Gladys Chaney Wessels was born on September 28, 1922 to Newton and Elsie Chaney in the town of Hillsboro, Ohio. After attending Limestone College for two years, Gladys obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education with minors in Art and English from the University of Cincinnati. She continued on to receive a M.L.S degree from Florida State University. Gladys married a Dutch man, Captain Philip Wessels, on October 10, 1952, in Yokohama, Japan, but divorced him in July of 1953. Her son, Kim, was born in 1954.
Gladys joined the military as the Director of Special Services during the Korean War, living in and traveling to many places around the globe, including Germany, Japan, and the P.O.W. Camp #1 in Koje-Do, Korea. After her time in the military, Gladys spent many years as an educator in both high schools and universities. From 1956 to 1958, she taught English, physical education and speech for two small high schools in Ohio, and from 1958 to 1963 she organized and directed the Pasadena, Gulfport, and Azelea Elementary Learning Centers in Pinellas County, Florida. In 1963 Gladys became the Director of the Instructional Materials Center at Wilmington High School in Wilmington, Ohio. She began to work in the Library Resources Center at Wright State University as an assistant professor and organizer of Instructional Services in 1968. After teaching in the library department for a few years, Gladys spearheaded the women's studies department with her seminar course entitled "Women in the 1970s." As part of this course, she brought to Wright State the founder of Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem. This guest speaker brought much attention to Wright State, and, in particular, the up-and-coming women's studies department.
In the 1970s Gladys became very active in the feminist movement, on both the local and national levels. She was on the Fairborn, Ohio, committee for the National Organization for Women and was a founding member of the Miami Valley Women's Political Caucus. She served on the State Board of the Ohio Women's Political Caucus and was a Board Member of the Ohio Women's Coalition for the E.R.A. Gladys also served on multiple professional committees at Wright State University and in state and national organizations.
In 1975, Gladys Chaney Wessels filed a $2.7 million lawsuit against Wright State University, claiming that her denial of tenure was based on sexual discrimination. She lost the case three years later.
After her years at Wright State, Gladys became a librarian for the Yellow Springs school district. While working there, she directed and produced a film for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act about the changing job roles in the future, especially for those who would choose a technical position over attending college. In the late 1970s, Gladys taught at Morgan Middle School. She also ran for Village Council in the city of Yellow Springs.
From the guide to the Gladys Chaney Wessels Papers, 1927-2009, 1940-1979, (Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives)