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of the UIC Women's Studies Program
(Editors Note: Judith Kegan Gardiner is a former CWLUer and a founder
of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Women's Studies Program.
She is currently an English professor at UIC.
The UIC Women's
Studies Program (WSP) has its roots in the Women's Liberation Movement
of the late 1960s and early '70s and in other political movements
of that period. I arrived on campus as an assistant professor of English
in 1969 and report these events not as an observer but as a participant
who helped found the Program and who remains committed to its future.
at Kent State and Jackson State Universities were shot by National
Guardsmen during protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam in 1970,
many campuses across the country, including UIC, sponsored teach-ins
to discuss their universities' connections with the war and with
contemporary movements for social change.
and a few other women involved with New University Conference
(NUC), a politically radical but not feminist group, found ourselves
defending the recent Women's Liberation Movement against charges
that feminism was trivial, exclusively personal, or divisive to
left activism. As we defended feminism, we began to study it and
join local women's organizations.
Bartky and I, along with women no longer at UIC, allied with women
students who were active in campaigns for university-sponsored
childcare and adequate health services. On February 15, 1972,
we held our own teach-in to celebrate Susan B. Anthony's birthday
and focus on women's issues. We formed a new student and faculty
women's group called the Circle Women's Liberation Union that
affiliated with the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, a city-wide
umbrella organization for feminist activists who were also committed
to fighting against racism and U.S. imperialism. (UIC faculty
member and feminist historian Peg Strobel has written about the
history of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union.)
Circle Women's Liberation Union in its first year developed a
five-part proposal that many of us have been working to implement
ever since: an academic Women's Studies Program to make knowledge
by, about, and for women in all fields accessible to students;
a campus center for women's services; free, full-time childcare
on campus for the children of all students, faculty, and staff
who wanted it; a women's research and resource center; and adequate
health services on campus for women.
three decades of organizing effort, we achieved most of these
goals, although sometimes in scaled-down forms. For example, we
helped establish the Circle Children's Center on both sides of
campus, an excellent provider of child care with innovative pedagogy
and sliding scale user fees that is small in comparison to the
potential demand. The campus has several sources for research
about women, including the collection of women's manuscripts and
documents in the library's Midwest Women's Historical Collection
and the Jane Addams Hull-House collections and museum.
WSP was active in collaborating about women's health with the
College of Nursing and in founding the Center for Research on
Women and Gender headed by Alice Dan, which encourages faculty
research and sponsors conferences.
WSP also campaigned for an office for Re-Entry Women that survived
only a few years before falling to budget cuts and for the Office
of Women's Affairs, now headed by Rebecca Gordon. WSP faculty,
students, and staff have also served on the Chancellor's Committees
on the Status of Women and on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
and Transgender Concerns.
to establish independent WS courses and also to integrate the
new scholarship on women throughout the UIC curriculum has demanded
continuous time and effort. Faculty and students studied together
to design the original WS courses, an experimental interdisciplinary
sequence first taught in 1973 by a teaching collective that included
undergraduate and graduate students and faculty volunteering on
a few years in which Women's Studies courses remained popular
with students, the WS Committee persuaded the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences (LAS) to add these courses regularly to the
catalog, to include them as part of the faculty's regular teaching
loads, and to fund one half-time teaching assistantship. Developing
and overseeing the WS courses and program was a volunteer, self-selected
Women's Studies Committee (WSC) that was recognized and then appointed
by the Dean of LAS.
line with our feminist ideals, the WSC sought to behave in an
egalitarian and participatory fashion that would empower its members
and involve them in all decisions. For many years, roles, tasks,
and spokeswomen rotated; at least two committee members routinely
met with campus administrators or representatives of other units;
all decisions were made by consensus, even when this led to protracted
meetings; and all meetings ended with a round of "criticism/ self-criticism"
that encouraged self-consciousness about group process and the
group's adherence to feminist goals.
