Dartmouth women navigated a culture and infrastructure that had been exclusively male for 200 years. Along with the optimism and excitement that met this historic change, these women also faced a negative backlash from a vocal minority of the student body. Women’s resistance to the backlash took on many forms. They led protests, held rallies, and even created and performed a theatrical work that called for inclusivity, cultural change, and awareness of issues faced by women on campus. They achieved all this by creating organizations and programs specific to women to fill gaps in the all-male campus culture and traditions.
In 1975, a group of women students created a series of skits for a sociology class assignment. The series evolved into the student production “You Laugh” which was later performed at the inter-fraternity play contest. The production expressed what it was like being a woman at Dartmouth. The actors shared personal experiences of harassment, gender-based violence, and discrimination. Famously, in the opening skit, the actors recited back the misogynistic words of the infamous hum, “Our Cohogs,” which was performed by their classmates at Green Key weekend earlier that spring.
Women-at-Dartmouth was established in 1972 as the only feminist political group on campus. In 1979, the group changed its name to Dartmouth Women's Alliance in response to student criticism that the name didn't represent all women on campus.
Students sign up for a rally in opposition to the College’s sex-ratio admissions practices. Both male and female students and alumni opposed the artificial policy as discriminatory. By 1980, the College had adopted a sex-blind admission process. However, it took until 2012 for the student body to reach an approximate 50/50 parity.
The campaign for a women's resource center started with calls by the Women's Issues League (third iteration of Women-at-Dartmouth), a student feminist group. WIL petitioned for a center that would "provide a space for all women students, faculty and staff to meet and exchange ideas about gender, women and women's experiences." Because of their petition, the College convened a Women's Support Task Force to review the proposal and evaluate whether or not a center was needed.
This article in the Valley News reports on the College's decision to invest resources into a Women's Resource Center. The article quotes Dean of the Faculty Dwight Lahr as saying that he "knew women at the college had problems" but didn't know how bad it really was. The Women's Support Task Force shed light on some of the harassment women experienced, leaving the Dean in "disbelief."
Take Back the Night started in the 1970s as a worldwide movement to bring awareness to and combat sexual violence and violence against women. The movement made its way to Dartmouth in the Spring of 1979 when approximately 200 members of the local and college community marched down Frat Row after dark. The location and time of day when the march took place are significant in symbolizing where and when women felt unsafe on campus.