In the Archives: Women’s Studies Program Records

Women's Studies course listing brochure, 1981-1982.

Women’s Studies course listing brochure, 1981-1982.

Women’s Studies emerged in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s as a national curriculum and higher education institutional reform movement that addressed issues of gender bias, gender inequality, and sexism in the academic canon and society at large. One of the first Women’s Studies programs in New England was founded at UMass Boston. In the late 1960s, UMass Boston students, faculty, and staff organized a Women’s Association that addressed a variety of feminist issues.

International Women's Day reception flyer, March 1983.

International Women’s Day reception flyer, March 1983.

Faculty in the humanities and social sciences developed courses focused on women and gender. In 1972, a student-faculty committee proposed a Women’s Studies concentration, and the group gathered hundreds of signatures in support of this proposal on a petition to the University Assembly and UMass Boston administration. In 1973, the proposal was approved, and in the fall of that year, the 18-credit interdisciplinary concentration was official.

Over the years, the Women’s Studies faculty at UMass Boston grew, and a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies was proposed in the late 1980s. Chancellor Sherry H. Penney championed the B.A. program during her first year at UMass Boston in 1988, and the program was approved by the Board of Regents in 1989. That fall, Women’s Studies offered a major and minor, but remained as a “program” in order to encourage faculty across disciplines to participate in curriculum development and teaching. The program became a department in 2006, and is now the Women’s and Gender Studies Department.

Founding program faculty members Ann Froines and Jean Humez, circa 1998.

Founding program faculty members Ann Froines and Jean Humez, undated.

From the 25th anniversary commemorative booklet, Women’s Studies at UMass Boston Celebrates 25 Years, 1973-1998, a note from Program Director Jean Humez:

The program has grown and evolved in many ways in this quarter century. We grew to five full-time faculty lines; we evolved from a concentration into a full-fledged academic major (with a minor); and we have continued to develop our curriculum in response to new student and faculty interests (always constrained by resource realities, of course!). Through all the changes, we have remained dedicated to the best goals of feminist education, still enunciated in our handbook:
• To bring the history and critical perspectives of women of different cultures, races, and social classes into the university curriculum;
• To stimulate and support new, nonsexist research and writing on women and gender by students and faculty;
• To help promote a nonsexist university environment.

Women's Studies newsletter, 1981.

Women’s Studies newsletter, 1981.

University Archives & Special Collections holds the records of the Women’s Studies Program from 1972-2006. The records document the program’s governance and growth, including faculty appointments and student enrollment; curriculum development; and special projects and associated organizational work. Formats include proposals, by-laws, meeting minutes, budget information, correspondence, curricular materials, and publications.

View the finding aid for the Women’s Studies Program records here. Browse publications by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Exhibition tells story of Carol McEldowney’s anti-war activism and role in Women’s and Gay Liberation movements

This display of diaries, writings, photographs, and ephemera on the 5th floor of the Healey Library reveals the accomplishments and insights of activist and self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

This display of diaries, writings, photographs, and ephemera on the 5th floor of the Healey Library reveals the accomplishments and insights of activist and self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston is excited to unveil several new exhibitions in the Walter Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library, all of which highlight materials from the department’s extensive archival holdings. I will describe these new exhibitions in a series of news posts over the next week.

The first exhibition I’d like to highlight, in one of the gallery’s upright display cases, is entitled “‘A PERSONAL MANIFESTO … OF SORTS’: The Diaries of Carol McEldowney” and explores the life of activist, writer, and women’s self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

Although she died in 1973 at the young age of 30, “the spunky Carol McEldowney,” as she was described by Todd Gitlin in his book The Sixties, was outstanding in her accomplishments. In 1967, McEldowney was one of only two women in a small contingent from the U.S. to travel to Vietnam where she studied Vietnamese society and the consequences of war.

Pages from McEldowney's Hanoi journal.

Pages from McEldowney’s Hanoi journal.

The diary that McEldowney kept during this trip was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2007. Elizabeth R. Mock, who co-edited McEldowney’s Hanoi Journal for publication, held several positions in the Healey Library at UMass Boston from 1973 until her retirement in 2010. From 1981 to 2010, Mock was the University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections, having established the archival program for the library. The book is available through the Healey Library here or through the UMass Press here.

In 1971, McEldowney moved to Boston where she immersed herself in the emerging Women’s Movement, playing a central role in the establishment of a Women’s Center in Cambridge. During this time she came out as a lesbian and immersed herself in the Gay Liberation Movement.

McEldowney (center, in tank top) in a martial arts or self-defense class.

McEldowney (center, in tank top) in a martial arts or self-defense class.

From 1971 until the end of her life, McEldowney studied martial arts and taught practical self-defense classes to women and children, becoming one of the founders of the movement to use self-defense for rape prevention. An original contributor to Our Bodies, Ourselves, a source book on women’s health, McEldowney participated in one of the first women’s martial arts exhibitions in the country during International Women’s Day, in 1973, in Boston.

The Carol McEldowney collections in University Archives and Special Collections includes McEldowney’s personal papers relating to her activism, as well as several diaries and journals. The papers range in date from 1960 to 1973.

This exhibition uses selections from the McEldowney’s various diaries and journals – as well as photographs, ephemera, and other writings – to tell the story of a woman at the forefront of anti-war activism and the emerging Women’s and Gay Liberation movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Visit the display in the Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library at UMass Boston. The exhibition will run through the spring of 2016.

View the finding aid for the Carol McEldowney collections in University Archives and Special Collections here.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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In the Archives: Socialist Feminism Pamphlets of the 1970s

aam_c_0To celebrate Archives Month, I will be posting highlights from our collections throughout October. I hope that this will turn into a regular series. To learn more about Archives Month, visit the Society of American Archivists website.

The collection that I would like to highlight this week is the Judith Smith collection of socialist feminist pamphlets, 1970-1981. In the 1970s, Smith was part of a group of women that organized and ran the Somerville Women’s Health Project, a health clinic which offered free medical care to low-income women and children. She was also a member of the Boston’s Women Union and its orientation committee, the Tuesday Night Orientation Group. The committee was later renamed the Tuesday Night Socialist Feminist Group and continued to meet until 2001, even after the Boston Women’s Union dissolved. Smith is a professor in the American Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Smith’s collection comprises 28 pamphlets and booklets, many of them published by local small presses, on a variety of topics, including race, class, sexism, women’s liberation, women’s wages, housework, family, and witchcraft. Browse the gallery below for a selection of pamphlet covers from Smith’s collection, which she donated to University Archives and Special Collections in 2005.

View the finding aid for the Judith Smith collection here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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