When Are We Ready For Going Steady?

howdoyouknowitsloveHappy Valentine’s Day, folks! Do you know it’s love?

These late-1950s leaflets, many of which were produced by the Christian Education Service, can help you answer your  puzzling  love questions. Titles of pamphlets include “Going Steady: Pros and Cons,” “SEX In Your Life,”  “How Do I Know It’s Love?”  and “Now You are Engaged.”

The pamphlets were originally written to address teenagers’  questions about premarital sex, relationships, and marriage. What is most interesting about them is their  tone of relative openness, especially  considering the time period in which they were written.  While the leaflets  undeniably discourage premarital sex, the tone of the writing is not  damning or bombastic. Lines such as “There is no reason to have had these guilts if we properly understand that this discovery of sex and self is part of growing up” and “now is the time we should know the facts of life  very clearly and begin to call a spade a spade” show that the writers , and the Christian Education Service itself, maintained the stance that sex should be talked about instead of ignored.

The ten leaflets (part of the Martha Jane Starr Collection, available at LaBudde Special Collections) serve as a testimonial to Mrs. Starr’s advocacy for women and families, and her attitude of open communication about issues such as sex and family planning. Mrs. Starr, who gifted her collection to LSC in 2010, dedicated her life to serving women and families in the Kansas City community.

Born on November 27, 1906, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, she was the daughter of L.E. Phillips, a co-founder of Phillips Petroleum. She moved to Kansas City soon after marrying John Wilbur “Twink” Starr in 1929. Mr. and Mrs. Starr worked as active community leaders in Kansas City. Mrs. Starr was the first woman to be elected to the UMKC Board of Trustees, after the University of Kansas City merged with the UM system in 1963. She was also on the board of the Kansas City Planned Parenthood chapter, and even served as the local organization’s president.

In addition to her many other philanthropic contributions, she founded the UMKC Women’s Council, was the first woman to be honored with the Chancellor’s Medal, and, in 1971, spearheaded the creation of the UMKC Graduate Assistance Fund , which continues to assist women graduate students at UMKC. Mrs. Starr passed away on November 14, 2011, just weeks before her 105th birthday.

Thanks to artifacts such as these historical leaflets, which represent a small fraction of her collection,  her message of open dialogue on issues affecting women and families continues to resonate with us today.