Expert Essay: Rhoda R. Gilman, a founding member of Women Historians of the Midwest and a former candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, considers the influence of women in Minnesota: the Willmar 8, the Schubert Club, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, and much more.
The Minneapolis mayor's veto of the pornography ordinance in January, 1983, did little to quell debate on this subject. Protests in the Lake Street pornography district intensified during 1984 as the city's Task Force on Pornography deliberated. Feminists organized regular actions against the Rialto Theater, which was located at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street. They staged a "porn dump" on the steps of City Hall and establish the Pornography Resource Center on Lake Street. A photographer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Liz Hafalia, documented one of these protests. Forty women picketed the street and tried to intimidate would-be customers from entering bookstores and movie theaters. This image was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on November 10, 1984. Source: Minneapolis and St Paul newspaper negatives collection, Minnesota Historical Society.
Women maintained a candlelight vigil outside of Mayor Donald Fraser's office while they waited for his decision on the pornography ban passed by the Minneapolis City Council on December 30, 1983. Known for his strong feminist convictions, the mayor vetoed the measure on January 5, 1984. He explained that the measure provided a "broad" and "vague" definition of pornography that made it impossible for a "bookseller, movie theater operator or museum director to adjust his or her conduct in order to keep from running afoul of its proscriptions." He asserted that it would never withstand judicial review. This photograph was taken at Minneapolis City Hall by Stormi Greener for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was published on December 30, 1983. Source: Minneapolis and St Paul newspaper negatives collection, Minnesota Historical Society.
Activists from the Powderhorn and Central neighborhoods of Minneapolis continued their fight against the Alexander brothers into the early 1980s, despite a series of unfavorable legal decisions. This image shows Richard Buske, Linda Wejcman, Douglas Hicks, Nancy Benson, and Vernon Wetternach on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street on January 29, 1981. Photograph taken by Art Hager of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Source: Minneapolis and St Paul newspaper negatives collection, Minnesota Historical Society.
Linda Wejcman, Liz Anderson, Cathy Blacer, Jacqui Thompson, and Becky Anderson on Lake Street. Photographed by Meg McKinney on July 28, 1979, for the Minneapolis Tribune. Used with the permission of Sandy Date and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In 1977, residents of South Minneapolis mobilized to fight the expansion of adult entertainment businesses along Lake Street. In 1983, after years of unsuccessful protest, these activists sought help from nationally-known feminist theorists Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. MacKinnon and Dworkin wrote a controversial amendment to the city's expansive civil rights ordinance that banned pornography as a violation of women's civil rights.
On July 27, 1972, two armed, masked men walked into the Orono home of Virginia Lewis Piper and walked out with the forty-nine-year-old woman handcuffed and blindfolded. The next day, her husband, Harry C. Piper Jr., a prominent Twin Cities investment banker, personally delivered a $1 million ransom to the unidentified kidnappers. Four decades later, no one has served a day of prison time for the crime. Except for about four thousand dollars in scattered twenty-dollar bills, the Pipers’ million-dollar ransom has not been recovered.