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Judith K. GardinerHistory of the UIC Women's Studies Program by Judith Kegan Gardiner

(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.

After students 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.

I 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.

Sandy 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.)

The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Trying 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 unpaid overload.

After 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.

In 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.

We 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.

The 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 graduate concentration.

In 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.

In 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.

As 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 UIC.

The 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.

We 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.

I 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.

This 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 .

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