In a State of Access is a historical study about the way public higher education in Ohio became both generally accessible to nearly every citizen while also offering elite undergraduate and graduate programs. This project grapples with the question of how national, state and regional factors – from the mid-1940s through the end of the 20th century – influenced the way Ohio’s leaders viewed the purpose of public higher education and influenced whether Ohio’s leaders chose to focus on making public higher education more selective or accessible. State leaders initially balked at the idea of funding public higher education. When they did decide to make the investment, ideological battles, economic stagnation and the state’s budget deficit continually influenced how state leaders viewed the purpose of public higher education. As a result, state leaders never succeeded in building a system of public higher education that reflected a clearly defined, well-organized purpose. This dissertation is the first full-length study about contemporary public higher education in Ohio and one of the few case studies of any state’s system of higher education. As the public and politicians at the state and national level pay more attention to the accessibility of higher education, and the role of a college degree in a globalized, service economy, a case study of Ohio helps us to better understand why public higher education is still struggling with problems over access.
Footprints of Nick Mileti: A look back at the man who brought the Coliseum to Richfield
Looking back now, 49 years later, Nick Mileti really did say the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus helped convince him to branch out from his day job of legal work.
True, the circus was hardly a key point in his 1968 takeover of the decrepit Cleveland Arena. But a decade-long empire rose and fell under his command — and it began with buying that 31-year-old building. It sparked:
• The founding of the Cavaliers.
• Ownership of Cleveland’s professional baseball team.
• Buying a 50,000-watt radio station.
• Building the Coliseum in Richfield.
• Managing ice hockey and entertainment dates including, yes, the circus, along with Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and more.
“I want to have fun, make some dough, and leave a few footprints,” he told sportswriter Bob Oates of the Los Angeles Times in 1972.
Now 90, Mileti can look back at Northeast Ohio from his Florida residence and say, like Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way.”
“I figured if I could get 11,000 one night, I could get 8,000 every night.” — Mileti, interviewed by Sports Illustrated magazine in 1975.
In his life before sports, and while serving as a prosecutor in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Mileti worked on senior citizens housing projects. In the 1972 interview with Oates, he said he had 5,200 “suites” under development or already in use.
Coming back to Cleveland after his college days, he felt a deep loyalty to his undergraduate alma mater, Bowling Green, where the alumni center is named for him. Those ties motivated him in 1967 to work on a one-night fundraising idea — promoting a basketball game at the Arena between Bowling Green and Niagara University, led by 5-foot-9 nationally known star Calvin Murphy.
The Falcons, coached by Bill Fitch, won 94-86.
John Lemmo was the Arena manager in 1968. In a 1981 interview with Beacon Journal reporters John Kostrzewa and Peter Phipps, Lemmo remembered Mileti’s enthusiasm that night. “One taste was all he needed to get him started,” Lemmo said.
“My daddy was a machinist who came over [immigrated from Italy] as a teenager, and he had a dream that I was to wear a white shirt.” — Mileti, in a Los Angeles Times interview in 1972.
Nick James Mileti, born April 22, 1931, is a Cleveland-bred son of immigrants from Sicily, Italy. He said his parents wanted him to go to law school “for as long as I can remember.”
Mileti’s education was at Cleveland John Adams High School, Bowling Green and then law school at Ohio State. In a series published in 1981 recounting the story of the construction of the Coliseum in Richfield, the Beacon Journal’s Kostrzewa and Phipps tracked down the 1949 John Adams yearbook. It listed Mileti’s resume as: “cheerleader, athletic chairman, Distinction Day Committee, Dance Committee, Prom Chairman, Student Council, Corridor Patrol, Intramural, Merit Roll.”
This was the makeup of the man who found an investor and put together the financing to buy both the Cleveland Arena and the Barons ice hockey team for about $1.8 million to $1.9 million in September 1968.
“Nick could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, whether you wanted it or not.” — Bill Fitch, Cavaliers coach from 1970-79, quoted in an interview with Vince Guerrieri of Ohio Magazine in October, 2015.
Mileti told Los Angeles Times sports writer Oates that he was surprised to see the Cleveland Arena did not have dates booked for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus on its calendar.
“Can you imagine that?” he told Oates. “The kids in a community this size never got to see a circus. But now they do. I’ve touched their lives. I’ve brought them some happiness.”
In 1969, with Mileti as the building’s owner, an advertisement in the Beacon Journal on Sunday, Nov. 2, promoted the upcoming circus. It would run with 10 shows from Wednesday to Sunday at the Arena. Ticket prices were $4.50, $3.50 and $2.50. Adults could save $1 per ticket for children age 12 or younger for the first four shows. The billing said the circus had 33 acts “never before seen in America” and that “The Greatest Show On Earth” was the only one with 500 performers and animals.
The tradition of a circus visit would continue in Summit County when Mileti’s Coliseum was built in 1974, with animals sometimes walking with their trainers west on state Route 303 to reach their temporary homes in the parking lot.
“It’s like hitting a brick wall. But you have to get up and go again. That’s my style and it always will be.” — Mileti, quoted by the Associated Press in Cleveland, for a news story on Oct. 31, 1969, when it is revealed he will not apply for a National Hockey League expansion franchise for the city.
The 1968 acquisition of the Barons, members of the American Hockey League since its second year in 1937-38, thrust Mileti into his first sports challenge just when the sport’s highest level of play, the National Hockey League, was hitting a growth spurt.
On Sept. 11, 1969, it was announced the NHL decided to expand again by two teams for the 1970-71 season, bringing the league to 14 teams.
