A Partial History of Women’s Rights Organizations at Dickinson College
Compiled by Caroline Radesky ’09 and edited by Susannah Bartlow, Women’s Center Director
Document tags refer to items in the Dickinson College Archives
The Commission on the Status of Women: Fall 1971-?
In 1970, the American Association of University Professors reactivated a national Committee, Committee W, on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession. A Committee W formed at Dickinson College in the fall of 1971 with the help of Professor William B. Jeffries, then president of Dickinson’s AAUP chapter. A Subcommittee on Research and Recommendations examined the status of female faculty at Dickinson from 1962 to 1972, and they presented their findings in “Recommendations and Report on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession at Dickinson College,” dated September 27, 1972. During the fall of 1972, the Commission on the Status of Women formed. On December 11, 1972, President Rubendall announced to the college community that the Commission on the Status of Women would address issues concerning women at Dickinson, advise the President of the College on those issues, and compile yearly reports of its work. Professors Barbara McDonald and Dorothy Culp were instrumental in the first years of the Commission.
The Commission met two to three times each month, and it formed various subcommittees addressing the needs of women at Dickinson, including Student Services, Employment, Recruitment, Grievances, and Athletics. The Recruitment subcommittee lobbied for more women faculty to be hired. The Athletics subcommittee discovered that women were paying for athletic opportunities of which they could not take advantage, and the subcommittee worked to increase the amount of attention athletic recruiters focused on recruiting female athletes. The Grievances subcommittee fought for better treatment of female Physical Plant staff.
The Women’s Group: Fall 1971-Spring 1973
Founded in the fall of 1971, the Women’s Group was the first recorded grassroots feminist group on Dickinson College’s campus and received Student Senate recognition in 1972 (RG 2/50, 11-3-06). According to their application for Student Senate Extra-curricular Group Recognition, the organization had a five part statement of purpose (RG 5/99, 9-8-21):
- To serve as a consciousness-raising group for those who wish to discuss their identities as women in this society, on this campus, and in their personal relationships.
- To present film, speakers, and/or hold conferences relevant to women in education or the women’s movement in general.
- To find out the interests of women students, faculty, and administrators concerning the status of women at Dickinson.
- To investigate college policies (on faculty hiring and student admissions, for example)
- To submit our findings and give suggestions to the officials concerned in the case that sexual discrimination is suspected.
In the tradition of many feminist organizations of the era, the Women’s Group was non-hierarchical and thus did not have officers. The Women’s Group’s interest in the women’s lived experiences at Dickinson College led them to create the “Social Opinion Survey” in the spring of 1972. Though Dean Mary Carson was cited in the letter attached to the survey, the questionnaire was distributed to the women of the College without the permission or endorsement of the Dean of Women or other Dickinson administration. Both the survey itself and the results caused quite a stir. Many students, administrators, trustees, and alumni expressed frustration and even disgust at the Women’s Group’s efforts. Despite the protests of some Dickinsonians, it appears that the college began providing gynecological services to students the subsequent semester (fall 1972). Following their survey campaign, the Women’s Group went on to petition for more female faculty and administrators at the college, presented a lecture and class on self defense, and held many consciousness raising meetings (Microcosm 1972 and 1973). Though it is not clear when the organization officially disbanded, the last public mention of the Women’s Group appeared in the 1973 Microcosm.
Advisory and Planning Committee on/for Women’s Programs: 1973-1976
In the fall of 1973, Dean Mary Watson Carson and graduate intern Pam McFarland founded the Advisory and Planning Committee on/for Women’s Programs (APCWP). The group hoped to facilitate events that would “hopefully take us towards more self discovery as women today” (Fall 1973 Newsletter, APCWP Collection). In the fall of 1973, the organization published “The Dickinson Woman’s Newsletter.” The first newsletter listed APCWP-sponsored events and included an attached sheet that readers could fill out and return to the Office of Student Services in order to join the organization (Fall 1973 Newsletter, APCWP Collection). By the winter of 1974, the Advisory and Planning Committee on Women’s Programs had 25 members (January 1974 Newsletter, APCWP Collection). As the organization grew, the newsletter began to publish features on women’s issues, articles on women-centered events on campus, and creative writing by female students. Likewise, the APCWP continued to host events including weekly brownbag lunch discussions on women’s issues, women’s career counseling sessions, a film festival, community feminist theater performances, and lectures on women’s issues. Though it is not clear when the APCWP officially disbanded, by the fall of 1976, the Women’s Resource Group began publishing “The Dickinson Women’s Newsletter.”
Women’s Resource Center: 1976-?
In fall 1976, a group of Dickinson students, faculty, and staff founded the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), when the WRC took over publication of “The Dickinson Women’s Newsletter.” In the publication, the group describes themselves as a group of “women students (we would love to have men too, but we haven’t seemed to draw any this year) who gather to talk, experience, and understand each other and our surroundings, as women. WRC is not a radical feminist group. We just need and enjoy each other’s similar and different experiences and ideas as and about women” (Newsletter, October 1976, WRC Collection). Moreover, according to the group’s constitution, the WRC was organized by officers and members were required to attend meetings in order to get voting privileges. The main goals of the organization were to build consciousness surrounding women’s issues, publish a newsletter, bring speakers to Dickinson, and improve the college community for women at Dickinson (Newsletter, Oct. 11, 1977, WRC Collection).
