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That one time U$C did something actually kind of nice

I shake my keys at you sirs

I shake my keys in your general direction

Earlier this week the PAC 12 Band page erupted into massive flame war. (I’d left that pages ages ago but lowkey rejoined just to see what all the fuss was about.) So for this Throwback Thursday, at the risk of starting a flame war of a different kind, I feel like talking about that time the Trojan Marching Band did something actually kind of nice.

When I was working on my research paper on Title IX and the Cal Band, I found a letter on Trojan Band letterhead. I took a quick glance through it and assumed it was some snarky commentary from the Trojans, but I then I went through and actually read. My assumption was basically entirely wrong. Here it is in its annotated glory:

May 9, 1973

Dear Cal Marching Bandswomen

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! on your acceptance into the marching band starting in the fall of 1973. We do extend a hearty welcome to you as you join the growing ranks of bandswomen.

In case certain myths concerning the enrollment of women in band have not been dispelled for you, we would like to relate our experiences

I. “None of the other Pac-8 bands have girls enrolled.”

One of our proud bandswomen conducted a personal survey of the Pac-8 band diretors and achieved the following results:

A. UCLA – “I wish to be recorded as having no objections to enrolling women in band”

The Daily Bruin

The Daily Bruin , 9 May 1972. Pg 1This May 9, 1972 edition of the Daily Bruin featured a lead story on gender integration that started, “Is nothing sacred? That may be an alumnus’ reply to the music department’s decision Friday to allow both sexes in the heretoefore all-male marching band and the varsity band”

UCLA began allowing drum majorettes in 1941, and some women (along with Santa Monica high school students) filled in ranks during World War II. But according to its timeline, UCLA did not admit women after the early 1950s and until 1972, the year that Title IX passed and banned gender discrimination in higher education for institutions with federal dollars. Although the director went on record to having no objections, this was not necessarily a universal sentiment. 

B. Stanford – At the last Stanford-USC football game, we counted seven girls – yes, SEVEN!

Stanford also integrated in 1972. This was against the wishes of the Band: the Cal Band archives contains a clipping with the headline “Stanford Band Votes No Women Members.” (I presume it’s from The Stanford Daily, but I’m searching for the exact citation and will certainly update this when I find it. Another article in the Stanford Daily discussing the pending vote ran on October 29, 1971, so I assume this clipping was soon thereafter.)

Exact citation unknown

Exact citation unknown, from the Stanford Daily

According to the article, LSJUMB voted 108-22 against women. Members of the Dollies also opposed changing the gender policy. Their band manager played the middle road, saying there was moral basis for allowing women but “now just isn’t the right time.” This particular clipping ends by saying the band initially did not want publicity around this decision because “we didn’t want some women’s lib group looking over our shoulder, saying, ‘You’re just a chauvinist pig group’.”

C. Oregon State – Women are in their marching band but the basketball pep band (which is student run) excludes them. When asked how he felt about women enrolling, the director replied, “Fine.”

While researching my paper, I had a short email conversation with the Director of Bands Emeritus from Oregon State. When he began in 1968, the Oregon State band already allowed women, and he estimated that gender integration started around 1964.

D. University of Oregon – no comment

Which is actually kind of interesting, because Oregon was possibly the first to include women in any kind of band. According to their history site, in 1918, their Director Albert Perfect created a Ladies Band, which lasted one year. In 1941, the marching band featured female twirlers (they may have been introduced before, but this is the first official confirmation). During World War II, women began to play in the stands. In 1953, the course catalogue listed the band for the first time and indicated that it was open to both men and women.

E. University of Washington – also has female members.

F. Washington State – Their director proudly informed us that women had been enrolling in their band for the past 22 years!!

Did some digging and some searching but couldn’t find anything. If any Huskies or Cougars are reading this and have any insight, please let me know!

G. Then, of course, there is the USC band which now has 37 female members. If we could do it, anyone can!

After rounding out the PAC-8 (the Arizona schools had yet to arrive) the letter goes on to some more myths:

II. “Women can not keep up with the strenuous activity”

BALONEY!!! (That is a very short and direct answer to a stupid statement.) We can attest to the fact that all 37 finished the seven mile Rose Parade — on their feet (which is more than we can say for some of the guys – including our illustrious director).