But after a five-month study, Mileti declined to pursue it.
One reason might have been the fee: $6 million.
Mileti told hockey writer Rich Passan of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland: “$6 million is a figure only in relation to something. If there is no way you can get a competitive team, then 10 cents is too much of a price tag.”
He acknowledged that an existing NHL franchise could move and that might be a way for Cleveland to obtain a team. But then came the formation of a rival league that wanted to challenge the NHL — the World Hockey Association. So, on June 21, 1972, the United Press International news service in Cleveland reported that Mileti paid $250,000 plus a $100,000 “performance bond” for a WHA franchise. It was named the Crusaders and the Barons were moved to Jacksonville, Florida.
“It should happen. I would think and hope, in three to five years.” — Mileti’s response in January 1971, in an interview with the Beacon Journal when asked about the need to make a financial profit from his sports ventures.
From the day in September 1968 when Mileti acquired the Arena, basketball was on his mind.
Just like hockey, the business leaders in pro basketball were searching out new markets for sources of revenue. It would be years before television and the birth of cable channels would challenge ticket sales as the king of their bank accounts.
The National Basketball Association had been officially formed in 1949-50 with the combination of two pro leagues. One was the Basketball Association of America (or BAA, with 10 teams) and the other was the National Basketball League (or NBL, which had seven). Cleveland had a team in the BAA for one year playing home games at the Arena in 1946-47.
Starting in 1949-50, the NBA enjoyed stability until 1967-68 when a rival league called the American Basketball Association was formed with 11 franchises, including three (San Francisco-Oakland; New York and Los Angeles) that were placed where the NBA already was established. A few ABA teams jumped from city to city in the first three years of its operations but there were three markets that had been untouched in this new era: Cleveland, Buffalo and Portland, Oregon.
And so when the NBA invited applications for new teams that would start up in the 1970-71 season, it received bids from those three cities along with Houston. On Nov. 7, 1969, Commissioner Walter Kennedy said the league was pleased with the interest shown along with other markets in Memphis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
Mileti was moving at the same speed as the league, and it was disclosed on Jan. 21, 1970, that the four leading candidates — Cleveland, Buffalo, Portland and Houston — had applied.
The four bids were officially accepted Feb. 6. Then on March 22, Houston’s group did not meet an obligation for a $750,000 payment, so that city dropped out. The expansion fee was originally reported to be $3 million but as time went by, multiple media reports showed that the actual cost was $3.7 million.
“I want to put my imprimatur on something, change it, affect something, create something. As Vince Lombardi said, ‘The joy is in the creating, not the maintaining.’ ” — Mileti on July 25, 1972, in an interview with sports writer Bob Oates of the Los Angeles Times.
Needing to finance the startup of the Cavaliers, Mileti moved in a new direction — selling shares of stock to the public at $5 each, raising $2.25 million. The Green Bay Packers of the National Football League have historically been owned by hundreds of shareholders but it is rare that a pro sports franchise has public stockholders.
Beacon Journal sports writer Jack Patterson reported Jan. 24, 1971, that the Cavaliers’ financial structure as an expansion team called for a payment to the NBA of $1.5 million in 1970 followed by fees of $550,000 per year for the next four years from 1971 to 1974 — for a total cost of $3.7 million.
“There’s no way you can say no to Nick Mileti if he really wants you. He’ll never give up until he gets you on the dotted line.” — University of Minnesota assistant basketball coach Jim Lessig, quoted by Minneapolis Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman on March 19, 1970, as Gophers coach Bill Fitch accepts a job offer to lead the newborn Cavaliers franchise.
Having met the NBA expansion financing challenge, Mileti faced the first in a series of a new tests of his sports executive skill sets.
He had to choose someone with management flair and the talent evaluation abilities necessary to compete with basketball luminaries such as Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Red Holzman and Jack Ramsay. And it would help if this individual had the personality to be the “face” of the franchise when it came to helping sell tickets.
Perhaps most of all, the job would require patience and endurance when the coach realized the daunting obstacles placed in front of him:
• The new teams were granted the seventh through the 10th choices among the 17 teams in the first round of the 1970 NBA college player draft. (That meant the new teams had no chance to draft Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich, Pete Maravich or Dave Cowens, who all became Hall of Fame selections)
• New teams would have no input on game schedules or league divisional alignment. (The Cavs’ first season began with seven games in a row on the road — all losses — including visiting the West Coast as part of a 12-day trip)
• New teams would fill out their roster with NBA veterans but the existing teams were permitted to protect seven players. So the available players would be judged as the eighth, ninth, 10th or 11th best on the team they were leaving
• No existing team would lose more than three players.
Who would take such a job?
Mileti persuaded former Bowling Green coach Bill Fitch, then head coach at the University of Minnesota, to take on the challenge and he agreed in return for total authority on the team’s roster plus a three-year contract reported to be worth $60,000 a year (or about $404,500 today).
Fitch brought 14 years’ experience in basketball, having had four jobs at the college level, including working with baseball star Bob Gibson at Creighton and future NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson at North Dakota. His sense of humor was an attractive quality, too. In the Cavs’ early days, he was fond of saying, “Just remember, the name’s Fitch, not Houdini.”
“Here’s a guy who has gone through what we have in mind here – starting from scratch and putting it all together to build a winner.” — Mileti on March 19, 1970, in announcing the hiring of Fitch, 37, as Cavs coach and director of player personnel.
