There was change in the air in post-war Indiana.
On July 1, 1945 – Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics was established as separate degree program. Neil Armstrong would graduate in 1955.
The telephone system began using area codes in large cities for connecting long-distance calls between toll switching centers. In 1947, the 812 area code was introduced for southern Indiana and the 317 area code was introduced for the northern two-thirds.
The automobile industry was gearing up for post-war changes. Domestic production of automobiles had come to a stop during the war. Studebaker used the marketing slogan, “First by far with a post-war car.” The flatback trunk and wrap around rear window of its 1947 Starlight Coupe were influential on later cars. However, Studebaker would not be able to withstand the coming industry price war between Ford and GM.
In 1947, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction was founded (originally known as the Institute for Sex Research.) The research of Professor Alfred Kinsey was foundational to the institute. Kinsey was an entomologist by training and was convinced that a biological background could help in understanding social phenomena. Kinsey’s research paved the way for a deeper exploration into sexuality among sexologists and the general public. I feel like I have a hard time grasping the actual public knowledge and view of sex prior to Kinsey. To read some of the literature, the understanding was pretty awful and benighted. But, here and there, I feel like there are hints that the general public’s understanding of sexuality was at least somewhat more sophisticated than what showed up in some of the literature. But, in any case, Kinsey was a watershed for public discussion and acceptance of sexuality as something important to both men and women and helped people feel less isolated with respect to a subject that had traditionally been shrouded in secrecy.
Kinsey’s research had its roots in marriage courses that were not unusual in the 1920s and 30s. They were seen as tools for addressing the “marriage crisis” caused by changing social conventions of the time. Women were getting the right to vote, there was public discussion about birth control — separating procreation from sex, and increasing prevalence of “companiate marriage” where romantic love and sexual compatibility were taking priority over financial security and family input. People were getting married later in life. The availability of automobiles were providing young people with increased opportunities to be alone with one another even while the adults in their lives were generally declining to provide accurate information. (I’m not sure where to put this, but the above linked article on Kinsey’s marriage courses mentions that in 1937, Nick’s English Hut was closed at the urging of Dean of Women, Agnes Wells, because it was too close to a church.)
Even before coming to teach the marriage course, however, Kinsey had an opinions about teaching sexuality. In his textbook about methods of teaching biology, Kinsey stated, “Under the guise of science, we too often have sex instruction which is a curious even if a well-intentioned mixture of superstition, religious evaluation, and a mere perpetuation of social custom.” He advocated applying the scientific method to evaluate materials for teaching high school kids about human reproduction.
With respect to the marriage courses, as Kinsey began to learn more from and about his students, his research and lectures began to deviate from the normal marriage course’s focus on how sex could strengthen the marital bond. His approach to understanding human sexuality was the same as his approach to evaluating high school materials on human reproduction — applying the scientific method, in particular striving to use large sample sizes, wide geographic distribution, and data obtained by observation.
As Kinsey discovered the diversity of sexual behavior among undergraduate and graduate students, faculty wives, and heterosexuals and homosexuals in Chicagoand northern Indiana, his lectures opened broad questions about sexuality that the marriage course, with its obvious focus on improving nuptial bonds, was not designed to answer. As changes in the texts of Kinsey’s lectures show, over time he focused less on how a healthy sex life enriches and stabilizes marriage and more on a broad range of human sexual experience. While the question of sex in marriage would remain one focus of Kinsey’s analysis, it would no longer be the only one.
Over the next couple of years, Kinsey’s interests would evolve from a marriage education course into a broader inquiry about human sexuality. In part this evolution was caused by the individual conferences he would have with the students in his class. A lot of the students had the same sorts of questions. Kinsey felt like the research into those questions was scant as compared to research on the sexual behavior of the insects he had studied, and he felt like accurate education would spare people a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
His view of homosexuality was not the traditional one for the era. He said, “biologically, it is still part of the normal sexual picture, and the individual who suffers through the social condemnation which is a result of the branding of the phenomenon as abnormal has the most difficult sexual problem that I know of. It is a phenomenon that society will some day [face] with more objectivity.” Students of the course were generally supportive of its content, but faculty were critical, particularly to the idea of the normality of masturbation and homosexuality.
In the summer of 1940, feeling pressure from IU sociologists, campus physicians, local Christian leaders, and some parents, IU President Herman Wells asked Kinsey to choose one of two courses of action: resign from the marriage course and continue to take the sex histories of students, or continue to teach in the marriage course but allow the IU health center to take over the individual counseling sessions. Kinsey stopped teaching the marriage course and continued his research, and the result would come to be the Kinsey Institute, one of the leading institutions of sex research. Of course, such research still has its opponents. As I write this, one of Indiana’s candidates for governor is Eric Holcomb. Back in 2000, when he was running for state representative, he accused his opponent John Frenz of “supporting bestiality and obscene photographs of children” based on nothing more than Frenz’s vote for the state budget bill which included funding for Indiana University and the Kinsey Institute.
Finishing up on Governor Gates: he was able to use his influence with the American Legion to get it to move from Washington D.C. to Indianapolis, with office space in the War Memorial. Due to Constitutional limitations, Gates was unable to run for re-election as governor. However, as payback for Jenner’s interference with highway funding, Gates was successful in blocking the nomination of Senator Jenner to run for governor. He resumed his leadership of the state party and had some influence in the national Republican party. He had the chance to run for Vice-President with Robert Taft in 1952 but declined. His reach into Indiana politics was felt up until very recently. One of the last Republican Senators he helped get elected was Richard Lugar. (And this is the point in this series for me at which history begins to stop feeling like something from a remote time and place and begins to start feeling like it has an impact on current events.)
Gates continued to live in the Columbia City home he and his wife had purchased in 1919. He died of natural causes in 1978 at the age of 85.