The organization appears to have had been “revived” in 1977 and again in 1979. In 1977, the group began publishing the “Women’s Resource Center Newsletter”; in 1979, Anne Abrams, the Director of Campus Activities, successfully called for a meeting to revitalize the organization. On November 7, 1979, the WRC circulated a proposal to alter the ways in which the Greek system promoted hazing and a hostile campus culture at Dickinson. The proposal was not well received by much of the campus and the WRC submitted many articles to the Dickinsonian explaining their position (Clippings, 1979, WRC Collection).
Finally, in 1980, the Dickinsonian reported that the organization had divided. Experiencing different concerns as professional women, the faculty/staff felt that they needed a different forum for their more radical feminist agenda. Thus, the organization split, creating the student-focused WRC and the new radical feminist Zatae Longsdorff Feminist Group. Though both groups were opened to both students and faculty/staff, each group catered to its own audience. It is not clear when the WRC officially disbanded.
Zatae Longsdorff Feminist Group/ Zatae Longsdorff Group/ Zatae Longsdorff Society:
Founded in 1980, Dickinsonians founded the Zatae Longsdorff Feminist Group (ZLFG). According to an article dated October 30, 1980, the Dickinsonian explained, “A clear disparity of views among the members of the last year’s Women’s Resource Center sparked the idea that two groups were needed to meet the varied interests of women. The more radical branch, which tended to be professors and administrators, decided that their difference in age, their more lengthy experience as “feminists” and their freedom from peer (student) pressure enabled them to think differently about sex-related issues.” This piece went on to explain that unlike the WRC, the ZLFG was not formally organized and did not have officers. Nor was the group funded by the school (Letter, Sept. 24, 1980). Instead, the ZLFG was an independent and informal group which met in the homes of its members. Moreover, the group was open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the Carlisle community. It is unclear when the group officially disbanded.
Women Helping Other Women (W.H.O.W.): 1982-?
In November 1982, Women Helping Other Women (W.H.O.W.) compiled their constitution. W.H.O.W. worked to support women leaders on campus. Moreover, W.H.O.W. held lectures, workshops, and other forms of programming in order to make "men and women on this campus more aware." The constitution explained that ““The purpose of the organization is four-fold: Being a support group for women leaders on campus and organizations, programming in women areas including lectures and workshops, making men and women on this campus more aware, planning social activities.” The organization was open to the entire female campus. It is unclear when the group officially disbanded.
Equality for Females: Our Rights Today (E. F. F. O. R. T.): 1984-?
Equality for Females: Our Rights Today or E.F.F.O.R.T. was a women's feminist organization that began in the early 1980s. The group's purpose, as stated in their constitution, was to bring to Dickinson College "a better understanding of feminist issues" through the use of "lectures, films, petitions, discussion groups, and social events." EFFORT also stressed that it did not take a specific stand on any feminist issues but "welcomes a variety of opinions." EFFORT's constitution provided the only information that is known of this organization. It is unclear when the group officially disbanded.
The Zatae Longsdorff Center for Women: 1983- 2008
In March of 1984, with the help of the Commission on the Status of Women, a group of faculty, students, and staff founded the Women’s Center. Both an organization and a physical space, the organization described itself as a “…feminist organization grounded in an ideology that supports the strength of sisterhood.” Thus, the Women's Center strove to promote awareness of women’s/feminist issues on the Dickinson College campus. It did so through a board composed of elected faculty, students, and staff that planned events. Such events included lectures, demonstrations, discussions, performances, film viewings, and parties.
In the early 1990s, the Women’s Center became a completely student run organization. Though still run by an executive board, the board was completely composed of unpaid students and was funded by Student Senate. Moreover, in 1998, the organization changed its name from the Women’s Center to the Zatae Longsdorff Center for Women in honor of Zatae Longsdorff, the first female graduate of Dickinson College. Despite the new leadership and name change of the organization, the mission and programming largely stayed the same.
Due to the work of the student-led board of the Women’s Center, in the spring of 2008, the President’s Commission on Women worked to establish an administrative Women’s Center with a paid director. In the fall of 2009, the new Women’s Center was established and the Zatae Longsdorff Center for Women disbanded. Many members from the Zatae Longsdorff Center for Women organized to form the student-run Feminist Collective.
The President’s Commission for Women: 1996-
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The Feminist Collective: June 2008-
In June of 2008, a group of feminists at Dickinson College founded the Feminist Collective. Many of the members of the Collective had served on the board of the Zatae Longsdorff Center for Women. However, after Dickinson College established an administrative Women’s Center with a paid director, the group saw an opportunity to expand their activism on campus and assume a more radical feminist agenda. The Feminist Collective’s constitution explains that the organization “strives to integrate the study and practice of an inclusive feminism; one which recognizes the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality. The Collective intends to progressively educate the campus community by challenging the patriarchal prescriptions of our society.” Thus, the Feminist Collective hosts discussions, lectures, workshops, demonstrations, and movie viewings to “educate the campus community.” The Feminist Collective holds their programming at Feminist Collective House on 135 N. College Street. The house also serves as housing for students involved with the organization.
The Feminist Collective is a non-hierarchical organization composed of students, faculty, staff, and the Carlisle Community. The group does not have a formal board but rather facilitators who act as liaisons between the administration and the group’s members. The group encourages all members to plan events surrounding issues that are of interest to them.
The Women’s Center: August 2008-
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