The pioneers who struggled for legalisation in the 60s are seeing the same battles being fought all over again

The telephone sat in the dormitory hallway, and when it rang it might have been for any of the residents – young women in their teens and early 20s, all students at the University of Chicago. Calls came from family and friends and boyfriends, from colleagues and classmates and clubs. But sometimes the voice at the end of the line would ask for “Jane”.

This was 1965, and in Chicago the social justice movement was gathering pace – a new era that encompassed civil rights, student rights, women’s rights and resistance to the war in Vietnam. Among those involved was Heather Booth, a 19-year-old social sciences student from New York. Booth had spent the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, volunteering as part of the Freedom Summer project, an attempt to register as many African American voters as possible. It was an experience that had galvanised her and taught some valuable lessons: “One is that if you organise, even in what seem like the most hopeless circumstances, you can change the world,” she says. “Number two: sometimes you have to stand up to illegitimate authority.”

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