February 4, 1972

East Asian Studies Oriental Languages and Literatures building at 1332 Louisiana.jpg

The East Asian Studies building at 1332 Louisiana was occupied by the February Sisters on February 4, 1972.

Flyer Announcing Occupation of East Asian Building.pdf

A document announcing the seizure and occupation of the East Asian Studies building by the February Sisters, including a statement about why the building was chosen.

Christine Leonard in a robe running down a hall with hand outstretched to the camera.jpg

Christine Leonard, in the East Asian Studies building during the occupation, in a robe running down a hall with hand outstretched to the camera.

February Sisters Occupation Flyer.pdf

A flyer announcing the February Sisters seizure of the East Asian Studies building that was handed out on KU campus during the occupation

Christine Leonard standing at a podium with a young child standing on a chair next to her.jpg

Leonard speaks at a press conference about the proposed child care center and the possible places in which to house the center.

A Letter to Faculty Women Concerning the Action of the February Sisters.pdf

A letter to the women faculty of KU from the February Sisters addressing their actions of February 4, 1972.

SenEx News Release Regarding February Sisters Feb 5 1972.pdf

News release from the KU Senate Executive Committee regarding the February Sisters' occupation of the East Asian Studies building.

February Sisters Press Release.pdf

Press release from the February Sisters after their occupation of the East Asian Studies building on February 4, 1972.

Statements of Women Faculty Released to February Sisters.pdf

Statements of KU women faculty members addressing the treatment and rights of women at the University.

At 6:00 p.m. on Friday February 4, 1972, various checkpoints set up by the February Sisters were notified that the East Asian Studies building had been chosen, and the occupation began. A half an hour later, the occupants of the building consisted of 20 women between the ages of 18 and 40 and four children between the ages of six months to five years. All of those participating in the occupation were volunteers. At 6:30, statements drafted by the February Sisters were released to the press, a registered letter was delivered to Chancellor Chalmers notifying him of the occupation, and leaflets about the occupation and the demands of the February Sisters were distributed on campus. The demands of the February Sisters included: an Affirmative Action program planned and directed by women, a campus daycare center financed by the University, that the empty position of Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs be filled by a woman, an end to unfair employment practices (including the large wage discrepancies between women and male employees), a Women’s Studies department, and a Women’s Health program.

About three hours after receiving news about the occupation Chancellor Chalmers called Emily Taylor, the Dean of Women, requesting her to come to his office. Refusing to act as the sole faculty representative, Taylor also brough Dr. Marilyn Stokstad, chairwoman of the Art History department, and Elizabeth Banks, associate professor of the Classics Department, as well as three additional women to accompany her. At around 1:15 a.m. a call was placed to the occupants East Asian Studies building asking for representatives to be sent to the emergency University Senate Executive Committee (SenEx) meeting being held to discuss the February Sisters’ demands. The occupants decided to send three women as representatives, and assurances were made by Taylor, Stokstad, and Banks that no attempts would be made to arrest them.

No names of the occupants of the East Asian Studies building were given to SenEx, although it was requested. The first meeting between SenEx and the February Sisters began, and it mostly comprised of a lengthy explanation of the efforts being made by the University to ensure equality for the women on campus. This explanation had no new information for the Sisters. SexEx expressed its concern for the problems of women and their pursuits of equal rights but did not address any of the demands of the February Sisters. The meeting adjourned with the representatives, accompanied by Elizabeth Banks, returning to the East Asian studies to discuss the meeting. It was unanimously decided that nothing had been gained and that, unless SenEx gave written commitment to a daycare center and a women’s health program, the February Sisters would continue to occupy the building.

Another representative from the building was added, and around 4:30 a.m the four women and Banks attended another meeting with SenEx. They announced their intention to keep occupying the building unless they received a written statement committing to a daycare center and women’s health program. This was met with resistance from SenEx, however, the meeting ended with SenEx drafting and passing a two-part resolution expressing support for a student senate funded daycare center and a commitment to the implementation of women’s health care program. A signed copy of the statement was given to the February Sisters representatives, and they agreed not to release it until the SenEx minutes were published.  

The women were given until 9:00 a.m. to vacate the building, as SenEx was concerned about TV coverage during the daytime. While the February Sisters representatives made their way back to the East Asian Studies building, some 65 women rallied outside of it. Barricades were removed and doors opened and the women, now around 85 in number, made their way back to the Women’s Center where a general meeting was held. They decided to regroup later that evening, where various committees would meet to organize further action on the events of the day.