If there was such a thing in pro sports in the late 1960s as “overpaying” to gamble on finding the right talent at the right time, Mileti was willing to try.
Cleveland sports writer, columnist and author Terry Pluto reported in his 2019 book “Vintage Cavs” that Fitch was being paid about $20,000 a year at Minnesota, so Mileti’s offer tripled that salary. Mileti said it took several conversations with Fitch to persuade him to accept the job. “We’ve been talking a long time,” Mileti told reporters on the day of the announcement.
Once he and Mileti agreed on a contract, Fitch found immediately that the learning curve was fast.
Four days after Fitch’s hiring, the NBA’s 1970 college player draft was held. And then on May 11, 1970, less than two months later, the expansion draft of current players on other teams was held. It took six years before the Cavs would have a winning record, but Mileti was finally rewarded for showing patience in a world where many owners gave in to the pressure to make a change only for change’s sake.
By any measure back then or today — when NBA teams turn over head coaching jobs with tenures as flimsy as one year — Mileti had found the right man in Fitch. The proof was that their partnership lasted nine years.
“I have always wanted to be in the broadcasting business. It carries the same excitement and dynamism as other enterprises with which I am associated.” — Mileti, quoted by the Associated Press on Jan. 12, 1972, after his acquisition of two NBC radio stations in Cleveland, including an AM frequency with a 50,000-watt signal.
As busy as he was from 1968 to 1970, Mileti had his stamina for deal-making tested even more in 1972.
Buying a radio station — whose call letters were renamed WWWE 1100-AM — married his sports properties with another way to bring in revenue in the form of advertising dollars.
But showing his fascination once again for creating something — more than merely operating it after it was born — he jumped in to bid on taking over the Cleveland baseball franchise when owner Vernon Stouffer was negotiating with none other than George Steinbrenner.
On March 8, the Associated Press reported his bid of $10 million meant the value of the team had increased from $8 million when Stouffer had taken over in 1966.
Stouffer was 70 years old and the club had lost 102 games and had the second lowest attendance (591,361) in the major leagues in the 1971 season. The Associated Press quoted Stouffer: “I’ve had enough of that [sports business]. There’s too much pressure.”
This time, Mileti turned to a group of investors to finance the deal — including future U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum and business executives Alva “Ted” Bonda, C. Bingham Blossom, Dudley Blossom, Dick Miller, Bruce Fine, Marshall Fine and Mileti’s cousin, Joe Zingale.
When the deal with Steinbrenner fell through, Mileti and his partners became owners of the Cleveland baseball team in March 1972 for an estimated $9.7 million.
“Every boy dreams of owning a baseball club, especially if he’s played the sport as I have,” Mileti told the Associated Press in a report published March 8, 1972.
As for Steinbrenner, he moved on in 1973 to acquire the New York Yankees instead from the CBS television network.
“It was a major miscalculation. I thought the two cities [Akron and Cleveland] were going to grow together. Instead, everyone moved to Orange County.” — Mileti, quoted by reporter Andy Rose of the Los Angeles Times in a 1987 interview about the Coliseum’s location in 1974.
It wasn’t long after buying the Arena that Mileti realized a 30-plus-year-old building with questionable plumbing and a seating capacity of only 11,000 did not suit any kind of healthy financial outlook for pro basketball and hockey.
But instead of renovating the existing building or looking for another downtown site, he began thinking big — as an urban planner might have done.
By 1971, he had zeroed in on 440 acres of land in the northern Summit County village of Richfield, about 20 miles away from most of Cleveland’s population. He built on the northwest corner of the intersection of state Route 303 with Interstate 271. That highway was a nice shortcut from Interstate 90 to the northeast and linked directly to Interstate 71 to the southwest.
And so a real estate flag was planted — with environmental concerns immediately arising. Mileti answered them all and the building with 20,000-plus seats was named the Coliseum.
Mileti told audiences the building could not help but be successful since its location could draw audiences from a population of 5 million people within a 50-mile radius.
And once again, the question arose that followed every Mileti enterprise: How to pay for the $36 million construction cost?
It was a traditional real estate method — construction loans from out-of-town banks, including Chase Manhattan of New York City and Mellon National Mortgage Co. of Pittsburgh. The work took a year longer than plans called for, as the project fought through the necessary public approvals and a dozen lawsuits, including a case that rose all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Construction was finally completed and the building opened with a Frank Sinatra concert on Oct. 26, 1974.
When the Coliseum opened and tours were given to visitors, Sports Illustrated magazine reported in a Jan. 27, 1975, story that the places where the visitors came from were called “Coliseum country.”
“Everything happened too fast.” — Mileti, quoted by Sports Illustrated writer Jerry Kirshenbaum in 1975, on his Cleveland experiences.
The Cavaliers came the closest of any of Mileti’s sports franchises to winning a title. They made the NBA playoffs for the first time in 1975-76 and won an exciting seven-game series against the Washington Bullets before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
The 16-day odyssey from April 13-29 became known as “The Miracle of Richfield” and took on legendary status in fans’ memories during a period of dark times for the Browns and the Cleveland baseball club. If star forward Jim Chones had not suffered a broken foot and been unable to play, some experts said the Cavs could have defeated the Celtics and might have been favored in the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. But it was not to be.
If the 1976 Cavs’ season is thought of as Mileti’s pinnacle, that means either an exit, or a slide downward, was to occur. And so Mileti’s sports fortunes finally played out this way:
• The Cleveland Arena was demolished in 1977.
• Ted Bonda replaced Mileti as president of the baseball franchise in March 1975, three years after he had assumed control.
