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Lingerie Rummage Sale Fails

On Wednesday evening, April 30, 1952, a water fight broke out between students at a male dormitory and those at a neighboring fraternity house at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska. It wasn’t long before things escalated out of control.

The students then made their way to a sorority house where housemother Mrs. Mary Buckingham attempted to keep the boys out. She was unsuccessful. The boys pushed her aside, leaving her with bruises and a wrenched back. Once inside, they pilfered every piece of lingerie that they could find.

Next, they did the same at the women’s dormitory and every other sorority house. At its peak, more than 400 male students were involved and the female students were left with no undergarments other than what they were wearing at the time. Damage was estimated at $700 (nearly $7,000 adjusted for inflation), which included the stolen lingerie and some broken furniture in the sorority houses.

A second disturbance occurred the following evening. An estimated 100 male students raided the sorority houses. As the young women piled out of the buildings, they were soaked with water, and paint was spattered on the back of their jeans.

Dean of Student Affairs T.J. Thompson and campus police attempted to bring calm to the mob. They responded by treating Thompson the same: as he was talking with reporters, a group of boys doused him with water.

“Most of these boys out here,” Thompson told the press, “are not university students but high school boys and local residents.”

Male students raiding the Pi Beta Phi sorority house at the University of Nebraska.
Male students raiding the Pi Beta Phi sorority house at the University of Nebraska. Original image appears on page 13 of the May 8, 1952 publication of The Bedford Daily Times-Mail.

During the final moments of the disturbance, a number of the male students moved on to the women’s dormitory where they ripped a window screen from the building, damaged an iron door, and splattered mud on the façade.

So, what do you do with a huge pile of women’s lingerie? The male students came up with a unique plan: they advertised that there would be “a rummage sale of choice lingerie” in the campus newspaper. They weren’t looking to sell any of it. Their goal was to get the women to come over to the male dormitory and claim their unmentionables. 

On May 3, tables were set up outside the male dormitory and the lingerie was placed on display. Their rummage sale was a complete failure. Only six girls showed up and not a single undergarment was claimed.

One male student commented, “We’ve got this stuff now and we can’t get rid of it.”

At a student convocation on Tuesday, May 13, 1952, University Chancellor R. G. Gustavson stated that 75 male students had been identified as having participated in the raids on the women’s dormitory and the sororities. Each had been placed on conduct probation and forbidden from participating in any extracurricular activities. They had been warned that if they committed another infraction of University rules, they would be expelled. 

He stated, “It is our hope that all active participants will eventually be identified. Everyone will recognize, of course, the difficulty in identifying all those who took part. Students identified as active members of the raiding party have been asked to pay damages.”

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