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Ada de Laittre Mitchell Wheeler, 1910-82, was both a leader and a chronicler of the second wave of feminism that occurred in this country and in many
other parts of the world in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Early on, she adapted her first and middle names to Adade – pronounced Aida Dee – the name by which she was known both professionally and familiarly for the rest of her life.
“Remembering Adade” by Lydia Hoornbeek, describes Ms. Wheeler’s dedication to teaching – she taught social studies in Wheaton public schools and history at the College of DuPage – and her passion for involving women in the newest surge of feminism.
At the College of DuPage, Ms. Wheeler created courses in women’s studies. In preparation for her “Women of the Americas” course, to be offered in 1977, Ms. Wheeler traveled to Mexico and Cuba. During that same year, she completed her bicentennial report, “Women in Illinois.” Of that report, she wrote, “Achieving equality today requires in part the recovery of yesterday. The yesterdays of Illinois women are rich and diverse. Women have always been active but often in unheralded ways; they have also been active in more visible ways. “Women in Illinois” presents both dimensions, as well as the ways in which women’s movement have benefited other social groups.”
From that bicentennial essay, Ms. Wheeler and Marlene Stein Wortman wrote “The Roads They Made: Women in Illinois History.” One of Ms. Wheeler’s great disappointments was the failure of this country to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Ms. Hoornbeek writes Ms. Wheeler “was ashamed when talking to foreigners about why Americans were afraid to make its men and women equal in the sights of the law.”
“Remembering Adade” is published by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society. The endnotes to each chapter help detail the heady progress of the women’s movement, particularly in the 1970s in this country. Evanston readers may delight in pages 102-3, where Kristin Lems’s “Ballad of the ERA” is reprinted.