• That same month, the operations of the Crusaders’ WHA hockey team was transferred to business executive Jay Moore.
• Mileti’s role in management of The Coliseum was diminished in a new business arrangement, also in 1975.
• In June 1980, Mileti gave up his title as president of the Cavaliers, sold his interest, and control of the team went to Ted Stepien.
In the 1976-77 Cavaliers souvenir game program, Mileti wrote a letter thanking fans for their support.
The Beacon Journal quoted the letter on March 28, 1999, in its news coverage as the Coliseum was demolished and the land was taken over by the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.
“You have become a legend in your own time,” Mileti wrote.”You are the standard by which all basketball crowds are now measured. Everyone associated with the Cavaliers is proud of you and your most important role … helping the team on its way to the championship and putting the word PRIDE back into the vocabulary of Northeast Ohio.”
Larry Pantages was the NBA reporter from 1981-85 and sports editor from 1998-2006 at the Beacon Journal.
TOWARD EQUAL PARTNERSHIP: THE GREATER CLEVELAND CONGRESS – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S YEAR
by Marian J. Morton
“THRONGS OPEN IWY CONGRESS,” exclaimed the Cleveland Plain Dealer on October 26, 1975. The throngs included men, but most of those who crowded into the Cleveland Convention Center were women – old and young; single, married, or divorced; of many religious faiths; black and white, Hispanic and Eastern European; housewives, nurses, lawyers, teachers, social workers, artists. They came on the opening Saturday of the Greater Cleveland Congress – International Women’s Year, then Sunday, and then Monday – 45,000 of them – to applaud the celebrities, to learn from the workshops and lectures, to enjoy the dance and music. And mostly to join in solidarity with other women – it was called “consciousness-raising” back in the 1970s –as they sought equal partnership with men. Cleveland was hosting the biggest IWY celebration in the country. Those were heady days, another beginning in the long fight for equality for women.
WHAT CAME FIRST
The immediate impetus for the congress was a 1972 United Nations resolution, more than 30 years in the making, declaring that 1975 would be International Women’s Year; the goal would be to create a society in which women would have full and equal participation in social, economic, and political life. The resolution was supported by Presidents Nixon and Ford.
But the UN resolution, and the Cleveland congress, came more than a century after 300 women and men gathered in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, the official beginning of the women’s rights movement in this country. Inspired by their participation in the movement to free slaves, they re-phrased the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident- that all men and women are created equal.” They asked for equal rights before the law, in education, employment, and churches. And – most controversially – they asked for the vote. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the brave few to offer support.
The Seneca Falls demands were eloquently re-stated at a woman’s rights convention in Salem, Ohio, in 1850, and in 1851, in Akron, where former slave and anti-slavery activist Sojourner Truth delivered her dramatic, often-repeated speech, “And Ain’t I A Woman?” There is some about question about who actually wrote the speech, but no question that it ridiculed the many who claimed that women were too weak and too stupid to have equal rights and that, as further evidence, Christ wasn’t a woman. “And where did your Christ come from?” Truth famously replied: “From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with Him.”
In the post-Civil War period, in the context of national attention on enfranchising black men, the movement for women’s rights began again, focusing its own attention on the vote – becoming, in effect, the suffrage movement. In Cleveland in 1869, Lucy Stone, an Oberlin graduate, and her husband Henry Blackwell, founded the American Woman Suffrage Association, the moderate wing of the movement. In 1890, the association merged with the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, led by firebrands Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to form the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The NAWSA led the suffrage movement for the next three decades.
These were decades of progress as women in Cleveland, like women elsewhere, entered the work force, most in industry, some in offices; an elite few went to colleges like Oberlin or Western Reserve’s College for Women; some even entered the professions. Cleveland women also entered public life through the backdoor – the myriad of women’s organizations like the YWCA, the Consumers League of Ohio, the Women’s City Club, and the Junior League. Although there were small political victories – Ohio women got the right to vote for and serve on school boards in 1894 – , woman suffrage amendments to the Ohio Constitution were defeated in 1888, 1890, and 1891.
Cleveland suffragists organized in 1910 and braved public scorn by speaking from soap boxes in rough neighborhoods and outside factories, distributing pamphlets, marching in lively parades, and debating the vocal, plentiful anti-suffragists. Suffragists did win the support of local politicians, including Tom L. Johnson and Newton D. Baker. Nevertheless, efforts to get the Ohio legislature to enfranchise women failed in 1912, 1914, and 1917. Cleveland suffragists sided with the moderate NAWSA when radical suffragists picketed the White House and went to jail, and they rejoiced when 26 million women finally got the vote with the passage of the 19thAmendment in 1920, a long, exhausting 72 years after Seneca Falls.
The Cleveland suffrage movement produced two national leaders: Florence E. Allen, the first woman to be elected to the Ohio Supreme Court and first to be appointed chief justice of any federal court, the 6th Circuit; and Belle Sherwin, who served from 1924 to 1934 as president of the new national League of Women Voters. The league began its work of educating the new voters to participate in politics.
And then still another beginning – an echo of the nineteenth century – when the civil rights activism of the 1950s and 1960s inspired another movement for equality for women. These women called themselves feminists – a nod to an earlier generation who wanted the vote but had broader goals. Women’s potential political importance, as they continued to enter the work force, higher education, and elected office, was acknowledged in the 1963 Equal Pay Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment. In 1966, women and men, chafing at the slow pace of change, established the National Organization of Women (NOW). Its signature goal became the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA had been introduced to Congress in 1923 by the National Woman’s Party, the left wing of the suffrage movement; some of them had also picketed the White House. The amendment was sporadically endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties until it was shelved in the mid-1950s.
