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Women on the World War I Home Front

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, Minnesota women, like Americans across the nation, were called to contribute to the war effort. Though some went to Europe and served as nurses, drivers, and aid workers on the battlefields, many more participated on the home front. They took on new jobs, conserved vital resources, and joined volunteer organizations. At the same time, they struggled to come to terms with conflicting ideals of patriotism, loyalty, and what it meant to be an American.

Black and white photograph of a Anti-pornography protest on Lake Street, 1984.

Anti-pornography protest on Lake Street

The Minneapolis mayor's veto of the ordinance amendment 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.

Black and white photograph of a candlelight vgil at Mayor Fraser’s office, 1983.

Candlelight vigil at Mayor Fraser’s office

Women maintained a candlelight vigil outside of Mayor Donald Fraser's office while they waited for his decision on the ordinance amendment 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.

Black and white photograph of Anti-pornography activists at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, c.1980.

Anti-pornography activists at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street

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.

Black and white photograph of anti-pornography activists on Lake Street, 1979.

Anti-pornography activists on Lake Street

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.

Minneapolis Anti-pornography Ordinance

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 Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. MacKinnon and Dworkin wrote a controversial amendment to the city's expansive civil rights ordinance that defined pornography as a violation of women's civil rights.

Virginia Piper at press conference

KSTP video footage of Virginia Piper at a press conference after her kidnapping, 1972.

Color image of Virginia and Bobby Piper, c.1980.

Virginia and Bobby Piper

Virginia and Bobby Piper, c.1980. Used with the permission of David Piper.

Black and white photograph of Virginia Piper in Jay Cooke State Park after her rescue by the FBI. Photographed by the FBI on July 29, 1972. Used with the permission of Harry Piper III.

Virginia Piper

Virginia Piper in Jay Cooke State Park after her rescue by the FBI. Photographed by the FBI on July 29, 1972. Used with the permission of Harry Piper III.

Kidnapping of Virginia Piper

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.

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