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Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

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Women’s and Gender Studies at University of South Carolina: A HISTORY 

 The early pioneers faced derision, skepticism and a generally unaware population. The original Women’s Studies committee consisted of professional track faculty and staff with few resources and even less recognition. The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies of today thrives because of their efforts and the continuing dedication of our remarkable faculty and staff.


photo of buttons with women's right phrases

Local women’s network begins with initially six to ten faculty and staff meeting almost in clandestine fashion. These meetings eventually lead to the genesis of Professional Women on Campus in 1979.

A group of faculty and graduate students, led by Constance Ashton Myers, proposed Women’s Studies (WOST) to President Tom Jones. Some of those involved in furthering the Women’s Studies Initiative include: Dr. Betty Mandell, psychologist, Social Problems Research Institute; Dr. Margaret Moses, Foreign Languages;  Dr. Lee Jane Kaufman, GINT; Constance Ashton Myers, graduate student in history; Jeanne Chaffe, graduate student; Dr. Susan Jayne, Asst. Prof. of Economics; and Victoria Eslinger, law student. 


photo of buttons from protests

First courses, Women and the Law, and a special topics English course, are offered.  

USC hosts National Conference on Women in Law with grant from Ford Foundation. 

History Department recruits Dr. Linda Maloney from Texas Christian University to teach History 643, Historical Perspectives on Women in America. Maloney also chairs Women’s Studies Coordinating Committee.


Historical article: Many USC departments offer women's courses

Faculty Senate approves first courses in Women's Studies: HSSI (Humanities and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary) 111, Women in Western Culture and HSSI 112, Women in Society.  

Dr. Susan Jayne, Economics, is appointed to chair Women’s Studies.

In fall semester the first course officially identified as women’s studies was team taught by Dr. Kevin Lewis in Religious Studies, Dr. Beverly Heisner in Art, and Karen Rood, graduate student in English. The UN designator indicated an interdisciplinary course. The 1974 catalogue read: “UN 111—Women in Western Culture. The images and roles of Women in Western Culture history. The impacts of religion, social and political Institutions on women. Attitudes toward women as exemplified in literary and artistic modes of different periods, together with an examination of women’s particular contribution to culture. The position of women in contemporary society.”

Fall 1975-Spring 1976

Photo of Paula Feldman
Dr. Paula Feldman

New courses are introduced, including Women Writers, taught by Dr. Paula Feldman, and Women in Antiquity, taught by Dr. Ward Briggs. Women's Studies courses are often taught as unpaid overloads.

Fall 1977

Dr. Ada Thomas chairs Women’s Studies Committee.

Summer 1979

Dr. Paula Feldman chairs Women’s Studies Committee.


Fall 1979

A group of several dozen women faculty and staff meet at Betty Mandel’s home to establish what becomes Professional Women on Campus.

Spring-Fall, 1981

Historical article: Study Challenges Sex Myths

National Women’s Studies Association acknowledges USC Women’s Studies joining. 

Spring-Fall 1982

An endowed account opens in the Educational Foundation with $1,000, including $200 from President Tom Holderman. 

Professional Women on Campus grows to over 200 women.

Spring 1984

USC hosts Southeastern Women’s Studies Conference for the first time.  

On May 1, a systemwide banquet is held to showcase the visible and positive accomplishments of USC Women faculty, staff, and students. Attending and financially supporting the event were top leaders of all USC campuses. Awards were presented for outstanding achievement in numerous categories. Women’s Studies and Professional Women on Campus become highly visible to the system-wide institution.

The SC Legislature passes a resolution commending Professional Women on Campus, Women’s Studies, and the University of SC for sponsoring the first May Day Awards Banquet.

Spring 1985

Women’s Studies is offered as a minor. 

Dr. Katherine Mille raises $9,000 to launch the Women’s Studies Endowment. The inaugural major donors are Harriott Faucette, Francie Hart, Jean Blount and Lily-Roland Hall.  

Fall 1985

The Arney Childs Fund established to honor an outstanding student in Women’s Studies. Malinda C. Hamann receives the inaugural award.  

In 1985, a systemwide banquet, financially supported and attended by the President plus Chancellors and Deans of all campuses (all male), was held to spotlight and celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of women faculty, staff, students, and alumnae competitively selected in nine different categories. While the event was officially sponsored by Professional Women on Campus (of which Dr. Sally Boyd was president at that time), PWC and Women's Studies were closely interlinked. The idea behind this event was that many among the University's leadership perceived women on campus as an irritating annoyance, constantly complaining. Of course, they were committed to the University's positive image, so PWC and Women’s Studies joined that effort by very publicly spotlighting the achievements of women affiliated with USC.