NOW resurrected the ERA from political oblivion. The amendment stated that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.” It had been initially opposed by women’s groups like the LWV that feared it would eliminate the laws that gave women special protection in the workplace or in marriage. By the early 1970s, however, many women’s organizations endorsed it. And by 1975, NOW had become the most visible face of feminism. Its motto, “toward equal partnership with men, “ emphasized cooperation, not war, between the sexes.
Cleveland women organized a local chapter of NOW in 1970 and then a flurry of new feminist organizations. These included the Women’s Equity Action League, the Cuyahoga Women’s Political Caucus, the Cleveland Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and Women Together. All would be part of the IWY congress.
THE CLEVELAND CONGRESS
Congress planners were well-established, well-connected volunteers and professionals. Chairperson Gwill York was a past president of the Junior League and sat on the boards of a half-dozen prestigious, non-profit institutions. York was aided by Muriel Jones and Barbara Rawson, both with the Cleveland Foundation, and Evelyn Bonder, director of Project EVE (Education, Volunteerism, and Employment) at Cuyahoga Community College. Planning meetings began in August 1974 and continued for more than a year, ultimately engaging dozens of women in the process. All were volunteers.
These women knew their Cleveland audience. York predicted that the Cleveland congress would be a great success: “You have extremists on the West Coast and the East Coast, but here in the Midwest … is a beautiful place where things are handled in a very rational way.” According to a Gallup poll of Cleveland women taken just prior to the congress, the “largest proportion” felt that “marriage and children without a job [was] the ideal situation” although especially younger women felt that a job could be combined with marriage and children. Black and low-income women found the combination less desirable – or simply less possible. Only 44 percent believed there was job discrimination; 85 percent believed that women had equal opportunities to get an education. The congress’s adoption of NOW’s moderate goal of “equal partnership” was intended to appeal to these women.
The planners also knew how to raise funds, a perennial challenge for women’s organizations. The Junior League, the YWCA, and the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine contributed. The Cleveland Foundation donated funds and lent an office –and its prestige. Other foundations and businesses, including banks, industry, and retail establishments like Halle’s and Higbee’s, followed suit, as did the Cleveland AFL-CIO. Dozens of exhibitors, both commercial and non-profit, paid for booths to advertise their goods and services. The grand total raised: more than $100,000, which did not count volunteer hours or donated services.
More than 300 women’s institutions and organizations participated. They represented a range of political views from Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice and the Socialist Workers Party to the Cuyahoga County Republican Women’s Organizations. They had differing religious affiliations – the National Council of Jewish Women, the B’nai Brith Women’s Council, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Eastern Orthodox Women’s Guild – and came from different ethnic backgrounds – the Karamu Women’s Association and the Ukrainian Gold Cross. Professional women were represented by the Women’s Clergy of Greater Cleveland, the Women Historians of Greater Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Nurses Association, among others. Groups also addressed long-standing economic inequities: the National Welfare Rights Organization and the Domestic Workers of America.
The panels and workshops expanded upon familiar themes. There were seventeen on equality in the workplace, more than on any other topic. Panelists and the audiences discussed women in industry, the female chief executive, how to make the system work for the working woman, jobs for low-income women, women in faith communities, women in the arts, returning to work, volunteering, and women in the military and in sports. Panels on education stressed the need for women’s studies classes, women in teaching and administrative positions, and continuing education for adult women. Workshops on politics urged political action at all levels of government: “A woman’s place is in the House … and Senate.”
Other programs focused on recent changes in women’s private lives: divorce and separation, day care (the congress provided day care for participants), “Occupation Mother: Too Much or Not Enough.” Others reflected the sexual revolution of the 1960s, including birth control, rape, and lesbianism. Because the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 had legalized abortion under certain circumstances in Roe V. Wade, there were panels on both sides of this controversial issue.
The celebrity speakers also addressed old and new themes. First Lady Betty Ford gave a ringing endorsement of the ERA at the opening session. Congress had passed it in 1972, and it was then circulating around the states for their ratification. Ohio had ratified in 1974, and the amendment needed only four more states to ratify. “While many new opportunities are open to women, too many are available only to the lucky few. Many barriers continue to block the paths of most women, even on the most basic issue of equal pay for equal work. And the contributions of women as wives and mothers continue to be underrated.” She also acknowledged that the amendment aroused “the fears of some – both men and women – about the changes already taking place.” Passage of the ERA was not the solution to all problems, she concluded, but it would be a hopeful start.
Nationally syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers addressed a more personal issue in “A Presentation for Women with Perfect Marriages … and Other Liars.” Women in this feminist era faced special challenges as they sought to reconcile their own identities with their role as wives and mothers, she said. Her advice: no marriage is perfect.
But the congress wasn’t all workshops and lectures. It also showcased local women’s musical talents: the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra, the Sweet Adelines, the Kitchen Band, the St. Adalbert Soul Choir. Comedian Lily Tomlin combined entertainment with pointed political commentary, poking fun at herself, her enthusiastic audience, and thanking congress organizers for giving her Betty Ford’s dressing room. On the final night of the congress, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, husband and wife, gave dramatic readings that linked the past with the present: Davis, an 1857 speech by Frederick Douglass, the revered supporter of equality for women and blacks, and Dee’s own poem, “Calling All Women.”
