Women's Resource Center Records
After the Women's Rights movement, Professor Marilyn Schuster wrote of the feminist re-education of Smith College faculty and students in an article in the Forum for Liberal Education of 1982. In that year, Smith College developed a "curriculum transformation project" intended to restructure each subject area with the "female perspective" in mind. The project began with a series of faculty seminars and course clusters (four courses from different departments joined by a lecture and discussion series).
Along with Professor Susan Van Dyne, the women wrote in the Harvard Educational Review of 1984 that "[t]he multicultural, interdisciplinary perspective that feminist scholarship has produced in concert with black studies reveals that the gaps and distortions in a curriculum that is predominantly white, male, Western, and heterosexism in its assumptions are large-scale and pervasive." Thus, the project to redefine the way that Smith thought about its female predecessors was no small task. In one faculty member's observation, restructuring the curriculum was similar to the effect of discovering the world was round and not flat. Now the search would begin for the great writers, activists, and women who changed the world. However, "[t]he missing women [were] assumed to resemble the men who [were] already present in the traditional curriculum; the criteria by which greatness or excellence [was] defined remain[ed] unexamined." It was an important and arduous process to search for and learn about the contributions of all women, who would be found great not in comparison to men but of their own accord. Thus, by providing women with role models, students would come to value their experiences as women, their education, and become self-empowered, continuing the feminist movement.
On the interior however, Smith College was an institution at first not committed to making this change. At a time when women's rights and the women's movement had been in full swing for 15 or 20 years, Smith College only recently became aware and struggled with the growing need for the education of women about women. In the 1980s, without a women's studies program in a women's college, faculty and students raised an outcry. In her address to the senior class of 1983 on senior day, Professor Carla Golden, not selected for faculty reappointment, ". . . urge[d the students] to consider why it is that outspoken feminists seem to be so threatening at a woman's college." Throughout her concluding speech, she provoked the thoughts of each student's consciousness with questions such as "[h]ave you questioned why there is not a Women's Studies Program at Smith College, the largest women's college in the world? Is it because women's studies are not considered a legitimate subject of scholarly inquiry? Is it because women are already so visible in the curriculum at Smith that we don't need a Women's Studies Program and more courses?"
Finally, in the fall of 1982, courses were offered in women's studies, though there was no major or minor program. The following year, 20 courses were available, and in 1984, a minor in Women's Studies was offered. However, it was not until 3 years later, in 1987, that a major was offered in Women's Studies. While a Women's Studies program was needed, it was not acknowledged at Smith College until the greater public deemed it acceptable.
Concurrently, Smith College was forced to consider its perspective of the female experience. Students started the Lesbian Alliance at Smith in the spring of 1977. It had two goals according to a handwritten speech asking for funding; the first was to provide a support system for lesbians on campus and the second was to educate the college community on the issue of lesbianism. However, the group had to fight for funding from student government and acceptance by students. Since, the Alliance has transformed to include Bisexuals and Transsexuals. While Smith has become a far more accepting community in the last few years, there are still homophobic and women's issues to be resolved.
Clearly the need for a larger understanding of women of all genders, races, religions, sexuality, classes and backgrounds has been a need on the Smith campus. The Women's Resource Center has been an influential part of bringing that need to the surface along with concerned faculty who were willing to step outside of the lines. It was begun in the fall of 1973 and was active as a part of the Student Government Association. Through the work of the Women's Resource Center and student groups such as the Lesbian Alliance, Smith has a large Women's Studies program and an active community of lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals that, while still forced to confront issues, is able to do so in a more accepting environment than in the past.
As part of its goal to educate women about women and provide them with support, the Women's Resource Center plays a large public role. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Women's Resource Center has organized a Women's Week each year on campus that is devoted to issues surrounding womanhood such as sexuality, race, class, equal rights and feminism. It advocated for support of the Equal Rights Amendment Task Force group that was formed on the Smith Campus in the 1980s. It hosted the Alternative Careers Conference on the Smith campus in 1983, which, according to its proposal form, was a conference "working to promote social change from within and without traditional occupational structures." And the center also raised awareness of the violence committed against and civil liberties of women through a Five-College and community "Take Back the Night" rally in the mid-80s. Located on the Third Floor of the Davis Student Center, the Women's Resource Center continues to be a campus space devoted to educating and supporting women.