By Jeremy Cornelius
The last time you were strolling down Church Street, did you happen to notice the teal-colored Victorian house, behind the library and across the street from Beloit College’s own physics professor Paul Stanley’s house? No? In that case, you might be interested to know what the house is and its history in Beloit, right? After all, the house has been in Beloit for nearly two-hundred years and has been owned by Beloit College since 1972. Well, if by now, you still don’t have any clue about what club runs the house, then maybe I should just spell it out for you.
Drum roll, and the answer is it’s Women’s Center! A house and club that has gone through multiple changes in club participation, politics and events throughout the years. When the house was established in the seventies at the height of the radical feminist movement, the house used “womyn” instead of women as a sign of their collective resistance to men. Their use of the club was much more intense and instigative toward making changes to favor women and pointing out the patriarchal structures that excluded and oppressed women.
Ties between other clubs on campus have had their ups and downs throughout history (or possibly “herstory”?) as well. The club incited discussions and questions on campus through more radical means than the current club, other than former Beloit College student Amy Cook ’10, who graduated just last year. Cook was instrumental in the club prospering and was interested in uncovering a clear history of Women Center’s presence on campus. Maryn Lewallen ’10 also wanted to unearth the forgotten history of Women’s Center and transform the more exclusive house into a more inclusive environment by focusing an entire honor’s project on it, but was denied the opportunity because it seemed “too ambitious.”
There is archival material about Women’s Center all throughout the house, but none of it has been sorted out enough to create a picture of an exact history of what presence, both good and bad, the house has been on campus over the past 38 years at Beloit College. The club and house still exist today, but don’t have the same perspectives of the past feminists in the house. Today, there are actually three boys living in the house, AJ Haughton ’12, JT Aregood ’11 and myself, Jeremy Cornelius ’12, which seems like a major shift from a club that originally prided itself on remaining exclusively biologically female. What would some of the original members think of this atrocity?
The club’s history remains scattered in pieces throughout the house, but still there are also female members keeping the club going strong, including Dana Wierzbicki ’12, Yetunde Olagbaju ’12, Kelsey Sirois ’13, Marlee Leebrick-Stryker ’13 and Emma Rogers ’14. Catherine Orr, head of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Beloit, is the faculty advisor and provides constant insight on helping the club remain an influential presence on campus.
If interested in getting involved with the club, meetings are held on Wednesday nights at 9:00, and if you eventually want to live in the house, look out for applications in next few months. For upcoming events, the club plans on having the annual menstrual feast around the time for the Vagina Monologues; the “Hot Lips party,” following the last performance of the Vagina Monologues; a topless spaghetti dinner; and a small soiree for the Women’s and Gender Studies majors, minors and faculty members.