When it was all over, congress organizers created a laundry list of future goals. Some were old and familiar – “fair representation and participation in the political process”; “equal education and training”; “meaningful work and adequate compensation.” Some addressed specific, contemporary concerns: federal assistance for infant and toddler care, full-day kindergarten, free clinics, more adequate health care insurance, avoiding Medicare cuts, improved health care delivery, crisis shelters for women and children, and altering “societal values so that men do not need to feel superior to women and resort to brute force to prove their masculinity.”
There were some tangible results too. A registry of women’s organization served, like the congress itself, to better connect the widely various women’s groups. Plans for WomenSpace were also finalized, with a grant from the Cleveland Foundation. The new agency set up offices in the YWCA headquarters, providing research, counseling, and programs for women, another continuation of what the congress had done.
THE PUBLIC RESPONSE
The three-day event made the local news for months. Mayor Ralph Perk himself spoke at the opening ceremony. The Cleveland Plain Dealer enthused over the large crowds, thought-provoking workshops, and celebrity speakers. One reader showered praise: “The congress was one of the best organized, most interesting, most innovative events this city has seen in a long time…. [E]veryone working in harmony for a successful conclusion. This is what America should be about…. Pride in Cleveland is still well placed.” The congress did attract national attention. As York proudly stated, “Cleveland became a leader in the struggle for equality for women in equal partnership with men.” It had hosted the biggest IWY celebration anywhere, a feather in the cap of a city still smarting from jokes about the burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969, a 1973 federal lawsuit against its racially segregated public school system, and the humiliation of having to sell off its sewer system in 1972 and its public transit system in 1975.
Not everyone was happy about the congress, of course. One Cleveland woman wrote in disgust: “When community leaders sponsor workshops on rape, prostitution, abortion and lesbianism for the enlightenment of young people…; when free sex of any variety is promoted as a positive value along with free birth control devices, … when home and family life is denigrated and sex roles blurred, we have the beginning of the end.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, the January 1976 issue of Point of View, habitually critical of almost everything, carried an article by radical feminist Marge Grevatt, entitled “Cleveland’s IWY: Feminism for Sale.” She described the congress planners as “safe” women, naively “co-opted” by “the establishment,” pointing to meetings in the Cleveland Foundation’s “plush headquarters.” She criticized the $300 fee for booths that sold stuff to women, questioning whether the congress was more about serving Higbee’s and Halle’s than about serving Cleveland women. With more justice, Grevatt accused the congress of shortchanging lesbians and lower-income women. Yet even she had some praise for the organizers who worked so hard for no money and with such good intentions. “Some very good things happened,” she conceded: thanks to the workshops and panels and talks and performances, and just coming together in solidarity, Cleveland women woke up. At least to mainstream feminism.
AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
Those were heady days – those three days in October 1975. York spoke of the pervasive “atmosphere of joy.” These women may have been joyful, but Grevatt’s criticisms notwithstanding, they weren’t naïve. No one thought the fight for equal partnership had been won, or that a win would be easy.
And sure enough. The social and political ferment of the 1970s gave way to the conservative backlash of the 1980s. Even with a three-year extension, the ERA, the goal most closely identified with 1970s feminism, failed in 1982, just three states short of ratification. Right-to-life organizations picketed abortion clinics and threatened doctors. The Supreme Court imposed restrictions on abortions although Roe V. Wade survived. The Reagan budgets cut funds for social service programs that customarily aided women. The fissures between feminism and traditionalism and between mainstream and radical feminism, apparent in Cleveland in 1975, continued to divide the movement.
But in 2019, it’s important to remember that in the mid-1970s, “feminism” was a dirty word to lots of people and that despite the moderate title of the congress and its mostly modest goals, its planners and participants were not only energetic and optimistic but brave, like the woman’s rights advocates and the suffragists who came before them.
It’s also important to remember that those heady October days in Cleveland were another brave beginning. But not the last.
(The author, a senior in North House, has been active in Cleveland politics for several years as a member of U.S. Congressmen Louis Stokes’ staff. He recently returned from Cleveland where he spent ten days working for the black Independent candidate, Arnold Pinkney.)
As if anyone of needed further convincing, the recent Cleveland mayoral election illustrates the rapid demise of that city from “The Best Location in the Nation” to “The Mistake on the Lake.” Through a strange concatenation of events which made the political prognosticators cringe with shame, law-and-order candidate Ralph Perk became Cleveland’s first Republican mayor in 35 years by winning an election dominated by the Democrat who was leaving office.
Responsibility for Perk’s victory must lie with Mayor Carl Stokes’ unsuccessful political maneuvering, maneuvering which only heightened already existing anti-black and anti-Stokes sentiment in the city. For in his bid to gain nationwide political power by demonstrating his ability to weld a citywide coalition of blacks and liberal whites, Stokes committed the cardinal sin of permitting his political vision to become obscured by ego considerations. Stokes grossly overestimated his ability to manipulate the black vote, and his success during the primary in personally crushing his chief tormentors ultimately resulted in the defeat of his chosen successor.
To comprehend the results of the election, it is necessary to understand some of the underlying factors which have made Cleveland politics so volatile and unpredictable. The infamous Cuyahoga River, distinguished by its ability to catch five, dividers the city east-west, black-white. Some 40 per cent of Cleveland’s eligible voters are black, and almost all of them reside on the East Side. There is very little interaction across the river in this polarized community. In 1967, and again in 1969, Stokes was elected mayor in close two-man races by carrying a solid 95 per cent of the black vote as well as 18 per cent of the white vote. But despite the fact that three-fourths of the City Councilmen were Democrats, most of them were white who consistently voted against the Mayor.
