“I have become deeply convinced that if you are not actively a part of seeking of the solution of women’s rights you are a part of the problem.” June Anderson
As fall is here and the kiddos are back in school, it’s the perfect time to pay tribute to a shero who worked tirelessly to make her campus safer and more accessible for women and non-traditional students.
June Anderson was born in Tipton County, Tennessee in 1926. She received a B.S. in chemistry and biology in 1947, and earned her M.A. in chemistry and English the following year. She taught high school science for over a decade, and Tennessee honored Anderson’s excellence in teaching with the Distinguished Science Teachers Award in 1957. However, she never lost sight of her own educational goals. In 1954, she received a General Electric Fellowship to complete a second undergraduate degree in physics.
In 1958, Anderson joined the faculty of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). She became a talented member of the Chemistry Department and actively supported the school’s chemistry clubs. She received a national Science Foundation grant and completed her post-doctoral study in 1964 at the University of Arkansas.
Anderson’s achievements were certainly impressive considering the difficulties women faced in higher education—typically a male-dominated environment. Anderson never forgot the hardships she faced in higher education, and she became a force for change later in her career.
Anderson resolved to improve the conditions of Middle Tennessee State University by making higher learning more accessible to the students juggling the dual responsibility of family life and education. Aiming to improve women’s lives, she founded Concerned Faculty and Administrative Women (CFAW) in 1975. This organization supported women as they pursued their degrees and led to the establishment of Women’s Information Service for Education (WISE) in 1977 to further assist women. In 1980, as the first Women’s Studies course was added to the university’s catalog, Anderson founded Women in Higher Education in Tennessee (WHET). These services helped women realize their potential and succeed in all areas of life.
The June Anderson Papers housed at the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU documents the lengths these organizations would go in order to meet the needs of each student. The records demonstrate that women came to Anderson for reasons ranging from inaccessible parking to domestic violence. For instance, some memos reported that staff provided rides for women unable to meet with professors, and wrote letters to public officials demanding that cases of rape and sexual assault on campus be given more attention. These organizations fought for issues relating to child care, equal pay, and safe campus policies, all in the hopes that every woman who desired an education was able to receive one.
After decades of serving the Middle Tennessee community, Anderson’s health took a turn for the worst. In a heartbreaking letter of resignation, she wrote of how much her students and work meant to her and how much it pained her to step aside. She died in 1984, leaving behind a legacy as a vigorous advocate for women in Middle Tennessee. Shortly after her death, The WISE center was renamed the June Anderson Women’s Center to pay tribute to the woman who had done so much for the university and the surrounding community.
Written for Sheroes of History by Kelsey D Lamkin. Kelsey is a Public History student at Middle Tennessee State University. In addition to her Master’s degree, she is also pursuing a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies.
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