Boston Sunday Globe

Casey Hayden, a force for civil rights, feminism

- By Neil Genzlinger

Casey Hayden, an important organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinati­ng Committee during its push for civil rights in the early 1960s and the coauthor of two papers that called out sexism within that organizati­on, and in society in general — documents that are credited with helping to inspire second-wave feminism — died Jan. 4 in Arizona. She was 85.

The SNCC Digital Gateway, an Internet archive of the movement, posted news of her death on its website. No cause was given.

Ms. Hayden, a native Texan, was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in early 1960 when she joined Black students in anti-segregatio­n protests. According to newspaper accounts at the time, she was one of the first white students to do so.

Later that year she was a delegate to the United States National Student Associatio­n Congress at the University of Minnesota. The congress, Ms. Hayden wrote in an essay in “Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC” (2010), consisted mostly of white students, many from the South and “all for law and order.” A contingent of Black students representi­ng the newly formed Student Nonviolent Coordinati­ng Committee was not finding much sympathy and went looking for “a pro-sit-in white Southerner” to add to a panel on civil disobedien­ce. Ms. Hayden took the assignment.

“Twenty-two years old, I had a strong Southern drawl and hardly spoke above a whisper,” she wrote. But her words resonated.

“I cannot say to a person who suffers injustice, ‘Wait,’” she told the audience that day. “Perhaps you can; I can’t. And having decided that I cannot urge caution, I must stand with him.”

The crowd gave her a standing ovation, and the event gave a boost to the idea of student activism, bringing new credibilit­y to SNCC and other groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, which became known for its opposition to the Vietnam War. Ms. Hayden was on her way to becoming a force in the peace and social justice movements.

She had met Tom Hayden at the conference, and she joined him and others in getting Students for a Democratic Society off the ground. She and Tom Hayden married in 1961, and though the marriage lasted only two years, Wesley Hogan, a research professor at the John Hope Franklin Institute at Duke University who has studied Ms. Hayden’s life, said she was at the center of things in those formative years.

“She was a pivotal voice as Tom Hayden, her then-spouse, wrote the Port Huron Statement,” Hogan said by e-mail, referring to a pivotal manifesto issued by SDS in 1962. “Both Tom and Casey were philosophe­rs, and though Tom has been credited as the author of the document, Casey’s substantia­l, if largely unrecogniz­ed, influence on the thinking of the time grew from the fact that for several prior years, she had tried to live out democratic values in the Southern crucible.”

Ms. Hayden attended an SNCC conference in October 1960 and began working for the organizati­on in Atlanta under Ella Baker, a revered figure in the civil rights movement. She took the last of the Freedom Rides of 1961, bus trips through the South intended to protest segregated bus terminals. In 1963 she went to Mississipp­i, where she helped lead an adult literacy project and worked on the challenge to the all-white Mississipp­i delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1964. (That challenge was squashed by President Lyndon Johnson, the party’s nominee.)

In November 1964, SNCC leaders gathered to take stock after an exhausting year, and Ms. Hayden and several other women anonymousl­y drafted a position paper that underscore­d sexism within the organizati­on, listing grievances that ranged from women automatica­lly being assigned clerical and minutes-taking duties to a shortage of women in leadership roles.

“Maybe sometime in the future,” the document said, “the whole of the women in this movement will become so alert as to force the rest of the movement to stop the discrimina­tion and start the slow process of changing values and ideas so that all of us gradually come to understand that this is no more a man’s world than it is a white world.”

The next year, Ms. Hayden and a fellow activist, Mary King, circulated “Sex and Caste: A Kind of Memo From Casey Hayden and Mary King to a Number of Other Women in the Peace and Freedom Movements.”

“There seem to be many parallels that can be drawn between treatment of Negroes and treatment of women in our society as a whole,” the women wrote. “But in particular, women we’ve talked to who work in the movement seem to be caught up in a common-law caste system that operates, sometimes subtly, forcing them to work around or outside hierarchic­al structures of power which may exclude them.”

King, who teaches at the University for Peace, which is based in Costa Rica, said in an interview that they had originally sent the memo to 40 women in the movement.

“Historians have noted that these women in turn organized consciousn­ess-raising groups that were catalytic for women working on their own pursuits of equality and fulfillmen­t,” she said by e-mail, “and which would give rise to the stirrings of the U.S. feminist movement.”

In 1966 the memo was published in Liberation, a journal of the War Resisters League, giving it wider exposure.

King, who shared houses with Ms. Hayden in Atlanta and in Mississipp­i, said she was always struck by how deeply Ms. Hayden thought about the issues surroundin­g equality.

Sandra Cason (she later adopted the name Casey) was born on Oct. 31, 1937, in Austin. Her mother, Eula Cason, was granted a divorce from her husband, William, when Sandra was a year old, and given custody.

“Mom was a single working mother, liberal and commenting on the news at the breakfast table as she read the paper and smoked cigarettes, complained about the absence of equal pay in her profession­al life,” Ms. Hayden recalled in the “Hands on the Plow” essay.

Ms. Hayden graduated from Patti Welder High School and a two-year program at Victoria College, where she was student council secretary. She enrolled at the University of Texas and majored in English. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1959, she stayed on as a graduate assistant, becoming increasing­ly active in the national YWCA and anti-segregatio­n protests.

In the mid-1990s she married Paul W. Buckwalter, an Episcopal priest known for his outreach work in the Tucson area. He died in 2016. Informatio­n on survivors was not immediatel­y available.

 ?? HAYDEN FAMILY VIA NEW YORK TIMES ?? Ms. Hayden (with ex-husband Tom Hayden in 2010) organized for the Student Nonviolent Coordinati­ng Committee.
HAYDEN FAMILY VIA NEW YORK TIMES Ms. Hayden (with ex-husband Tom Hayden in 2010) organized for the Student Nonviolent Coordinati­ng Committee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States