By Kira Zahedi, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2018, History
Since the earliest days of IUPUI and the IU schools of Indianapolis that came before it, there have been women blazing trails for others woven throughout the campus’s history.
Whether founding new schools or creating welcoming environments for students, these women broadened IUPUI by opening its doors to new students and new ideas.
IU graduate Edna Henry was already an established social worker in Indianapolis when she was asked by IU president William Lowe Bryan in 1911 to head a sub-department in the department of sociology to support the School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
This idea eventually was developed into the division of social service, which Henry directed for over a decade. The division of social service is precursor to the present-day IU School of Social Work and is one of the oldest social work programs in the country.
Per Bryan’s instructions, the early days of the Division of Social Service consisted of providing social services to Long Hospital’s charity patients and dispensary patients. Henry expanded the division by adding courses in social work to the division’s services—at first, to sociology and medical students, and later to any student interested in gaining a certificate in social work.
Budget debates between Henry and IU administration were a constant struggle for the division, so Henry took on an incredible workload in order to ensure the program flourished; she organized the dispensary aid, designed the curriculum, directed social workers, and taught courses.
Henry’s tireless efforts caught up with her in early 1918, when she fell ill and never fully recovered. Her health had not improved much by May 1919, but she kept IU president Bryan updated about her progress: “Meanwhile, I am getting our problems solved and am no worse physically.”
“Although I am unable to walk or see properly, I feel well and seem able to do more work than I can get any other people to do.” —Edna Henry
Henry resigned from the director position in 1921 but remained in the division in a teaching role until 1926. In a speech in her honor, city attorney James Ogden said of Henry, “Into the lives of common clay, she has planted roses. She has plucked thistles and planted flowers; she has helped humanity by having humanity help itself.”
Clare Assue was a professor, advisor, clinician, and administrator for the IU School of Medicine and Larue Carter Hospital. Dr. Assue’s work bridged the gap between these two institutions, and as a result helped to grow the impact of the psychiatry community in Indianapolis.
In 1958, she became an instructor in the department of psychiatry in the Indiana University School of Medicine and a staff psychiatrist at Larue Carter Hospital. Assue rose through the ranks in the university and the hospital, becoming a full professor of psychiatry in 1972 and the director of medical education in 1977.
Assue’s colleagues recognized her as sensible, rational, and stable, but “always reluctant to be placed in the limelight.”
In 1961, Assue joined the residency training program in order to instruct and advise psychiatric residents and became director of the program in 1979. The program had difficulties with funding and attracting residents to psychiatry, but Assue was able to consolidate and organize the program.
Under Assue’s direction, the residency program became an open and accepting environment to all students, and more students from different backgrounds (race, gender, socioeconomic, or geographic) were attracted to the program.
In 1982, Assue was named the medical director and superintendent of Larue Carter Hospital. With this promotion, Assue became the first African American psychiatrist to run a hospital of its size in the United States. As superintendent, Assue directed the hospital through financial difficulties while maintaining a high standard of care for patients.
Assue maintained a full work schedule as professor at the School of Medicine and as the superintendent of Larue Carter Hospital until her declining health forced her to retire in 1989. She passed away soon after in 1990, leaving behind a legacy of over 30 years of service to the psychiatric community of Indianapolis.
Frances Rhome, a professor and administrator, actively participated in expanding and broadening IUPUI in both perspectives and in ideas. Rhome began her career at IUPUI as an English professor in 1969 and was a founding member of the IUPUI women’s studies program.
In 1973, after IU chancellor Maynard Hine announced the creation of an affirmative action office on campus, Rhome was appointed as IUPUI’s first affirmative action officer.
While in this position, Rhome led the affirmative action office in the university’s efforts to be more inclusive in its hiring practices and its employee policies. The office ensured that the university complied with national and state civil rights and affirmative action laws and made an effort to find diverse applicant pools for every open faculty and staff position.
Rhome also believed that promoting women and minorities to positions of authority was just as important as hiring such individuals for entry-level positions. The office also created a more formal complaint appeal procedure for workplace disputes and addressed wage gaps by examining the differences in salaries by gender.
While some criticized her office for eating up university funds, Rhome saw value in inclusivity.
“I know there are some persons who disagree with some of the procedures required for affirmative action. But most seem to think the work this office is doing is important—it is humanitarian. I see it as reaching out.”—Frances Rhome
In 1975, Rhome was selected to be an affirmative action officer for the entire IU system and continued to teach until her retirement in 1986.
Marjorie Leamnson Stonehill was an administrator who focused on expanding educational opportunities through her work in continuing education with non-traditional college students as well as women. Stonehill joined IUPUI in 1970 as the coordinator of continuing education in the School of Continuing Education; she later became director in 1973.
At the time, the school offered both credit and non-credit courses to adults in the Indianapolis area in the mornings and evenings. As director, Stonehill expanded programming to groups beyond the school’s existing student population. Under her leadership, the school grew not only in enrollment, but also in the number of course offerings.
Efforts to increase enrollment included giving senior citizens and IUPUI faculty discounts on courses, as well as offering college preparatory courses to high school students and professional development seminars for working adults.
Stonehill made a concerted effort to create programming and resources for women; overseeing conferences like Women, Higher Education, and Law, which discussed affirmative action and sex discrimination laws in higher education. Once she became director, Stonehill expanded her efforts and created the Center for Continuing Studies for Women, a precursor to the present day IUPUI Office for Women.
Stonehill appointed Maureen Prevost to run the center, which opened in 1975. The center provided services and resources for women seeking continuing education, such as job placement, resume development, as well as the usual services of the school, like classes and workshops.
The environment was designed to be welcoming for women who were intimidated by the university atmosphere and were considering returning to school or the workforce.
Stonehill understood the value of having women in positions of authority, especially in her own career.
“I have never objected to being a ‘token woman’ because I’ve considered that as an opportunity to make it easier for the next woman to be chosen because of herself and not just because they need a woman.”—Marjorie Leamnson Stonehill
Stonehill was eventually promoted to associate dean and later assistant dean of the School of Continuing Studies, but remained director at the IUPUI School of Continuing Education. She remained in that position until her retirement in 1983.
To learn about the women of IUPUI, visit https://blogs.iu.edu/bicentennialblogs/2018/11/30/bridging-the-gap-early-female-faculty-at-iupui/
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 Fund picks woman as “best citizen.” (1924, February 19). The Indianapolis Star, p. 1.
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