Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sexism at the University Farm & Viola Russ McBride (103)


Motoring on the Northern California coast some years ago, I happened into a town named Ferndale, yes, that Ferndale, the place famous for well-preserved Victorian buildings and as a motion picture location.

Browsing the bookshop in the local history museum, I found a seemingly homemade booklet, 28 pages long, with the title The University Farm Versus Co-Eds Circa 1926-27 (image 1). The $5.00 price tag did not deter my purchase.

The booklet was published in 1994 by Viola Russ McBridge, who had been a student at the Farm in 1926-27 and was 88 years old when she produced this item. She died in 1996 at the age of 90.

It is a chronicle of faculty sexist treatment of the three women students in the Farm student body of some 300 men. She was one of the three and her chronicle begins with the story of how a Professor Jewell laced his lectures on hogs with “dirty jokes” that often compared women to “sows,” among other such themes (image 4). She ends the booklet with a report on how, about a year later, she cleverly turned the tables and forced Professor Jewell to cease his sexist lectures (image 5).

The booklet can be read in the Special Collections reading room of UCD’s Shields Library.

Viola Russ McBride
In exploring this booklet on the internet, I learned about Viola Russ McBride herself, who turns out to be a “larger-than-life” figure who is surely among the most colorful of people ever to study at Davis--or among human beings in general, for that matter.

Her involvements include her being the first woman head of the Humboldt County Cattlemen’s Association, the major architect of massive historic preservation in Ferndale (and thus of the current town itself), and owner-crew member of an ocean-racing sail boat.

The better to convey just how extraordinary she was, I provide a number of internet snippets on her (images 7 through 10).