The Women's Center, Barnard College, pamphlet, 1971, page 5
The Case for Women's Studies There are now eleven courses on women in the regular Barnard curriculum. Their appearance has been in keeping with Barnard's academic style. Some of our faculty have had a long- standing interest in such materials and, in the pres- ent climate, have been en- couraged to offer courses where they may share this interest with students. Other faculty members have de- veloped their interest relatively recently, but have done so against a background of intense involvement with a field where the special experience of women has clearly been ignored. Barnard's courses on women are given in a variety of disciplines, with no major planned at the moment. Sometimes they are presented within the framework of a colloquium with a changing theme. In this case, the "women" theme may be succeeded in some future year by another topic. At other times, a course will be added as a regular offering. Its fate will be determined by the educational and practical considerations that guide departmental offerings, along with the impal- pable criterion that applies to each course at Barnard: Does it have a convincing life of its own? Some say that courses on women are needlessly particularizing and parochial. Might it not be more appropriate to think of such courses as a rearrange- ment of familiar materials and an introduction of for- gotten or neglected materials? Whether these materials occupy center stage, as in courses specifically designed to deal with the woman factor, or whether they are in varying amounts incorporated in existing courses, they heighten our awareness of a whole dimension of human life. Indeed, far from limiting our vision, these courses allow a more complete estimate of the range of human experience and accomplishment. One sometimes hears the objection: Why courses on women? Don't they make as little sense as courses on men? Scholars are finding that differences exist in women's experiences and that there may well be differences in their perceptions of those experiences; yet most courses center around the experiences and perceptions of males. In existing courses, moreover, attention is rarely given to the social and economic role of women and to the resulting psychological rela- tionship between men and women, which in turn in- fluences the nature of society and partly determines its values. The question arises whether the inclusion of courses on women might upset our balanced curriculum and weaken its professional approach. If we acknowledge that the purpose of a liberal arts curriculum is not merely to provide pre-professional preparation for our students, but also to give them an appreciation of their cultural heritage, then, in an institution where women are educated, it is our duty to give them an awareness of their legacy as women. The nature of that legacy is riddled with problems of sexual definition. Since posi- tive answers cannot be supplied, it is even more urgent to place the "woman question" within many scholarly perspectives. In so doing, our students will become aware of the variety of roles women have played, of the social and economic necessities which prompted them, and also of the di- lemmas women have faced and the resources they have called upon. Annette K. Baxter Professor of History; Suzanne F. Wemple Assistant Professor of History The special experience of women has been too long ignored in academic institutions.