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University Archives

The First 20 Years of Women's Studies at UB, 1969-1989


1969

Margaret Small, UB graduate student in history, forms the Buffalo Women's Liberation Group (BWL). BWL starts teaching a non-academic course that Small designed to "promote a radical women's consciousness" in female UB students. The course later becomes the Women's Studies Introductory Course.

Small also contacts Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy in American Studies about faculty sponsorship of a Women's Studies Program.

The course originally offered by BWL is offered in fifteen sections of UBC 245, course run as a collective, during the fall semester.


Spring 1970

Liz Kennedy brings introductory course to the American Studies Department as AMS 213, "Women and Contemporary Society" which later became a cornerstone of the Women's Studies College curriculum.

University Archives' collection 34/5/1012, Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy Papers, 1961-1993 (bulk 1970-1993) (finding aid available online) documents the early days of the Women's Studies College.

[Two women's studies courses are offered during the spring semester: English 495, taught by Ann London Scott, on literary attitudes towards women and a graduate course, Social Work 703G, taught by Mary Schwarz, on social work problems related to women]


Fall 1970

Brochures titled "Feminism Lives" are distributed, describing next semester's six Women's Studies courses, including two sections of introductory program -- one for female students, the other for male students.

"Women and Literature," "Media," and "AGIT/PROP," a course focusing on audio production, were offered as sections of AMS 213. Another class, "Class, Race, and the Oppression of Women," is offered through American Studies with Liz Kennedy and graduate student Carol Twigg.

Other affiliated courses appear, including "Images of Women in Male Literature," taught through the English Department, and "Society, Sex Roles, and Liberation," taught by Ken Barney through the Social Science College.


Spring 1971

The Women's Studies Program officially founded by the Women's Studies Coordinating Committee. They drafted and submitted a proposal to establish a Women's Studies College. The proposal was signed by five faculty members, seven graduate students, six undergraduates, one administrative assistant, and one alumna. The mission of the program was in three parts:

"To establish theoretical foundations for our understanding of our role as women 2) To integrate our study with what is going on in modern America. 3) To develop basic skills in women that will facilitate their living as full human beings in this world."

The Collegiate System gave the Women's Studies program collegiate status, with budget, facilities and a large degree of autonomy.


Summer 1971

Preparations are made. Women's Studies Council (WSC) for activists, students and faculty to govern WSC was formed. They begin efforts to provide child care for all women involved in WSC.

The student newspaper, The Spectrum, reports that the Women's College anticipates 21 courses for the fall semester which will include "Women's Consciousness in Literature", "Imperialism and its Relationship to Sexism", "Self Defense", "Childcare", and "Women and their Bodies." (vol. 22, no 4, July 2, 1971)


Fall 1971

WSC officially opens at 108 Winspear Avenue near UB's South Campus. At the time, the College has no support staff and no ability to appoint faculty members. Its starting overall budget of only $13,000 would nearly double, then nearly double again by 1973; endlessly reduced in ensuing years.

Feminist scholars Ellen DuBois and Lillian Robinson are recruited to teach.

Enrollment in WSC in the 1971-1972 academic year reaches 1,400.


Spring 1972

Val Eastman, a recent graduate, becomes the first coordinator of the Women’s Studies College, holding the College's first institutionalized leadership position.

Thirty-four courses are offered. Most of the College's instructors lacked formal academic credentials.


Fall 1972

Forty-five women's studies courses are offered, titles like "Women and the Welfare System," "Black and Female: A Workshop on Black Women's Studies," and "Women's Auto-Mechanics."

The Hedonist Caucus formed to organize social events and outreach.


1973

The Women's Studies College implements field components for courses on prison, mental health, and welfare.

At some point between 1972 and 1974, American Studies offers for the first time both B.A. and M.A. programs with concentrations in Women's Studies.

First efforts to institute a Ph.D. program in Women's Studies.


1974

Faculty Senate released the Reichert Prospectus, proclaiming that every collegiate unit that failed to undergo a chartering process would be dissolved in January 1975. Chartering would establish firmer administrative control over colleges. After a debate about whether to continue as a college or, indeed, with any affiliation to the UB at all, WSC decided to undergo the chartering process.

By fall semester of 1974 the WSC had approximately 140 students enrolled in the very popular "Women in Contemporary Society" course.


1975

In January, the Women's Studies College is granted three-year charter, with certain provisions including the stipulation that WSC adopt "the principles of academic freedom and equal access to the courses" and add gender-neutral language to its chartering statement. Many courses were restricted to women.

On June 30th, Vice President Albert Somit asserted that the WSC charter and the women-only courses violated Title IX and affirmative action regulations. Somit gave WSC an August 15 deadline to bring their program into compliance with national law before withdrawing funding. The administration later extended the deadline for the charter to the 15th of October, and the elimination of single-sex courses to January 1976 after outcry and protest from the WSC community. They changed the charter, and ultimately opened up the classes to men after much deliberation, discussion and protest.


1977

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ronald Bunn and George Levine, Provost of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, commit to maintaining three women's studies faculty in American Studies.


1978

Re-chartering process for the Women's Studies College is successful.


1980

Building on existing courses on minority women, work begins to formalize a Third World Women component to the women's studies curriculum.


1981

Six of the forty-five WSC courses offered in 1981 dealt with the situations of non-white women.


1982

As the academic and administrative climate shifts away from the Collegiate System, Women's Studies College sheds its collegiate status to become a concentration in the American Studies department.

The Women's Studies program submits a proposal for a B.A. degree program to the Office of the President.


1983

President Sample endorses the degree program and sends it to SUNY Central.


1984

The first full-time professor is hired in the area of Third-World Women's Studies.


1985

New York State Department of Education approves the B.A. in Women's Studies program.

Feminist Scholarship: Kindling in the Groves of Academe, by UB Women's Studies instructors Ellen DuBois, Gail Paradise, Kelly, Liz Kennedy, Carolyn Korsmeyer, and Lillian Robinson is published by University of Illinois Press.


1986

Playwright Endesha Holland joins the faculty as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Third World Women's Studies concentration.

1987

Women's studies moves from the house on Winspear Avenue to Wende Hall.


1988

First cohort of Women's Studies Doctoral students begin their studies.


1989

The Department of American Studies offers a Ph.D. with a concentration in Women's Studies