To provide the community with programs, courses and research which acknowledge and expand the potential of women.
Prior to 1970, the experience of women was ignored in academic research, and courses targeting women were limited to home economics. In response to feminist activism at the University of Washington by students and Seattle residents, UW offered the first Women Studies course at a public university in the Fall of 1970.
The course was “Women 101,” a ground-breaking survey of feminist perspectives on a range of topics from history to the media to the law. At the time, women made up only a small of percentage of tenured faculty members and graduate students at UW. But Women Studies was even more groundbreaking in blurring the lines between the university and the community – activists joined faculty in teaching courses, and community members advised and shaped the Women Studies curriculum.
An interdepartmental program rather than being located in any one department, Women Studies became a laboratory of interdisciplinary studies and drew in faculty and graduate students from many different departments.
The UW Women Studies program became a model for others in the region and the nation. Its first director, Sue Ellen Jacobs, helped lay the groundwork for the National Women’s Studies Association, created in 1977. When the Ford Foundation funded regional centers for research on women, UW became the site of the Northwest Center for Research on Women.
The commitment to public scholarship and interdisciplinary studies emphasized by the Women Studies Program continues today in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. One example of this type of engagement is the Women Who Rock Research Project, led by Professor Michelle Habell-Paellán, which brings together scholars, artists, musicians, and activists to explore the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes and social justice movements.