Personal Reflections on Building a Women's Center in a Women's College, 1975, page 6

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          The Barnard Women's Center in use.

receives many spontaneous demonstrations of approval from
alumnae who express pleasure and pride that their college
has created a women's center. This is often accompanied by
financial support in the form of gifts to the Center. includ-
ing several alumnae class gifts and two major annual in-
dividual contributions from a member of the Class of 1928
and a member of the Class of 1933.

ln retrospect. we can see that our very existence in the
early seventies tapped into a great reservoir of feminist
energy. which in turn helped to shape our identity. ln a
sense. it was like opening a floodgate. we were faced with
an embarrassment of riches—ideas. proposals. and offers to
help on a wide range of projects and services designed to fill
unmet and emerging needs. Some of these became early
Women‘s Center projects and were continued only until
other groups and institutions with larger resources stepped
in to fill the gap. This was true of several non-credit courses.
two issues of a resource booklet on women's services called
HELP. and an early interdisciplinary bibliography. Women's
Work and Women's Studies. initiated by an alumna. Kirsten
Grimstad. Done almost entirely by volunteers at a time when
nothing like it existed. the bibliography was published by the
Women's Center for three years. the last volume covering
1973 and 1974.

Other projects became an integral part of the Women's
Center. Soon after receiving an announcement of the open-
ing of the Center. Myra Josephs. Barnard ’28. appeared on
our doorstep with a pile of articles which she had been col-
lecting for the past few years. Little did we know that this
would become one of our major permanent projects. With
a Ph.D. in chemistry which she had never fully used, Ms.
Josephs had spent a lifetime thinking about the condition of
women. In her regular volunteer job of scanning over 200


journals in the behavioral and social sciences for articles for
the Institute of Rational Living. she began to see increasing
numbers of articles on women She became excited by what
she saw and started to collect this material

ln 1973. we offered this material to the Barnard Library
to form the nucleus for a women's library. To our surprise.
the director of the Library turned down the idea. saying that
he could not see “starting a new library for every fad that
came along." Besides. he explained. the Barnard Library al-
ready had books on. by. and about women. We were dis
mayed. but his refusal resulted in the Women's Centers de-
velopment of its own collection.

We called it The Birdie Goldsmith Art Resource Collec-
tion. in memory of Ms. Josephs's mother. an early feminist
and suffragist. Ms. Josephs continued culling the literature
and adding most of the significant articles on women from
these journals until 1982 when she became ill and had to
stop her work. ln addition. she provided financial support to
maintain the Collection. Today the Collection is the size of
a small. special library collection with some 6.000 print items
books. articles. pamphlets. brochures. clippings. special is-
sues of journals. and subscriptions to over seventy periodi-
cals. Catalogued according to women's issues. it reflects the
changes in the thinking of the women's movement over the
past ten years. lt is used by scholars. researchers. journalists.
and activists from all over the world.

We learned quickly that. as women‘s consciousness was
being raised. no women's center could ignore the constant
demand for individual referrals on a whole range of personal
services—health. employment. therapy. and legal and other
social services. Acknowledging the urgency of these needs.
but that we had neither the time nor the staff to do referrals
well. we sought a closer relationship with the Women's
Counseling Project. a small group of volunteers who had
been working solely in this area since 1917. With our help.
the Project moved from a small basement office at Colum-
bia to Barnard. in January 1978. and began a productive af-
filiation with the Women's Center and Barnard which has
proved to be an interesting feminist model of expansion Bar-
nard provides space and other in-kind services. the Women's
Center initially gave financial support and help in develop-
ing proposals which brought in necessary outside funding.
and throughout gave cooperation and support. The Project
maintains its autonomy and its priorities; providing quality
referral and peer-counseling services to women in the New
York metropolitan area. Since the move to Barnard. the Pro-
ject has flourished and has expanded its staff and services.
it has become more professional and is now an independent.
financially viable, not-for-profit organization. The ties be-
tween the Project and the Women‘s Center remain close
The Center has strengthened a service it could not provide


The single most important activity of the Women's Cen-
ter has been the annual "Scholar and Feminist" conference
Starting in 1974. these conferences have come to be viewed
as a unique experience in feminist inquiry. raising questions
which are on the cutting edge of the new scholarship on
women. The conferences are interdisciplinary and recognize

the inextricable relationship between theory and practice. be-
tween scholarship and activism.

Womeifs Studies Quarterly Xll 1 (Spring 1984}