In the midst of a growing women’s movement at Iowa State in the 1970s, the Women’s Studies Program was born. It developed out of a few courses offered in the early 1970s, including a feminist perspective seminar, a course on the history of women in America, and a course on women in American politics. By the mid-1970s, seven core classes plus options for independent study were offered under the mantra of women’s studies.
The University Committee on Women (UCW) presented the first proposal for a women’s studies curriculum on March 21, 1975, and a proposal for a full women’s studies program followed a year later in November, 1976. Two months passed before the UCW presented the proposal to the Council on Interdisciplinary Studies on January 19, 1976. According to the proposal, the program would require the employment of a person with teaching and research experience in women’s studies. Once hired, this person, along with the advisory committee, would identify “areas for additional women’s courses,” ensure that these courses were offered on a regular basis, and teach courses and seminars when possible. The person would also evaluate and implement the development of a women’s studies program so that it could become a permanent interdisciplinary curriculum.
By fall semester 1977, a chair of Women’s Studies had been hired at Iowa State. In conjunction with the chair, the UCW worked to secure the creation of a university-recognized program for women’s studies courses. That fall, an Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee dedicated to investigating the potential for undergraduate work in women’s studies proposed specific courses for the women’s studies program. On October 12, 1977, they defended their chosen courses, answering questions regarding the content, curriculum, and purpose of the proposed courses.
Nearly twenty years after the initial proposal for a women’s studies curriculum, the college and university faculty finally approved Women’s Studies as a major in 1994. That June, Iowa State hosted the National Women’s Studies Association Conference on campus. Since 1994, the Women’s Studies Program has been named one of the programs on campus that has “strengthened the presence of women and of gender consciousness on…campus.” In the fall 2007, the Women’s Studies Program celebrated its thirtieth anniversary on campus by inviting former Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Susan Faludi to present her work “Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America.”