Breaking the Rules


Jean Ledwith King marching with her husband

As long as rules have existed at the University of Michigan, women have been breaking them. In a society that imposed restrictive expectations on women especially, being a rule breaker was a radical act.

Jean Ledwith King is best known as the lawyer who led the group that filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan for Sex Discrimination in 1970, but she was challenging sexist rules much earlier than that. When she was a student at U-M she was almost expelled from the University for a hitchhiking trip she took to Pittsburgh with her then-boyfriend. In order to appease Dean of Women Alice Lloyd, the couple decided to get married to avoid punishment and John and Jean Ledwith King were married in a student co-op house.1 

Some rule breakers were more intentional in the ways they engaged in radical acts. Sara Krulwich was the first woman photographer on the field of the Big House, during a time when dogs were allowed on the field but women were not. She defied security guards and was brave enough to start taking photographs at the beginning of a game despite people's protestations.2


Sara Krulwich


Letter to Margot Duley-Morrow

In 1979, there was a movement within the American Historical Assocation that demanded the AHA not schedule future conventions in states that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. In support of this effort, and to show her frustration with the organization's unwillingness to meet the demands of many of the women involved, Margot Duley-Morrow sent her dues in just as she was supposed to—but she ripped the bills in half to represent the money that women lost due to the wage gap, something she felt would be fixed by the ERA.3



1. "Veteran Feminist Association Herstory Project interview with Jean King 2003" Box 11, Jean King papers 1964-2004, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

2. "Essay: No Women Was No Barrier" Sara Krulwich, New York Times, Last Modified May 22, 2009.

3. National Organization for Women, Michigan Conference Records 1969-1996, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.