The Women's Center, Barnard College, pamphlet, 1971, page 5

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          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.