Political and Activist Organizations

Simmons students have been involved in activism throughout the University’s history. For a detailed look into this topic, please explore our Activism at Simmons digital exhibit. 

What that exhibit does not discuss, however, are the myriad student clubs and organizations that formed during Simmons’ first 100 years that helped students become involved in political and activist activities. Prior to 1960, some of these groups included the Debating Society (founded 1928), the Progressive Citizens of America (founded 1947), and the Political Thought and Action Club (founded 1956).

American Student Union members, c. 1937

American Student Union members, c. 1937

Another of these groups, the American Student Union (originally the Peace Society), was conceived at a Strike for Peace held on April 12, 1935.

Students who took part wanted to organize a club where they could carry on peace education and action throughout the year.

When the American Student Union was formed at the national convention in Columbus, Ohio during winter break 1935, the members of the Peace Society unanimously decided to join, determining that the fight for peace was not to be won without working also for freedom, security, equality, and justice.

Feminist Union members, c. 1986

Feminist Union members, c. 1986

The 1960s-1970s saw a lot of activism, as depicted in the Activism at Simmons exhibit, but many clubs that were created during this time lasted for just a year or two as they served a specific purpose, such as ones protesting the Vietnam War.

It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that activist organizations were established which stuck around at Simmons for many years.

These included the Feminist Union (founded 1985), the Society Organized Against Racism (SOAR, founded 1987), and the Simmons chapter of Amnesty International (founded 1988).

1990 GALA Week Invitation

1990 GALA Week invitation

Additional organizations included the Lesbian Bisexual Association (LBA, founded 1988), Students Protecting Animal Rights and Ethics (SPARE, founded 1989), and Students Against Violating the Environment (SAVE, founded 1990)

All of these organizations held regular meetings, hosted events, and worked to promote their causes on the Simmons campus.

LBA specifically worked in concert with national organization GALA, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, on awareness events such as GALA Week.

Article from The Simmons Voice about Betsy's Friends, September 30, 1999

Simmons Voice article about Betsy's Friends, Sept. 30, 1999

BACCHUS, an alcohol awareness group, was founded in 1996 after stories about sexual assault and alcohol abuse at college parties became frequent topics in the student newspaper.

Betsy’s Friends, a relationship violence awareness group, was founded in 1998 in memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” McCandless, a Simmons alum who was murdered in 1992 by her ex-husband.

Additionally, two politically affiliated groups were created in 1996 – the College Republicans and the Simmons Democrats.

The 1980s and 1990s were a very active time for Simmons students.

As the 20th century was coming to a close, students were empowered to find and use their voices to celebrate their differences and beliefs as well as fight for the causes that were important to them.

Many of the clubs and organizations formed during this time continued in to the 2000s.

Political and Activist Organizations