A Woman's Place is in the World
The Barnard Women's Center is a new program for
an old need: the dignity, autonomy, and equality of
women. More than a place, more than a project, it
symbolizes the way in which a college may gather its
energies on behalf of women. It is Barnard’s way of
reaffirming its commitment to educate women to
take their place in the world—the very premise on
which the College was founded.
For too long, society has held to be true a number
of myths about women, some of them destructive
myths. Especially destructive to colleges, particularly
women's colleges, was the notion that women were
less rational and less capable than men, so that edu-
cating women was less useful than educating men.
Replacing myth with fact is, of course, the respon-
sibility of everyone. The Women's Center hopes to
contribute, first, a dialogue about the problems, the
place, and the potential of women in contemporary
life; second, new bonds between a college and
women away from college; and third, fresh insight for
undergraduates about what it means to be a woman
in modern America.
The Center will draw upon the Barnard faculty,
which now teaches perhaps the most versatile group
of Women's Studies courses in the nation; upon Col-
umbia University and its resources; upon New York,
where so many women of diverse talents and skills
live; and upon Barnard alumnae.
Our aims are high: We want to interest a broad
spectrum of women. We want to create a solid body
of knowledge about women. We want to free women
to use their education as fully as possible. We plan,
as part of our program, a permanent series of semi-
nars on Women and Society that will systematically
bring women of varied experience, alumnae and
others, to talk to undergraduates. We plan a commit-
tee of Barnard alumnae who are lawyers to explore
cases of discrimination.
How will we finance all this? It seems most fitting
that the income from the bequest of Helen Rogers
Reid '03, a former Board Chairman and life-long
crusader for women's rights, will be used to launch
the first programs of the Center.
Women's Studies at Barnard
The inclusion of courses on women has been in
keeping with Barnard’s academic traditions and
standards. They are the result of strong faculty and
student interest in a field that has too long been
ignored——the special experience of women.
There are now eleven Women's Studies courses in
the regular Barnard curriculum. They are given in a
variety of disciplines, with no major planned at the
moment. Each course has to stand on its own merits
and meet the same stringent criteria that apply to all
The courses range from History of Women in Amer-
ica, Images of Women in Literature, and the Role of
Women in Modern Economic Life, to Female and
Male, a joint offering of the departments of Anthro-
pology, Biology, Psychology, and Sociology.
In placing the whole “women question" within
many scholarly perspectives, our students will be-
come aware of the variety of roles women have
played, of the social and economic necessities that
prompted them, and also of the characteristic dilem-
mas women have faced and the resources they have
Barnard’s Research Collection
As with any academic program, the sine qua non
in the field of Women's Studies is a research library.
In addition to offering an impressive number of books
by and about women, the Barnard library houses the
Overbury Collection, which includes among its nine-
teen hundred volumes unique editions of books by
American women writers and nearly a thousand
related manuscripts and letters.
The bequest of the late Bertha Van Riper Overbury
of the Class of 1896, the Collection ranges from a sec-
ond American edition of the poems of Anne Brad-
street, America's earliest female poet, to first editions
1 of such present—day authors as Pulitzer-prize winning
novelist Jean Stafford, who delivered the first annual
Spring Lectures at the College in I971.
The Overbury Collection is the nucleus of a distin-
guished research library on women, which we are
seeking to expand.
Women and Work
An important function of the Women's Center will
be to implement career planning—to help students
and alumnae think seriously about the full range of
careers, make appropriate plans, and go on to
achieve their vocational goals.
The Women's Center will encourage frequent semi-
nars and career conferences, bringing in women,
often alumnae representing different fields and differ-
ent life styles, who are prepared to talk informally
about the satisfactions and problems they face as
working women. In this way, the Center will take
advantage of one of Barnard’s great resources—suc-
cessful alumnae who often express a willingness to
share their experiences with undergraduates.
It is expected that the Center will also encourage
research on vocational activities of women both for
our own use and for periodic publication.
We hope these brief remarks will show what the
Center is, why it came into being, and what it may
become —— a place of study, a place for students, and
a place where thought and action nurture each other.