Women’s Experience at Iowa State from 1960-1979
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The Bomb Yearbook
The Bomb was Iowa State’s yearbook that included both a student and a year-in-review section. The staff received funds from the Government of the Student Body as it was made by students. Each year, the staff would compile major events that occurred on campus, meaning that each Bomb is a snapshot of what the student thought was valuable for a given year. A common item included in the middle-of-the century Bombs were the "Bomb Beauties". A bomb beauty was a female student whom the male judge thought beautiful. No other criteria were given. While the purpose of the exercise was unclear, bomb beauties were included in a majority of yearbooks from this time period. For women’s empowerment in the Bomb, see the "Activism and Education" tab of this exhibit.
Miss Legs was an annual fundraiser for the Community Chest - a fund for various projects to better the community. Five students were picked to showcase their legs and those who went to the event would typically pay a small coin, usually a nickel or a dime in the jar of the woman who had their favorite pair of legs. In the early years, the organizers covered the head of each contestant with something like a pillow case to ensure that the focus was on her legs. This fundraiser was one of the most popular and highest earning ways raise money for the Community Chest.
For a majority of week-long events that occurred on campus, there would be a queen picked to “represent” and be a model for the event as a whole. While the queens were mostly decided by votes, the actual choosing of a queen seems to have come down to her looks. Her qualifications were simple: be in good standing with the university, and have been at Iowa State for a little bit of time. The most recognizable queens were that from VESHIA and homecoming. Both had “controversies” that stemmed from the decision to keep or end the electing of queens. The main reason many wanted to disband the tradition of queens was because she no longer could represent the university in the changing times. The opponents to that state that the queens were tradition and because so many alumni showed up to these events to support the school, the tradition should remain.
For reasons that are not easily discernible, Iowa State had a long-standing connection with the Playboy brand. Many different events throughout the years had Playboy/Playmate branding. There was a mixer (a dance) in which a Playboy Bunny was invited and showed up in the classic playboy bunny outfit. At the same dance, the ISU bunny was present and had the logo of Playboy on her sweater. The entire dance was named “The Playmate Dance”.
Comments of Interest
These comments were given by female students via survey in 1974 about what they have experienced in terms of discrimination based on sex. The comments were then broken down by different categories that encompass the different areas a student would encounter.
Milkmaid Competition and Derby Days
The Milkmaid and Derby Days were both events that occurred annually on campus. The Milkmaid competition judged the contestants on “appropriate dress for a milkmaid, enthusiasm of their sponsoring residence, the amount of milk they get from the cow, the affection shown for the cow, and the cow’s affection for them.” (Cow Affection Techniques Offered to Milkmaids?, LD2548 lo96b.1966, ISU SCUA). Derby Days was a Greek- affiliated event in which women would wear short shorts to chase the men around a field. The purpose of the event was probably publicity and to connect the sorority and the fraternities. In practice, in both events, women were told to dress and act in a manner that could be degrading/humiliating. Derby Days in particular put these women on display for the fraternity.