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The History of Women's Studies

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The History of Women's Studies

"...When we speak of the ‘evolution’ of Women’s Studies, it is important to emphasize that this is a multifaceted process. Women’s Studies has differed widely over time, and across identities, disciplines, and institutions.”

-Alice Ginsberg


1953: Rise of the second-wave of feminism brought on with the help of the English translation of Simon de Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex.
1970: First official women’s studies program was at San Diego State University.
1970s: Men’s studies, sometimes known as masculinity studies, emerges in response to perceived advantages brought to women by feminist political action.

Women’s Studies truly is and always will be a field in motion.
-Bonnie Zimmerman, president of National Women's Studies Association
from 1998-1999
1972: Title IX becomes a federal law making sex
discrimination in schools illegal.
1972: The Women’s Studies Quarterly and Feminist Studies
journals are founded as interdisciplinary forums for the exchange of emerging perspectives on women, gender, and sexuality.
1974: The Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA) is established to fund research, professional development, and a variety of resources to schools to bring attention to gender equity issues.
1977: The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is created.
1978: Congress includes educational services in the Civil Rights Act designed to eliminate sex bias in school and society.
1979: The first meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) discusses the subject of whether women’s studies was a discipline in its own right.
1980s: Women’s studies undergoes an intensely self-reflective period as it grapples with the issues of how to identify the concept of “women,” which had largely been defined as white, middle-class, heterosexual, Christian, education women of privilege.
Betty Friedan
1980: The National Institute of Education commissions a series of eight monographs on women’s studies as well as the Women’s Studies Evaluation Handbook.
1983: The Task Group of Men’s Studies is formed.
1984: The National Organization for Changing Men (NOCM) institutes the “Men’s Studies Newsletter.”
1990s: Women’s studies undergoes several shifts, one of which began to focus much more readily on gender equity and girls’ experiences in the K-12 classroom brought on largely from the publications of Failing at Fairness: How America’s School Cheat Girls (1994) and How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992).

Women’s studies will one day fill libraries and create whole new courses in psychology, sociology, and history.”
–Betty Friedan, author of the
The Feminine Mystique
1990s: Development of “queer theory” moves to include sexuality studies in women’s/gender studies.
1990: Rise of third-wave of feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's "essentialist" definitions of femininity and uses a post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality as its central ideology.
1991: The American Men’s Studies Association (AMSA) is founded.
1992: The Courage to Question: Women’s Studies and Student Learning is published after The Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funded a comprehensive evaluation of women’s studies programs.
2000s: The great naming debate over Women’s Studies versus Gender Studies**.
**Presently, Women’s studies is engaged in a heated debate over the move to eliminate the term women and replace it gender. The change to gender studies suggests that the field needs to be paying attention to the relationships between men and women rather than focusing predominantly on women’s experiences and knowledge itself. The main argument against the change to Gender Studies is the claim that this shift will undo the past forty years in bringing women and women’s standpoints to the forefront in research, knowledge, and cultural production. But there are also many arguments for the change to Gender Studies. One is that it is a more appropriate title as it also includes gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals. Another is the thought that the title change will open up the women’s studies environment to include Men who will feel more comfortable in something called gender studies. In the end, though, the change from women’s studies to gender studies will ultimately be up to the universities and colleges in which they are offered.
Boxer, Marilyn J. When Women Ask the Questions: Creating Women's Studies in America.
Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1998. Print.
Evans, Mary, and Judith Lorber. "The Life and Times of Academic Feminism." Handbook of
gender and women's studies. Ed. Kathy Davis. London: Sage, 2006. 1-29. Print.
"Gender studies." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 17 Dec. 2009.
Ginsberg, Alice E. The Evolution of American Women's Studies. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2008. Print.
"Women's studies." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 17 Dec. 2009.