Spring 1986

wearable buttons for women's rights, write women back into history, womens march, women's history month

First mass mailings in the Women’s Studies Endowment campaign go out to non-alumnae SC women and alumnae through the class of ‘74.  

Alumni Association ceases its practice of combining married alumni as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, and instead list each name separately in alphabetical order: Alice Jones Doe and John C. Doe.  

Dr. Sue Rosser is offered the job of the first Director of Women’s Studies at USC and promotes courses in nursing, humanities, social sciences, social work and the schools of medicine, business, and law, showing that Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary field. 

Fall 1986

Endowment reaches $100,000 with gifts from hundreds of donors, including large contributions from Josephine Abney of Greenwood and Harriot Hampton Faucette. 

Spring 1987

Newspaper clipping reads "proposed sex ed bill endorsed" Women's group says support is necessary

Dr. Paula Feldman receives the first Josephine Abney Research Award. 

Fall 1987

Newsletter by Dr. Katherine Mille morphs into a report on all facets of the Women’s Studies Program. Importantly, each newsletter lists cumulatively all donors to the endowment, and it is mailed to them all so that they not only see their impact but learn the content of academic research in Women’s Studies. All newsletters are here


Time Magazine Women Face the 90s

Veronica Gerald is the first recipient of the Carol Jones Carlisle Award.  


mural of an African American woman reading 1992 on her sash.

The USC Women’s Studies Endowment reaches $250,000. 

SC Commission on Higher Education approves the WGST Graduate Certificate, the first from a public institution in the Southeast.


historical article from 1993 - After 20 years, field is solidly established at University

Friends and colleagues establish the Adrenée Glover Freeman Memorial Fund for annual lectures in African-American Women’s Studies; Dr. Thadious Davis is the first lecturer. 

Dr. Mary Crawford is named the first graduate director. 


Dr. Lynn Weber hired as Director. 

Teaching for Social Justice pedagogy series is launched. 


Women’s Studies makes first joint faculty appointment, Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, School of Public Health. Later appointments are with history, English, education, nursing, biology/medical school, political science and psychology.  

Women’s Studies moves to Flinn Hall on its 25th Anniversary. 


USC Board of Trustees and SC Commission on Higher Education approve Bachelor of Arts in Women's Studies.  

Graduate Women's Studies Association, GWSA, launched. 


First two B.A. majors, Leslie Brown and Helen Tecklenburg, graduate in December. 


photo of people meeting with coffee

The Partnership Council is established to restimulate growth of the Endowment. 

Dr. Laura Woliver becomes Associate Director, oversees new undergraduate degree program. 


Two teaching awards introduced, one for a faculty member and one for a graduate student. The first recipients were faculty member Dr. Ingrid Reneau and graduate student Emily Aleshire.  


Women’s Well-Being Initiative is established to promote the well-being of women and girls in the Midlands. 


The annual conference, Transnational Feminisms, is held in conjunction with American Conference on Irish Studies-South. 


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Dr. Drucilla Barker

Dr. Drucilla Barker becomes director. 


Women’s Studies becomes Women’s and Gender Studies as the program’s scope expands. 

The annual conference, Representing Bodies, focuses on disabilities studies. 


Photo of Mary Baskin Waters
Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters 

The annual conference is held in conjunction with the Associate of Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Sciences Studies. 

Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters fund for Women’s Human Rights, Global Issues and Grant Writing is established. 


wGS South Logo

USC hosts Southeastern Women’s and Gender Studies Association conference for the second time. 


Anita Hill on magazine cover. 'I had to tell the truth.'

Anita Hill delivers the Adrenée Glover Freeman lecture.


Photo of Ed Madden
Dr. Ed Madden

Poet and feminist scholar Dr. Alicia Ostriker is Provost’s Visiting Scholar. 

Dr. Ed Madden becomes director. 


Photo of Dr. Fonow speaking
Dr. Fonow speaking

Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters Lectureship Series on Social Justice is established. Mary Margaret Fonow is the first lecturer. 

WGST celebrates its 40th anniversary. 


logo for #metoo movement

Dr. Carla Pfeffer becomes director. 

Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw delivers the Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters lecture. 


cover of textbook

WGST publishes first edition of the Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies reader, edited by Dr. Dawn Campbell and co-edited by Dr. Mary Baskin-Waters. 

Dr. Ed Madden becomes interim director. 

Dr. Lynn Weber Scholarship Fund is established. 


Photo of Stephanie Mitchem
Dr. Stephanie Mitchem

Women’s and Gender Studies becomes a department.  

Dr. Stephanie Mitchem is appointed interim chair. 


WGST celebrates its 50th anniversary. 

  [Timeline created in part by Dr. Katherine Wyly Mille] 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.