also tried to implement feminist democratic ideals in the teaching
collectives and in all our courses. Over the years, the WSC has
changed as it has expanded: there is more division of labor, for
instance, although we try to maintain accountability and consensus
on key decisions. The committee now includes all UIC faculty with
official appointments in Women's Studies, WS administrator Wildred
Hughes, each year's teaching and research assistants, and other
student and faculty members. This committee still serves as the
Program's chief policy-making body. In early 1977, after steady
lobbying, we were given an office and opportunity to hire a staff
person to coordinate the program. Marilyn Carlander, who took
this position, had graduated as the first UIC student to construct
a "Women's Studies" major through the student-designed curriculum.
current form of this option is called the IPS program, and Liberal
Arts students can major in Women's Studies through this program
by designing an individualized major with a Women's Studies faculty
advisor. The WSP also developed an undergraduate minor in LAS.
Peg Strobel, an African historian recruited from UCLA, became
the first faculty director of the WSP in 1979; she remains the
only faculty member whose appointment is fully in the WSP. Under
Peg's hard-working directorship, the program grew to include a
1990, Stephanie Riger became our current Director with a joint
appointment in Psychology. She initiated our internship program
and our popular workshops on gender, race, homophobia and pedagogy
for faculty and students. These workshops raised important issues
related to teaching on campus before the University instituted
the Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She also
organized a number of conferences that connected campus women
with those in community organizations. Norma Moruzzi, who came
to the WSP in 1992, holds a joint appointment with Political Science.
In 1998 sociologist Beth Richie, who had been a visiting scholar
at the Center for Research in Women and Gender, accepted a joint
appointment in Criminal Justice and Women's Studies, and Katrin
Schultheiss became a tenure-track faculty member in Women's Studies
and history after a few years as a visiting assistant professor.
Most recently, in 1999, historian John d'Emilio joined us to develop
the curriculum in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies.
Sandra Bartky holds a joint appointment in Philosophy and Women's
Studies, and my appointment is in English and Women's Studies.
addition to these core faculty, over forty other faculty now teach
36 courses cross-listed with WS or serve as WS graduate advisors.
At present, courses offered within WS include interdisciplinary
and special topics courses, including courses in gay, lesbian,
and bisexual studies. The current WSP brochure lists all our courses,
programs, and faculty.
the WSP has grown, its office has assumed more responsibilities,with
several work-study students each term helping Wildred Hughes staff
the office. Research Assistant Patti Renda is the most recent
of several efficient and essential Assistants to the Director.
Some famous feminist scholars began their teaching careers at
roster of distinguished faculty in liberal arts no longer on campus
includes Teresa Cordova, Latin American Studies and Women's Studies;
Susan Cole, Classics and History; Sharon Emerson, Biology, who
was awarded a MacArthur fund "genius grant"; Jody Enders, Peggy
McCracken, and Ellie Ragland, French; Susan Gubar, Arabella Lyon,
Jane Marcus, Leah Marcus, and Carol Poston, English; Grace Holt
and Vashti Lewis, African American Studies; Lauren Rabinowitz,
Julia LeSage, and Linda Williams, Cinema Studies; Itala Rutter,
Italian; and Joan Scott, History. Major projects of the WSP have
included grants by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary
Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities to facilitate
the incorporation of material on women worldwide and U.S. women
of color into university curricula.
have organized conferences for campus and community women about
women and the law, science and mathematics, housing, women's work,
gender and race, and violence against women. WS-sponsored conferences
on connections between research and activism have brought community
women to campus and marked the widespread integration of research
on women into many academic disciplines.
credit our clear and reasonable goals, good organization, and
persistent effort for our achievements so far, as well as a wonderful
assemblage of feminist scholars. We faced only a little overt
opposition, mostly from people so unfamiliar with Women's Studies
that they believed caricatures of it as separatist or intellectually
without substance. The WSC has always been able to keep the continued
success of the program at the fore. Throughout our history we
have worked together, as I hope and expect we will continue to
do, in behalf of women, the program, UIC, and our vision for a
better feminist future throughout society.
article originally appeared in the UIC Women's Studies newsletter
and is also available on their website. We urge you to visit the UIC
Women's Studies website at www.uic.edu/depts/wsweb