Sally Chalmers, Supervisor of Primates, Cats and Bears at the
Houston Zoo, has named a "special leopard "after Nikki Van
"She is feisty but gentle," says Chalmers, "and one of a kind,
so she seemed like a perfect tribute to Nikki Van Hightower for
all she has done for women city employees."
Van Hightower has also received abundant national acclaim.
Two recent examples: Redbook magazine named her one of the
outstanding women in Texas, "women initiating change and
progress in their communities." Ladies Home Journal nominated her as a "woman ot the year." And Mayor McConn fired her.
It was all part of the new-mayor ritual. The big business luncheon and dinner circuit, the good old boys clubs, the pressing of
the flesh, as Lyndon Johnson called it.
During a luncheon meeting at the Rotary Club, a reporter asked the mayor what he planned to do about Dr. Nikki Van Hightower. (A week before, McConn had voiced his opinion to the
press that Van Hightower's public image was "much more controversial" than she actually was. He was impressed and it looked
as though she might stay on.)
Not so. Maybe there was a temptation to win over the Briscoe-
supporting Rotarians. Whatever the reason, McConn replied
that there would be no place for Van Hightower in his administration.
The audience hooted and clapped their approval for several
minutes. Observers commented that McConn seemed "carried
away" by it all. Within the hour, it was on all the airwaves.
Reporters burst into Van Hightower's office, broke the news
to her and filed their live reports on her stunned reaction.
She tried to reach the Mayor before responding to their questions, but was told that he could not see her. He finally met
with her at 6:30 p.m. He had very little to say. He offered no
apologies for his handling of the matter, contrary to what he
Van Hightower was "personally injured" by the callous manner
in which he chose to get rid of her. (Addressing a seminar on
battered women at TRIMS shortly afterwards, she told the
audience that she had "first-hand experience" of psychological
Dr. Van Hightower deserves public tribute, not public
humiliation. She has been a true advocate for women - vocal,
visible and courageous. She has fought for the needs of all
women. Her social conscience extends to those who have opposed
her. She has politicized the women of Houston, both for and
against her, and none of them will go back to what they were
We challenge the capabilities of a man who admits to a limited
understanding of women's concerns, and yet feels he can be the
advocate for all the people of Houston.
Dr. Van Hightower is a hero, a respected national proponent
of women's rights, and we are angry at the cavalier way she has
been treated by the mayor.
It is an arrogant abuse of the power of the office.
Hey, baby, where ya goin', whatcha doin\ what's happeni-
inf? Ya loo kin' good, sugar. Nice ass. Looka them legs. Wanna
give me some? Mama. Hey, look at those. Where's your bra,
honey? Don't they get cold that way? I'll keep 'em warm. What
have you got there? What a nice piece. Wanna drink? Where ya
goin' so fast? Can I come too? Ha, ha, ha. Ain't ya goin' to talk
to us? Ain't ya even gonna smile? Whatsa matter with you? You
stuck up or something? Think you're too good, huh? Ugly
bitch anyway, fat legs. Hey, wanna come up to my house?
Show ya a real good time. You got nice legs, honey. Got anything between 'em for me?..,Hey, look at that one, what a
pig...Hey you, your blouse is undone. Whoooeee. Ain'tya gonna
give me a peek? Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Doin' any thin' tonight? How much? Huh? How much for it? Ten bucks? Five?
Hey, whatsa matter with you? I'm just trying to be friendly...
Rape, as we define it, is any sexual intimacy, whether by
direct physical contact or not, that is forced on one person by
another. If you are subjected (many of us are) to this kind of
violation every day, a gradual erosion begins—an erosion of your
self-respect and privacy. You lose a little when you are shaken
out of your daydreams by the whistles and comments of the construction workers you have to pass. You lose a little when a
junior executive looks down your blouse or gives you a familiar pat at work. You lose a little to the obnoxious drunk at the
next table, to that man on the subway, to the guys in the drive-
In themselves, these instances are disgusting, repellent—
in fact, intolerable. Acceptance of them as normal is dangerous. This is one of the many ways in which women are prepared to be victims.
[reprinted from Against Rape by Andra Medea and Kathleen
Page 2 February 1978 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH
TO v^Z OP
writers C& stories
Dixie Lee Hawkins
Meet the Mayor
The Right to be Informed
Three Women in the Mayor's Office
Victoria Hodge Lightman
On film: The Turning Point
Cezanne and Women
Beth Rigel Daugherty
On stage: The Mound Builders
Deborah Diamond Hicks
and Nancy Landau
Pats, Pans, and Dead Pans
Wendy Haskell Meyer
On health: Dr. Marrie Richards
Susan Mac Manus
Up with Umpires
Another Great Start on the Week
A Classroom in a Living Room
Advertising Brady Beach, Ailene English
Art Charley Kubricht, Mark Stinson
Business Deborah Diamond Hicks
Circulation Kathy Allen, Maxine Atlas, Cydnee Farmer,
Deborah Diamond Hicks, Nancy Landau
Copy Editors Neal Barrett, Ruth Barrett, Janice Blue,
Gabrielle Cosgriff, Cheryl Knott
Editorial Board Janice Blue, Gabrielle Cosgriff, Deborah Diamond Hicks,
Nancy Landau, Marilyn Marshall Jones
Feature Editors Art-Anita Davidson; Books-Marianne Warfield Kostakis;
Film-Victoria Hodge Lightman; Health-Dr. Marrie Richards;
Pats & Pans-Gabrielle Cosgriff; Poetry-Joannie Whitebird
Office Maxine Atlas, Janice Blue, Judy Hopkinson
Photographers Debbi DuBose, LuCinda Holt, Marilyn Marshall Jones,
Nancy Landau, Jeannie Mouton, Totsie,Jim Youngmeier
Production Janice Blue, Rachel Burke, Laura Caghan, Gabrielle Cosgriff,
Victoria Hodge Lightman, Kathleen Williamson
Promotion Neal Barrett, Ruth Barrett, Marshal Lightman
Proofreading Gabrielle Cosgriff, Cheryl Knott
Typesetting Cheryl Knott, Victoria Hodge Lightman, Lynne Mutchler
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Houston Breakthrough is published monthly (with the exception of the July-August and December-January issues)
by the Breakthrough Publishing Company, 1708 Rosewood, Houston, TX 77004. P.O. Box 88072, Houston, TX
77004. Tel. 713/526-6686. Subscriptions $5 per year, newsstand 50 cents per copy. This publication is on file at
the International Women's History Archive in the Special Collections Library, Northwestern University, Evanston,
cover photo by Suzanne Paul