UMD123: 1

UMD 123: Number 1

This is the first post in our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series last semester, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month, on Wednesdays, throughout the semester; search “UMD123” or check out Twitter #UMD123 to see the rest. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.

1 is for the number of Maryland graduates who attempted to become celebrity assassins

andy_warhol_by_jack_mitchell
Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell

(so far…)

Valerie Solanas was a radical feminist who was on the far left of the avant garde New York art scene in the 1960s. She was the founder (and only member) of SCUM — the Society for Cutting Up Men and author of its SCUM Manifesto, which called for women to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” On June 3, 1968, she gained notoriety for shooting artist Andy Warhol and one of his associates, apparently because Warhol rejected, and then lost, the script for a play Solanas had written. (Life sure was more difficult in the days before you could save files on a computer!)

But long before Valerie embarked down the dark path of attempted murder, she was a Maryland Terrapin!

yearbook
Image from the 1958 Terrapin Yearbook

Fortunately, it seems that Valerie was a much better student than assassin. Both the men she shot survived, and while she was at Maryland, Valerie hardly failed at anything, as evidenced by her membership in both the Alpha Lambda Delta freshman honors society and later the Psi Chi psychology honors society (she majored in psychology, despite what was printed in the yearbook). While at College Park, Valerie contributed to the Diamondback newspaper and hosted a radio call-in show where she gave listeners advice about how to combat men.

carroll hall
Valerie Solanas and her Carroll Hall dorm-mates pictured in 1958

Valerie had a difficult time fitting in on the conservative College Park campus in the 1950s. She was an open lesbian and worked as a prostitute to make ends meet. Her non-conformity was ahead of its time and would probably have made her more friends during the turbulent student protests a decade later. As it was, people most often remembered Valerie as “rebellious” and “angry,” and she was not particularly close to anyone except for one psychology professor with whom she worked as a research assistant.

Taken into custody after the shooting, Valerie was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and served four years for “reckless assault with attempt to harm.” She died of pneumonia in 1988.

Hopefully her record as the only Terrapin would-be assassin will never be broken!

Do you agree with our choice of Valerie Solanas for the number one? Is there another subject you would have chosen for this number? Let us know in the comments section below, and keep checking back for new UMD123 posts!

Some information in this post was taken from Mary Harron’s book, I Shot Andy Warhol. You can find this book and other information about Valerie Solanas, the SCUM Manifesto, Andy Warhol, and the history of the campus at the University of Maryland Libraries!

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