Leaders from Nation’s Top Women’s Colleges Confer at Scripps

As Scripps prepares to expand its gender and women’s studies program, the College convened presidents, faculty, and students from selected women’s colleges across the country to discuss the role of gender and women’s studies (GWS) in liberal arts colleges, during a two-day forum this October. Representatives from Agnes Scott, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley engaged in substantive discussion on women’s issues with the Scripps community. A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the conference, as well as two years of visiting scholars-in-residence at the intercollegiate GWS program and student/faculty research projects.

The College hopes that the meetings will lead to ongoing communication among the participating colleges on these issues and will help inform Scripps’ selection of its first chair in gender and women’s studies, made possible by a bequest from the estate of Dorothy Cruickshank Backstrand ’32 and named for her.

In the keynote address, Smith College historian Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz examined curricular change in a historical context, ultimately asking “how change happens” to bring about women’s studies programs in liberal arts colleges for women.

On the closing evening of the conference, Clare Dalton, professor at Northeastern School of Law, performed selections
from Virginia Woolf ‘s A Room Of One’s Own. As well as a superb actor, Dalton is a recognized legal scholar in the areas of domestic violence and feminist legal thought.

Susan Seizer, associate professor of anthropology and gender and women’s studies, commented:”It was really wonderful to learn about the trajectory of development of women’s studies programs across these comparable liberal arts women’s colleges.These programs began as women’s studies in the 70s and 80s, and have now further clarified their commitments to gender studies, feminist studies, and queer studies.The Smith College model of multiple tracks—one that centralizes women of color, and another queer studies—was particularly welcomed by our students. We in the Scripps GWS program are excited that the newly endowed Backstrand Chair in Gender and Women’s Studies will allow us the opportunity to expand our curriculum and coverage of new directions in this area.”