clear on exactly how that would work. Now, I was determined that I was not going to allow someone else’s worries about their career to influence what I was going to do about my integrity. My attitude was that if you want to be with me, to be around me, you are just going to have to live with the fact that I am going to be doing this and that is exactly what I said to my husband. I told him that I expected to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement as long as action from me was required. I said that I would do whatever I felt was right and moral and that if that conflicted with his view of the future it was probably best that we parted company. He put up some token resistance but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it.
We were not quite through with each other, however. There was one more time when Mike might have been able to head off my leaving him. That was when I was grilled about the widespread allegations of police brutality at the synagogue Mike and I attended and were considering joining. We were, at that point, only going to Sunday morning coffee and discussion, as I had not yet officially “joined the Jewish people,” which was another line of tension in my marriage to Mike. I had promised to convert, with caveats, had completed the required course while we were still in Philly, but had not yet officially converted.
It was the first Sunday after the bust and the very large room in which these “coffee and bagel” discussions were held was standing room only that morning, full of very excited people. Many UC Berkeley students were there, trying to explain events to synagogue members, via an open mic. All of these people were male. There were hundreds of people there. Although it was a reform synagogue, I was the only female student to speak. I may also have been the only not-yet-Jew to speak and Mike, clearly alarmed, tugged on my clothing as I got up to take my turn. It was certainly the largest group I had addressed at that point in my life.
I tried to explain that the Free Speech Movement was about only one restriction on students, the right to organize on-campus, but that there was a wider context that had to do with the role of the university in our lives. Many of us, I said, were clearly adults over the age of 21 (me, just barely), and we felt intensely all of the unnecessary restrictions on us. The whole attitude of in loco parentis, that we were children and the university was obligated to parent us, I hoped to point out, was obsolete. To illustrate my point, I began talking about out-dated dorm rules for women, still in effect at Berkeley.
This was like waving a red flag in that patriarchal group and male voices immediately began to shout and boo me down. In their minds, apparently, I was digressing from free speech issues. They succeeded, ironically enough, in heading off any further free speech on my part. I was unable to finish my point and sat down, very pissed off. Mike later sneered, “Well, what did you expect? Women’s dorm rules have nothing to do with free speech.” Having recently been expelled from two different colleges for holding unacceptable political views, on the pretext that I had broken women’s dorm rules that did not exist for men, I was not very open to that idea. Somewhat cowed by the experience at the time, I now understand that I was merely years ahead of my time.
During the social part of this gathering, I was surrounded and attacked by what was probably the same group of young men. One could easily imagine that they were lawyers or law students, men very similar to my husband. Again, there was not a single woman in this group or a single FSM participant who would defend me. After castigating me for bringing up irrelevant issues like women’s dorm rules, they moved on to my claim of police brutality, specifically my story about Art Goldberg and the man I had seen beaten in the basement of Sproul Hall. They asked me how I knew it, how I could see what was happening, if Art and this other man had been surrounded by cops. My answer was that, in both cases, I was sitting on the floor and it happened exactly in front of me, so that I could glimpse snatches of action between the legs of the cops.
I have always resented that these young men, who, I gathered, had not been there, would impugn my credibility by suggesting that I had either imagined or made up both stories and that resentment figured largely into firming up my resolve to go through with leaving my husband. I felt that, rather than sneering, he should have come to my rescue in that situation. He knew how honest I was and at how much of a disadvantage I was, a shaky little southern “shiksa” defending herself to a bunch of future Jewish lawyers, male future Jewish lawyers. He was a future lawyer. He knew me. He should have defended me. If I had been waffling at all about leaving him, that little scene fixed it.
The two of us were subsequently hauled over by synagogue members to meet an elderly Dutch Jewish couple who had survived the holocaust and were eager to lecture us/me. For about two hours I was told in no uncertain terms that I knew nothing about restriction, nothing about oppression, because I lived in such a free country. I had no right to complain about anything, and I would not presume to complain if I had seen what they had seen. In respect for their experience, I did not defend myself to them. I did not point out that if I have no right to complain about anything because I live in a free country, my country is not all that free.