A People's History of Middlebury College

a history of Middlebury College centered on marginalized voices, social/political mobilizations, and periods of struggle

A People's History of Middlebury College

Women’s studies major

In 1988 Proposal for Women’s Studies major was presented to the Educational Council. Professor Peggy Neson introduced the first women’s studies course as a foundations course. 1988: Middlebury’s Winter Term faculty seminar “Women’s Studies: Issues of Equality and Difference” helped 15 faculty members explore the contributions of Women’s Studies to existing academic paradigms.

March 1989: Women’s Studies proposal passed with a 13 to 1 vote by the Educational Council and Curriculum Committee: proposal passed with vote 13 to 1.
May 1989: Unanimous faculty vote approved the new interdisciplinary major of Women’s Studies

  • –  Reaction to women’s studies course proposal: By male faculty: “This is ‘political.’ This is an ‘ideological’ course…This was the perception. This was the objection that was raised…That objection came from a man on the faculty…He was implying that this course did not have an academic quality…Now, he was not hostile, but he had a traditional view of the curriculum. And this innovation seemed to him to be an intrusion of ideology and politics in higher education… This point of view did not gain traction in that discussion” (7:15)
  • –  “The Equal Rights Amendment was on the national debate agenda. And then there were people like Alan Bloom that saw courses that had a feminist orientation as courses that had very little academic quality. One has to see the larger context in which people where raising these questions and these objections.” (10:00)
  • –  “Peggy…taught her course with such professionalism that she contributed significantly to demolishing those misperceptions” (12:00)
  • –  DU: “It had the effect of making people more receptive to courses in women’s studies”
  • –  “I think women’s studies was introduced and it developed and thrived because of the people who taught it, and not because of the fraternity affairs. I think they had more to do with the antics and the pranks of immature men. I think when you look at the development of women’s studies you have to turn to the extraordinary women who taught those courses and go back to the qualities that I attributed to them: their inner strength, conviction, and their confidence in their professional vocation…In short they had a sense of their professional and pedagogical authority.” (15:00)

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