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Vol. 63, No. 1

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Back to: Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream

Scholarship in the Name of 'Susan B.'

With more than 80 faculty associates, the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies could be considered the largest "department" on campus.

For almost two decades, points out institute director Lisa Cartwright, the Anthony Institute has been a premier example of interdisciplinary scholarship at Rochester, providing a broad range of study opportunities across curriculums.

Although courses in women's studies had been offered earlier, the official program leading to a major and minor in the field was formally opened in 1986. Named for the 19th-century suffragist who led the campaign to have women admitted to the University 100 years ago this fall, the institute continues to draw on her ideals in providing courses, lectures, conferences, and grants for both student and faculty research.

(The institute, it should be noted for the sake of clarity, is one of two University programs honoring the suffragist's name and spirit. The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership cited in the accompanying article was founded in 1995 as a community resource sponsoring programs on issues of importance to women.)

Demonstrating the breadth of the institute's program, faculty associates attached to it represent five of the University's six major academic divisions: the College, Eastman School of Music, Margaret Warner School of Education and Human Development, School of Nursing, and School of Medicine and Dentistry. Course offerings range from an introductory overview to 200-level courses like "Feminism in Science and Technology," "Issues in Lesbian Studies," and "Women in Politics."

Many courses offered by other departments are cross-listed with the institute as well. As a result of this proliferation, more than 400 students are enrolled in institute-related courses each semester.

When women's studies first blossomed in the late '70s and early '80s, says Cartwright, scholars sought to redress the balance in academic programs by looking at women's lives and experiences, and addressing issues important for understanding the role of women. As the gay rights movement grew on the heels of the women's movement, studies of gay and lesbian authors were incorporated in women's studies programs. Interest also grew in topics of sexuality and masculinity.

Over the past decade, as a result, programs have expanded to include gender studies, which is more descriptive and inclusive of the breadth of course topics, says Cartwright, who is also associate professor of English and of visual and cultural studies.

And women's and gender studies are no longer just the domain of women, she notes. At Rochester, men account for about 40 percent of the enrollment in the courses offered. And each of the past two graduating classes has included a couple of men who earned a minor in women's studies.

Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the program itself, most women's studies graduates add a second major in another field. Many then enter advanced degree programs in such fields as business, clinical psychology, education, literature, law, medicine, social work, public administration, and other fields.

Every five years the institute conducts a national search for a distinguished feminist scholar to hold the title of Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women's Studies. Currently the five-year appointment is held by Janet Catherine Berlo, professor of art history. The recipient of numerous teaching and research awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Berlo is nationally known for her extensive study in North American Indian art history and pre-Columbian art and archaeology, focusing on women's arts in textiles, prints, and drawings.


Back to: Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream

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