History of Women's Studies at Barnard

Women's Studies at Barnard was established in 1977. An interdisciplinary program, it initially relied almost entirely on faculty from other departments. In 1988, Women's Studies became a department. An option of a combined major has been offered since 1982 83, and a minor was added in 1998.

In 1977, the Barnard program defined itself as "an interdisciplinary major for students who wish to explore the basic questions raised by the new scholarship on women [such as]: sex roles, sex differences, and the concepts of femininity and masculinity; the role of women in culture and society…; questions about the distribution of power, work, and resources in the public and private domains; and the symbolic and religious place of feminine and masculine imagery." 

Jane S. Gould, first director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women, describes the founding of Women's Studies at Barnard as follows:

"Barnard had taken the lead in offering some of the first women's studies courses: ten courses, offered between 1971-72, were listed in the first Women's Center brochure, and, over the next few years, this number would grow.

But, even with the success of these early courses, gaining acceptance of a program with a full-fledged major proved to be incredibly difficult. It took an inordinate amount of time and commitment on the part of a very small and devoted, but also overextended, group of faculty. Over a period of four years-under the leadership of Domna Stanton, a faculty member of our executive committee-a program was developed that, by 1977, was approved by the Barnard faculty. It took until 1981 to gain approval for a full-time tenured faculty member to head the program. Nancy Miller, a Barnard alumna and former executive committee member who had been teaching at Columbia, was selected for the job.

Jane S. Gould. Juggling: A Memoir of Work, Family, and Feminism (The Feminist Press, 1997), pp. 180


1966: First WS course taught (Baxter's "History of Women in America")
1971-72: Ten courses listed in the first Women's Center brochure (JG 180)
1977: Proposal for a WS program approved
1981: Nancy Miller appointed as first full-time faculty member to head the program (JG 180)
1982-83: The option of a combined major established
1988: WS became a department
1998: The minor established