This was definitely an argument numerous Cal Band alums recalled hearing when trying to decide whether or not to integrate. Numerous Cal Band alums also recall their first class of women performing well. (Of course, that class also included numerous athletes!)

III. “The band is too gross and offensive for women”

We’ve all heard that famous quote, “A gross band is a happy band.” And even if you haven’t you have now! We would like to state that the USC Trojan Marching Band is more offensive than ever. And just look at Stanford – women in the band haven’t cramped their style at all!

So I’ve never heard that quote but it definitely sounds like something a college marching band would say. It was also a major concern for the Cal Band in the early 1970s – and before. In the 1930s, the Band and one of the thespian groups on campus staged a publicity stunt where the thespian group – Mask and Dagger – pushed for a female drum majorette, and the Band said no.There were also instanced of women asking to join the band around that decade.

From the Daily Californian

From the Daily Californian

Abe Hankin, Senior Manager 1939,  said to the Daily Cal: “We’d have to be too darn polite. The Cal Band has always been a masculine outfit and for good reasons.”

After dispelling these myths, the letter went on to say:

In conclusion, we hope you will enjoy your marching band “experience” at Cal. We in the USC Trojan Marching Band will never forget ours. We hope to see you next year at the Cal-USC football game, and if Cal band comes to the basketball games down here, we would be glad to provide housing for you.

This was followed by signatures from about 15 or so female Trojans bandsmen and a postscript:

PS: (To Cal Marching Bandsmen) IT’S ABOUT TIME!!!! And good luck in the coming season

The “about time” clearly relates to the fact that the Cal Band was (as above demonstrated) the last PAC-8 school to accept women. It’s very possible this was not the first time the Cal Band was called out by a rival: in September 1972, several articles in some smaller Bay Area papers reported that the Cal Band was opening up to women. These claims were retracted by the Public Relations Director, and some suspected they had been planted by the Stanford band.

There was one small detail about this letter I’d previously missed but caught my eye when I was preparing this blog post. In small type under the postscript:

cc: Ohio State

From this, I’m *guessing* a copy of this letter was also sent to The Ohio State Band as well. The Cal Band is modeled after Ohio State (style lovingly stolen after a Rode Bowl in the 1950s) and for constantly strove to emulate their band crush. Ohio State also waited until 1973 to go co-ed. I can’t really say why the USC Bandswomen cc’d Ohio State, but it would be interesting to see what TBDBITL’s alums know about their Title IX experience.

Looking at the USC letter provides a sweet sign of solidarity that resembles some of the interactions between PAC-12 Bands, even if it doesn’t necessarily happen with the Trojans anymore. Because at the end of the day, who’s our real enemy: some other band, or institutional patriarchal structures designed to exclude and demean when really all we wants to do is toots da flute?

Looking through this letter also presents an intriguing historical exercise. It it is pretty fascinating to see these schools all lined up. For one, there are common themes, such as similar arguments  made across the bands for disallowing women. (Chiefly, that bands were too crude and environment, and too strenuous an activity) From there, what conclusions can we draw about ideas of femininity and masculinity amongst college students in the early 1970s? How were organizational unity, gender roles, and identity intertwined?

It’s also a study in contrasts: How did geography affect gender integration? The California schools all integrated at about the same time, coinciding with the passage of Title IX, while the Oregon schools integrated much further. What gender dynamics in Oregon caused this distinction? (From my passing knowledge of Northwestern history it probably had to do with women having historically much more power and influence in the Northwest) I really wish I’d been able to find more data on the University of Washington – is it more similar to Oregon and Wazzu, or to California?

I don’t know enough deets on any of the other bands to propose any significant conclusions, but such comparisons could provide some insight into how geography, organizational structure and broader historical forces shaped the relationship between gender and higher education.

For anyone interested, here are jpegs of the original letters:




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