A Woman's Place is in the World, 1971

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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
 Barnard courses.
 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
 called upon.
 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.