Dow 50 Story Gathering Project (Powered by OHMS)

From Demonstration to Commemoration

Anti-Dow Chemical protest as seen from the broken window at the Commerce Building of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. UW-Archives, #x25-3538.

In October of 1967 the University of Wisconsin-Madison became the home of what some would consider the first instance of violent student protest in American history. Between the morning of the 17th and the evening of the 18th a series of student demonstrations and police reprisals escalated in tandem. Students, working in the wake of earlier on-campus Anti-Vietnam protests, occupied the commerce building and obstructed the Dow Chemical company’s recruitment attempts. The population of assembled students grew into the hundreds, and eventually the confrontation became physical.

Two police officers with billy clubs attempt to drag away Vicki Gabriner, in whiteface wearing a sign reading “Sifting and Winnowing,” during the Dow Chemical protests. Several dozen civilians stand behind her. UW-Archives, S00868.

During the final encounter between students and both UW-Madison and Madison City Police demonstrators and officers traded rocks and sticks with batons and tear gas. Later that evening over 3,000 returned to Library Mall, voting to boycott classes until city police were barred from campus and an agreement was reached to spare punishment for demonstration leaders.

The fraught legacies of the student protest and police response live on, affecting both UW and the city of Madison. As component of their commitment to community outreach, the UW and Madison Public Library (MPL) worked together to commemorate the demonstration and collect related materials. During the summer of 2017, with the 50th anniversary of this event on the horizon, staff at the UW-Madison Oral History Program also reached out to the History Department, and the iSchool for student volunteers. These four groups worked together to gather Dow stories & memories at the MPL on October 18 & 19, 2017; some students also conducted recorded phone interviews in the days and weeks after.

This web page highlights that project, the history it seeks to preserve, and the integral partnerships it represents.

For a more detailed look at the events of the protest, see the comprehensive overview produced by our colleagues at University Communications.

See additional research materials related to the Dow Protests here.


Wortzel, Beth Schinasi, Carl Schreiber, Dana Stein, Daniel
Freidman, Edward Connolly, Ellie Clover, Frank Grubis, Gail
Poulson, Jack McFadden, James Wrich, Janis Schooley, John
Christensen, Judy Smith, Kenneth Lewin, Larry Schwartz, Martin
Farmiloe, Mary Nussbaum, Mitchell Konnelly Sinclair, Patty Goldwomon, Sue
Keyes, Ted Karls, Thomas