Gender In the Curriculum



Merriam Webster defines women’s studies as the study of subjects relating to women, their roles in history and their contribution to society. Women’s studies was first introduced in the mid-1970’s. It was largely connected to the feminist movement. People also connected women’s studies to African American studies because “they both promote the idea of learning for social change and action, as well as restoring lost histories and allowing silenced voices to be heard.” Women’s studies have been ridiculed in recent years because some people see it as unnecessary in today’s society. The students that are enrolled in these courses are usually involved in the community and are making a great impact in the world.  


The images above are of a newspaper article published in The Log on February 9th, 1977. The article, “Women’s Studies” by Kathy Kalina introduces the development of a new Women’s Studies minor at Salem State College. It explains that the program was started by two professors at Salem State, Dr. Pat Gozemba and Dr. Alice Stadhaus. The two attended the New England Women’s Studies Association Conference at UMASS Amherst and found that many smaller schools already had a Women’s Studies program and decided that Salem State should have one as well. They believed that a Women’s Studies minor would be good for the “more than 60% female undergraduates” population at Salem State. The author also addresses the national growth of Women’s Studies at the time. She mentions that “it was not until the summer of 1970 that the phrases “Female Studies”, “Feminist Studies”, and ” Women’s Studies” began gaining recognition.”








The images above show Activities in Affirmative Action at Salem State and the Supplement to the Course Catalog from 1977-1978. The Affirmative Action page introduces a new academic minor program in Women’s Studies. It explains that since the development of the Women’s Studies minor in the fall of 1977, the average enrollment in courses involved with the program was 18.3. The program also attracted (7) declared minors. The Supplement to the Course Catalog further introduces the importance of the Women’s Studies program. It explains that the school has slowly been adding courses that pertain to this minor since 1971 and that the women’s studies movement in education has developed nationwide during the same time that the women’s movement began addressing issues regarding the inequality of gender. Many people believe that the women’s studies field would just be a fad, however it has only grown since its development.




Article: For and about Women: The Theory and Practices of Women’s studies in the United States.

Women studies first appeared in the latter half of the 1960s. This was when women faculty in higher education, were stronger in numbers than ever before. They began to create new courses that would further more reflect on female experience and feminist desire. They were supported and sometimes be led by feminist students, staff, and community women these discoverers were often political activists who sought to understand and to confront the sexism they had experienced.

Efforts at organization and course development were inspired by both free university movements and civil rights movements. This provided the model of black studies courses and programs. With the large number of early courses on women in literature can point to the relative accessibility of this field to women. This occurred between 1970 and 1975 there was 150 new women’s studies programs that were found. This number then grew to 30,000 and is offered at most colleges and universities in the United States.






Article:  Women’s studies in American colleges and universities

Almost half of the institutions with women’s studies are above average in selective places meaning the elite and financially well institutions. Since the early 1960s, the efficient effort to develop women’s studies courses in the regular liberal arts curriculum has only occurred recently. Prior to 1970 course listings show that most women’s studies courses have been offered in English literature and language departments. The second most popular discipline and interdisciplinary courses was History and that became very popular after 1970s.

Those involved in Women’s studies acknowledge their heritage from civil rights, educational reform and student protest, ethnic studies and women’s movements. Numerous civil rights workers from 1950s and 1960s have emerged as feminist academics in the 1970s.


Interview with Patricia Connolly “Pat”

  1. How do you feel about the fact that women’s studies is only a minor and not a major and why do you think that is ?

I firstly wanted to mention that I’m extremely happy that there’s a women’s study minor, but I feel like the main reason for why it isn’t really a major is because Salem state isn’t really a big school. I have a friend that is a professor at UMass Boston and she actually is a professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Seeing how a University, such as UMass has such a BIG community I would be surprised if they didn’t have a Women’s studies as a major.  Going back to why it’s only a minor it definitely has a lot to do with Salem State not being as big of a school as UMass Boston. Another reason I feel like it isn’t really a major is because people are interested in women’s studies but not interested enough for them to major in it.

