Celebrating unsung heroes

Women's and gender studies program honors 35th anniversary

At a celebratory 35th anniversary party and website launch Thursday, generations of women and men looked ahead and back at the founding of the women’s and gender studies (WGS) program, and the cultural climate that led to it.

“This is a magnificent moment in the history of Brandeis, not just in women’s studies,” said Joyce Antler, the Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and women’s and gender studies.

Antler reminded guests in a packed Alumni Lounge of the many “unsung heroes” who “fought discrimination and pushed for women’s studies.” Women like Pauli Murray, a lawyer, professor and later the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, who arrived at Brandeis in 1968; Andre Collard, who taught romance language and comparative literature at Brandeis for 26 years; and French professor Jane Pollack, among many others.

Some of Brandeis’ pioneers joined Antler on a panel, “Before Women’s Studies at Brandeis: Reflections on Student and Faculty Life.” Moderated by program chair Wendy Cadge, the panel included Phoebe Rothman Giddon ’56, a WGS board member; Karen Klein, an associate professor emerita of English and interdisciplinary studies; and Julieanna Richardson ’76, founder of HistoryMakers, an African American oral history project.

“The path to create women’s studies was parallel to the women’s rights movement,” Antler said.

The women shared remembrances of their time at Brandeis as students or faculty, and described their early struggles to fit in with predominantly male staff, to find female peers, to establish daycare, and ultimately, to bring the WGS program to fruition.

WGS alumni can continue to share their stories on the new, interactive website.

Categories: Alumni, Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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