Stokes was confronted by two white Council Presidents who were determined to demonstrate that they, and not the Mayor, were the most powerful men in the city. The first was James Stanton, now a U.S. Congressman, and the second was Anthony Garofoli, stanton’s protege. For three years Cleveland’s political scene was dominated by the personal struggle between the egos of Carl Stokes and Jim Stanton. The feud sometimes took the form of confrontations over concrete issues, such as public housing on the West Side, but more often than not the differences were personal rather than political. Stanton was able to maintain a solid majority of white Democrats and Republicans in Council who followed a policy of opposing and embarrassing the Mayor on every issue. Strokes in turn lost no opportunity to accuse Stanton and his cohorts of blatant racism.
Despite the fact that it was Stanton’s unrelenting struggle for power which was most responsible for the stalemate that thwarted progress. Cleveland’s citizens began to turn against the Mayor. However, Stokes must shoulder a large amount of blame for his decline popularity. Unwise administrative appointments and scandals in several departments caused widespread resentment. Possibility the worst move of all was the appointment of a new Police Chief who was forced to resign nine days later when strong evidence revealed he was linked to the Detroit Mafia. Scandals in the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Weights and Measures contributed to a growing feeling among whites that Stokes was getting rich off the city. A gut feeling that someone is a crook cannot be destroyed by factual evidence, and the power of rumors of Stokes’ supposed financial misdeeds was incredible. In addition, white paranoia manifested itself in widely-circulated stories of Stokes’ alleged relations with white women.
But it was the issue of law and order which inspired the bitterest the Mayor and the Police Department had been bad ever since the Glenville riots when, after several policemen had been killed, stokes ordered all patrolmen out of the area. The move was successful in preventing more deaths, but the wholesale looting that followed the withdrawal of law enforcement officials angered many whites. The deep-seated antipathy between white policemen and blacks which has now become the norm was increased. During the 1969 election non-uniformed uninformed policemen with guns dangling openly at their sides served as challengers at the polls in black wards in an obvious attempt to intimidate black voters.
To smooth out relations between himself and the Police Department, Stokes appointed as Safety Director retired General Benjamin O. Davis, the highest ranking black in the Air Force. Davis proved to be one of the few law-and-order blacks in the country, and constantly sided with the police. Six months later he resigned, charging that Stokes and his Administration had given aid and support to “enemies of law enforcement.” When pressed, Davis produced a list containing the names of several black militants and black organizations. He also fingered the weekly newspaper of the black community which had committed the grievous crime of printing a picture of Davis with the caption: “Benjamin O. Davis–Safety Director?” The fact that $10,000 of the funds in the “Cleveland Now” program, funded by business and private contributions to aid community development, ultimately was used to stock the arsenal of the black organization most responsible for the Glenville riots destroyed any hope for further community cooperation. The Stokes Administration’s failure to insure basic protection became an over-riding issue from then on.
When Stanton left Council at the end of 1970 to assume his duties as Congressman, he maintained control through his handpicked successor, Garofoli, Stanton would come to Cleveland every Monday morning and spend a couple of hours with Garofoli planning strategy for that night’s Council meeting. Garofoli, whose eyes were already on the Mayor’s job, kept up the running feud with Stokes. The situation became so bad that the Mayor and his Cabinet walked out of a Council meeting last spring and didn’t return for a month. Stokes felt that Council was not according him the respect he deserved, and city business was placed in a state of suspended animation as a result.
With four years of controversy and frustration behind him, and facing the distinct possibility that he might lose, it was not surprising when Stokes announced late in the spring that he would not seek re-election. He recognized as well as anyone that the city could no longer move forward under his direction, since the forces arrayed against him were too great. But as he withdrew, he made it clear that he would play a major role in the selection of his successor. His favorite was Arnold Pinkney, the black School Board President who had served as Stokes’ administrative assistant. Because most of Cleveland’s black political leaders, led by the Mayor and his brother, U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes, had withdrawn from the county Democratic Party because of the absence of blacks at the policy-making level. Pinkney chose to run as an Independent. The feeling prevailed that he would stand a much better chance in a three-man race where the white vote would be split.
The struggle for the Democratic nomination was between Garofoli and James Carney, a multi-moderately liberal leanings. Stokes and Carney were very close, since the latter had been a major financial backer in the Mayor’s previous campaigns. All indications pointed to a runaway victory for Garofoli in an election to be decided by white Democrats. But Carl Stokes saw an opportunity to personally defeat Garofoli (and Stanton), and to get back at those who had been his bitterest opponents, the men who had refused to accord him “basic respect.” Over the last weekend of the primary campaign, a taped message from Stokes was mechanically telephoned from Carney headquarters into the home of every black voter in the city, instructing the residents to go to the polls and vote for Carney. The message didn’t even have the familiar “This is a recording” tacked on at the end, with the result that many blacks thought they were speaking directly to the Mayor. It was not too difficult to stir up the anger of blacks against a man who had attempted to water down the city’s strong equal employment opportunity clause because he felt it was costing too much money to insure that blacks were working on city-leased contracts. Strokes’ effort won the primary for Carney as 50,000 blacks flocked to the polls and gave their overwhelming support to the millionaire.