  1.  What gender do you see more prevalent involved in the minor and in the classes, and does it surprise you ?

I recently started teaching SWK 330 which is Social Services for Women Clients and the entire class is predominantly female based. Not to mention any social work class that I’ve ever taught, the female to male ratio has always been very noticeable. I would have a class of 20 students and there would be 2 male students in the class. So In my opinion I think that the gender I see more prevalent in the minor and the classes is female. I feel like there’s this misconception with  about feminists and that they a bunch of angry women, so I sometimes think that most men would avoid these classes because they want to avoid being bashed by the women in the class. I feel as though that men should take these classes because they would get more out of these classes and they would be very educational to them.

  1. How do you see the future of women studies moving forward from today ?

I see it becoming more and more prevalent throughout the years. I think the feminist movement is growing not only with women but also with men. More people are realizing the injustice women go through and are starting to stand up for women and women’s rights. I see Salem State embracing the women studies minor and eventually becoming a major. I love how more and more people are embracing social justice and Salem State is a great community for that. We have such a diverse campus not only with men and women but with so many different races.



Howard University was founded to train black teachers and preachers on how to educate and uplift recently emancipated slaves. Since then it has consistently confronted the shameful legacies of slavery and racism. However, their women studies program came about 30 years late because their main issues were focused on race not gender. Part of the problem that it took so long was because African American women resist being seen as, or consider calling themselves “feminists”, simultaneously because they cannot struggle against both racism and sexism. While Howard may be ahead of predominately white institutions (PWIs) in confronting racism, it has lagged behind in the discussion of sexism and women’s issues in general because there was no push for institutionalizing women’s studies at Howard University.

How women’s studies came about at Howard University all started with the hiring of a new chair for the department of sociology and anthropology in 1991, which kick-started the process of launching their program. She established the African American Women’s Institute, a research and fund-raising body, and hosted the Second National and International Conference on Black Women in the Academy in 1999. The funding from the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Howard University gave a solid grounding and academic credibility to begin the administrative process of developing the program. The graduate dean at the time was ecstatic to join the trend towards interdisciplinary certificate programs in higher education which was helpful in getting women’s studies established.


At this time in 2001, more than 400 universities across the country had certificate programs on a range of topics at the graduate level (Patterson 2001).  The dean took a global approach to the program by adding women’s movements and history from other parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa. It took almost 5 years for the program to come together because of lack of administrative structure for putting new certificate programs into place but Howard University graduated their first group of students in spring 2004 in the graduate women studies program.







In the late 1990’s and 21st century, women programs have been examined for revision. This new revision debated whether or not that the title of woman studies should be changed to Gender Studies. By making the title more applicable to the population, different genders and social identities will feel more included. Also, the title women studies illustrates the idea that men are the norm of society and that women are only the focus of studies in special program. There are opponents of this argument that think changing the name of this course will weaken the impact feminist scholarship and the link to the women’s movement. Another argument is that women have already achieved their goal of increasing the study if women and gaining equality. Woman studies have also been ridiculed for not being able to create skills for a work force. The past five years, there has been an increase in conservative attacks on this curriculum especially in public universities.  

Globally, between the 1970 and 2000 women’s studies appeared in curriculums in universities emerged in a range of countries and regions throughout the world. Over 30 years, there is at least one university in 60 countries offering a degree in women’s studies. Women’s studies have positively influenced global dynamics. The global dynamics shows development of global inclusiveness and women’s studies as global innovation. Social movements such as demands for civil rights reflected the rise of women’s studies. Since the millennium, women’s studies has become a fast growing college major as well as thriving globally.  

Women who enroll in women studies are a uniquely very self-reflective, invested in their community, and making an impact in the world. In 2010, a study was done with over 900 graduate women study students showing that 70 percent of the students were involved in various organizations during their undergraduate career. Most of the students in these courses are women but men are increasingly have enrolled and even majored in women studies. Women studies challenged universities similar to how feminism challenge society at large.









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