As an undergraduate, Sally Frank '80 took politics to the street, campaigning door-to-door for Democratic candidates. Her political work also extended to a different sort of Street. During her sophomore and junior years, Frank translated her personal Bicker experiences to a legal suit citing sex-based discrimination against three of Princeton's eating clubs: Ivy Club, Tiger Inn and University Cottage Club. T.I. was the last to concede, and did so in 1992 only after the U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to hear the case. Cottage and Ivy allowed women to join in 1986 and 1990, respectively.
Frank was also active in more traditional politics. She worked for the College Democrats in the presidential election of '76, supporting Jimmy Carter's campaign. She remembers "going to the Jerry Ford rally and heckling," and even met one of Carter's sons. In a phone interview, Frank recalled, "I stayed peripherally involved until my sophomore year." After that, she said, she became a "poll watcher."
Frank recalls contending with unconventional voter issues, such as the confusion that many upperclassmen experienced when they "switched dorms and, without realizing it, moved cities [from Princeton Borough to Princeton Township or vice versa]."
After her freshman year, Frank turned from campaign politics to "issue organizing," where she engaged in "civil unrest and street politics." Even in the first five minutes of a conversation, Frank waxes eloquent about "progressive radical politics," and "getting involved." Her switch to issue-based organizing came when she realized that "it was less about the candidates, because they were usually a compromise... especially in a general election, you're voting for the less of evils."
"Of course, I still vote ... but now I do work that's more anti-candidate than pro-candidate, Frank added.
The personal politics that typified Frank's years at Princeton have extended to her adult life. As a practicing attorney in Des Moines, Iowa, and a professor of law at Drake University, Frank has continued marching, brandishing signs and raising her voice. She is unabashedly political: "When George [Bush] the first was running for reelection," she recalled, "I noticed the presidential motorcade outside the restaurant [in Des Moines]. So I parked myself, standing, right across the street, and when he came out, I got the first yell in." As it was October in Des Moines, Frank recalled, "my feet were frozen, it was an hour-and-a-half waiting ... but we came close to eye contact when he walked by. I don't know if I imagined it, but he made close to a thumbs down when he drove by."
In April 2006, Sally continued, "George the second came to town ... and stopped in senior citizen housing, 50 feet from where I lived. We hung an eight poster board 'Impeach Bush' sign." Though her apartment was on the eighth floor, Frank "noticed all of the security people seeing it."
Frank and her husband, also a political activist, also hung a banner from their daughter's room to the living room. "We hung the rope, strung out the banner. It said, 'God Forgive America' with an image from Abu Ghraib."
"There was quite the reaction," she recalled. "[There was] even one state police officer who laughed, smiled, turned around." When an official identifying himself as Secret Service asked Frank about the banner, she responded, "I don't think we have to answer the question," later explaining that "it's a crime to lie to investigating government officials but it's not a crime to not answer their questions." The official told Frank that she couldn't "open a window and yell." Without missing a beat, Frank laughed and said, "So of course, I yelled."
Frank said that she has recently taken note of negative ads for the upcoming November races. For Iowa's congressional race, Frank mused, "I watch a [incumbent Leonard] Boswell ad and it makes me think I should vote for [Jeff] Lamberti." To voice her frustration, which she suspects many share, Frank "wrote a letter to the editor that got published." She cited her concerns, identifying herself "as someone who actually wants to defend the constitution of the United States ... wondering if there's anyone for whom she can vote."
"I intend to ask Boswell why I shouldn't write in a candidate, considering his voting record," Frank continued. That record, she said, includes his being in favor of NSA wiretapping and "the proposition that it would be a felony to give food to a starving undocumented immigrant."
As for advice for Princeton students, Frank plugged the absentee ballot system several times, saying that "the world's out there and Princeton students need to be involved in it because it impacts them and they have a responsibility to it."
"It's important to be involved," Frank said. "[Students] have to vote. Even if it's holding your nose and voting for the lesser of two evils. Or writing in a third-party candidate."