New Women’s Studies Archive at Bancroft Library!

Article in The Daily Californian.

The Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the creation of The Berkeley Women’s Studies Movement Archive, which chronicles the origins of this new field of study at Berkeley, beginning in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As part of the University Archive, a repository for materials documenting the history of the University of California, and specifically the Berkeley campus, this newly created Archive is comprised of donations of original documents from former women graduate students in the Department of Comparative Literature whose trailblazing efforts opened new pathways to academic study reflecting feminist aspirations.

Beginning in the late sixties, campus women met informally to discuss and study women writers not included in the standard curriculum. A group of these women, led by Marsha Hudson, formed the Comparative Literature Women’s Caucus, which obtained approval and funding for a “Women in Literature” course, to be taught by women graduate students, beginning in 1972. Their activities evolved into translating women writers, writing dissertations focused on women authors and feminist topics, and advocating for equitable hiring, compensation and promotion of women faculty. These activities extended beyond comparative literature to other campus departments, as similar movements spread to universities across the country.

One of the Archive’s contributors, Dr. Gloria Bowles, submitted the initial proposal for women’s studies in 1974, obtained funding, and began teaching and administering the Women’s Studies Program in 1976, guiding its direction throughout the early years; it officially became the Department of Women’s Studies in 1991, and is now the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. Associate University Archivist Kathryn M. Neal has shepherded this Archive project since November 2015, when she and Director Elaine Tennant were contacted with this idea by Dr. Bowles and Bridget Connelly, Emerita Professor of Rhetoric; Carol Urzi, M.A.,J.D.; Kathleen Weaver, M.A.; and Dr. Judy Wells. Having previously met with a larger group of their former graduate student colleagues, some of whom expressed an interest in finding an appropriate home for their papers documenting their unique feminist academic trajectory, this core group has pursued this project and obtained The Bancroft’s blessing for the Archive.

To date the donations of nine women have been catalogued: Ann Freeman, Deirdre Lashgari, Doris Earnshaw, Gloria Bowles, Judy Wells, Karen Newman, Lauren Coodley, Lisa Gerrard and Sarah Birken. Donated materials – comprising course syllabi, a short film, women’s liberation and feminist pamphlets, articles,
correspondence, and translations – highlight the excitement of women’s grassroots participation in campus activities, displaying the political, cultural and literary flavor of the times. A timeline documenting the contributions, and the significant events of this period related to them, will accompany these materials.

The Archive features a number of publications by members of this group: The Berkeley Literary Women’s Revolution: Essays from Marsha’s Salon, by Marsha Hudson, Bridget Connelly, Doris Earnshaw, Olivia Eielson and Judy Wells, editors (McFarland, 2005), documents the political, literary and curriculum developments from the perspectives of individual women participants; Living Ideas: A Memoir of the Tumultuous Founding of Berkeley Women’s Studies by Gloria Bowles (2009), the founding director’s experience guiding this program along the unpaved path to academic recognition; The Other Voice: Twentieth Century Women Poets in Translation, by Joanna Bankier, Carol Cosman, Doris Earnshaw, Joan Keefe, Deirdre Lashgari and Kathleen Weaver, editors (W.W. Norton, 1976); Penguin Book of Women Poets, by Carol Cosman, Joan Keefe and Kathleen Weaver, editors (Penguin, 1978); and Women Poets of the World by Joanna Bankier, Deirdre Lashgari and Doris Earnshaw, editors (Macmillan 1983), all three poetry anthologies reflecting the translation initiatives of comparative literature students.

The Berkeley Women’s Studies Movement Archive will augment The Bancroft’s extensive collections of women writers, visual artists and political leaders, as well as the papers and oral histories of women leaders of the Berkeley campus. The Archive is available to researchers and students interested in discovering how women’s voices on the Berkeley campus arose in the sixties and seventies, and soared throughout the entire academic community in subsequent years.

The Archive is located under the Oskicat heading:

Berkeley Women’s Studies Movement Archive.

Carol Urzi

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