Dr. June Benowitz

Bulls Notebook: History prof. spotlights right-wing women in new book

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: November 09, 2015

SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee associate professor of history Dr. June Benowitz explores the rise of right-wing women’s groups and their connection to today’s far right in her new book “Challenge and Change: Right-Wing Women, Grassroots Activism, and the Baby Boom Generation” (University Press of Florida).

The 368-page book, out a month ago, took nearly four years to research and follows Benowitz’s previous work, “Days of Discontent: American Women and Right-Wing Politics, 1933–1945.” She said she hopes the publication is used in history classes regarding the era, women’s studies and political science programs at universities.

“The editor of my earlier book said now that Days of Discontent is done why not follow up with one on a later period after World War II?” said Benowitz. “This is that book.”

The book is divided into two parts: The first examines the influence of conservative women’s groups on education, public health and school desegregation. The second looks at the rise of traditional family values in public discourse, the Vietnam War, and right-wing women who fought against women’s liberation and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

In researching “Challenge and Change,” Benowitz said she crisscrossed the country to pore over archival materials at libraries and universities.

A few surprises emerged during her examination, including how groups opposed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s reforms successfully pressured college and high school leadership to eliminate texts with references to his New Deal programs. William F. Buckley Sr., father of William F. Buckley Jr., the conservative founder of the National Review, aided in the effort, overseen by Lucille Cardin Crain of the Educational Reviewer.

“They considered New Deal programs as a step toward communism,” said Benowitz, adding this happened as McCarthyism was sweeping the nation.

In other instances, she writes about right-wing groups opposed to the fluoridation of public water supplies – contending fluoridated water causes brain damage – and to polio vaccinations because they were thought to be part of a communist conspiracy. For the most part, the groups distrusted large central governments and liberal elites.

Benowitz also goes on to chronicle women of the 1970s who opposed women’s liberation and the ERA. She found that some who called for a return to traditional female roles were themselves unconventional, joining picket lines in often loud protest to the women’s libbers.

Researching her book, she said she couldn’t help but draw parallels between certain events of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and those of today. Back then, she said, groups opposing a particular policy or program often turned to a handful of “experts” to make their case while ignoring the vast consensus from the rest of scientific or medical community.

Today’s global warming debate uses that same strategy, she said. “The same thing is happening today.”

USFSM to host Open House for prospective students, transfers

USF Sarasota-Manatee will hold an Open House for prospective freshmen, transfer students and graduate students on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. 

The event, on the USFSM campus at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, looks to be the largest Open House yet. Included will be campus tours, free food and presentations on academics, admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and student life. Help will be available for admission applicants.

The Open House, one of two held each semester, comes amid rising attendance at the university. Enrollment this past fall hit a 7-year high with 2,038 “home” students – those who identify the Sarasota-Manatee campus as their home USF System campus.

Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Andrew Telatovich said he expects a mix of prospective undergraduate and graduate students seeking admission for the upcoming spring, summer or fall 2016 semesters.

For more information about the Open House, contact Sean Grosso at (941) 359-4264 or sgrosso@sar.usf.edu.

Another Open House is set for prospective biology majors for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota.

USFSM to head to Bulls-Owls game

Saturday’s USF Bulls-Temple Owls football game promises to have a larger-than-usual USF Sarasota-Manatee contingent.

The campus is participating in “Get on the Bus Day,” an annual event where students, faculty and staff meet at the USFSM parking lot to ride a bus to Raymond James Stadium. Admission to the game is free. Tailgating is two-hours before the 7 p.m. kickoff.

The 5-4 Bulls need one more win to secure a bowl appearance. Be part of the action by filling out the form at http://goo.gl/forms/xabrcuOr4v.

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