The seeds of Independent Pinkney’s defeat were sown at the same time Stokes was rejoicing at Carney’s victory. Immediately after the primary, Stokes elatedly proclaimed that the way was now cleared for a race between “two gentlemen.” And in words that would come back to haunt him, he added, “I am discounting the man who raised our real estate taxes, Mr. Perk.” For despite every effort to switch black votes back to Pinkney, including two letters and another recorded message from the Mayor, the inroads that Carney had made in the black community could not be counteracted. Stokes badly underestimated the resistance of black citizens to his efforts at manipulating them, as well as the problem of logically explaining to people why they, should vote for a candidates in September and against him in November.
The ultimate beneficially of Strokes’ miscalculation was Perk, the man whom the Mayor “discounted.” Perk would not have stood a chance against Garofoli, since the latter would have carried traditional Democratic areas. With Carney as an opponent, however, Perk could count on a large Democratic crossover. He was able to equate both of his opponents with Carl Stokes, and therefore capitalized on the white backlash. The anti-Stokes support that would have gone to Garofoli now gravitated to Perk. While both Pinkney and Carney were unfolding detailed plans to help cure the city’s financial problems. Perk based his entire campaign on a law-and-order, anti-corruption, anti-Stokes platform. In a city beset by critical problems of health, housing, and unemployment. Perk had the gall to stand before the City Club four days before the election and announce that his number one priority was improving recreation facilities. He and Carney spent the campaign throwing mud at each other, and Perk’s aim proved better. Carney accused Perk of gross negligence in his capacity as County Auditor. The charge was valid, since Perk was in charge of the recent tax reappraisal which was so badly run that it generated 48,000 complaints. But Perk, who had stated at the time the reappraisal was begun that he assumed full control and responsibility, responded by saying that he had no control over the process. Perk shot back by dredging up a twenty-year old scandal involving Carney and his brother John, the County Auditor before Perk, and casting doubt on the methods which Carney employed to amass his fortune. Time and time again Perk accused Stokes of manipulating the election by putting up two candidates, while emphasizing that he, Perk, was his own man.
Carney was compelled to act like two different people in order to implement his strategy of running second everywhere and winning. His ads on black radio stations which carried the message “Jim Carney may not be a brother, but he’s got soul” were aired at the same time he was pandering to anti-black sentiments on the West Side. As it turned out Carney-West, with the result that the combined effort was a dismal failure. A scant three days before the election, the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicted that Carney would edge out Pinkney, with Perk finishing a poor third. What actually occurred was that Perk won handily with 38.7 per cent of the total, beating Pinkney by 16,000 votes. Pseudo-brother Carney finished third with only 28.7 per cent. Carney took 20 per cent of the black vote, but lost to Perk by a 3-2 margin in white areas. Pinkney’s efforts on the West Side, which took up a large portion of his campaign, proved futile as he received an abysmal 3 per cent of the white vote. The racial polarity within Cleveland is documented by the elections returns. In West Side wards, where Perk polled 4,000-6,000 votes and Carney polled 2,000-4,000. Pinkney received such impressive totals as 148, 153, and 160. In the black wards on the East Side, where Pinkney garnered 4,000-7,000 votes, Perk was held to under 500, Carney consistently received 1,000-2,000 votes in the black wards, attesting to the failure of Round 2 of Stokes’ eleventh-hour manipulations. Carney’s strong showing in the black areas and his dismal showing in the white ones, coupled with an unusually high turnout on the West Side and in East Side ethnic wards, turned a supposedly tight Carney-Pinkney race into a stunning Republican upset.
It seems fairly obvious that in a race between Pinkney, Perk, and Garofoli. Pinkney would have pulled close to 95 per cent of the black vote as well as a good number of liberal white votes. Since the two conservatives would have competed for the same anti-Stokes votes. Pinkney would have won. In politics you win some and you lose some, but this was one that shouldn’t have been lost.
Hopefully, something positive may emerge from the despair that surrounds Cleveland’s black and liberal camps. The present county Democratic Party (from which the black leadership withdrew a year and a half ago) is dead, and a new one which will not commit the fatal error of ignoring black political strength, will have to arise if the city is to recover from what will surely be two years of regression. Carl Stokes’ political star is badly tarnished, and what role he will play in future national affairs is anybody’s guess. The lesson he learned about permitting ego gratification to obscure political vision will be noted across the country, as will the hazards inherent in attempting to manipulate blocks of voters. In addition, the black power structure in Cleveland will be forced to reassess its position and remedy some weaknesses, since it is now clear that something more than inertia is necessary to maintain power.
As I rode the rapid transit on the way to the airport November 3 with a crowd of West Siders on their way home from work. I happened to catch a glimpse of the headlines of the Cleveland Press, which said it all: “Perk Vows Safe Streets”. A series of unique circumstances compounded by Stokes’ political myopia permitted the backlash to overwhelm the forces of progress in Cleveland.
The damage is doubly severe since from now on Cleveland’s mayoral elections will be non-partisan. The top two vote-getters in the primary will face each other in November, precluding the election of a Mayor by 39 per cent of the vote. Regaining control of City Hall can only be accomplished by the formation of a new majority coalition, and one can only hope that this coalition can be constructed in time to prevent Cleveland’s problems from reaching an incurable level
Kent State University was placed into the international spotlight on May 4, 1970, after 13 students were shot by members of the Ohio National Guard at a student demonstration. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded, including one who was permanently paralyzed from his injury. The May 4 Collection, established by the Kent State University Libraries in 1970, includes over 300 cubic feet of primary sources related to the Kent State shootings and their aftermath. The collection is open to the public and is used by researchers from around the world.