“The mission of the Connecticut College Womxn’s Center is to educate, advocate, and create an environment where historically marginalized identities are discussed critically and openly celebrated. As a community, we place the praxis of feminist intersectionality and social justice at the center and strive to represent the diverse and evolving needs of all individuals in relation to the vast spectrum of gender.”
“As a former women’s college that was founded on a principle of affording special access to liberal education by women… it is important that the legacy of activism by women at Conn be preserved and accorded a space in which to grow…” -Armando I. Bengochea
A Timeline Tracing Womxn’s History at Connecticut College
1911– Connecticut College was originally founded as a “The Connecticut College for Women,” becoming the first women’s college in the state. As more women began working and seeking higher education, this institution opened its doors in response to other universities that denied access.
1969- The first ever Black Womanhood Conference on an American college was held at Connecticut College. This was a three-day conference that celebrated the roles of black women in various professional spheres. Events included seminars lead by prominent black women and artistic performances.
1970- Women’s Studies at Connecticut College began with a course on Women in the Late Victorian England, taught by Helen Mulvey.
1978- The first Introductory course in Women’s Studies was offered.
“Being Black, we feel that the Black contribution to America has been slighted. Being Black women, we have tried to bring distinguished Black women of many fields to this campus, to talk about what it is to be Black in this society and to discuss the Black experience as it relates to their individual professions.” -Beverly Phillips, Connecticut College Black Womanhood Conference
Late 1970s- The Women’s Studies Committee was permitted partial use of a room in Palmer for one year.
1980’s- A small room in Unity House was made available for one year. Small meetings were held there and feminist materials were displayed, but the group was not permitted to install a telephone. The Women’s Studies Committee made an annual request for space in a room in Thames would be provided when faculty offices were moved to Blaustein.
1988- President Claire Guadiani made a former seminar room in Fanning available. 417A and B become the official space for Women’s Studies Committee and the Connecticut College Women’s Center for years to come.
“From the beginning of Women’s Studies at Connecticut College one or another women’s group has wanted to establish a physical space for feminist activities.” –Women’s Studies at Connecticut College: Past, Present, and Future
1989- The center was formally recognized and given a Connecticut College mailbox.
“Claire Gaudiani made the decision in summer ‘88 to allocate the physical space necessary for the Center, and a team of students and faculty has coordinated a considerable program. However, these efforts have also served to make us aware of how much more could be accomplished if the college valued these services enough to put the center, including a director, into its budget.” -Letter to Dorothy James, Dean of Faculty, from Jane W. Torrey
Challenges and Activism
1980s- A student group, People Organized for Women’s Rights, was formed and advised by a member of the student-faculty implementation collective .
1988- The Importance of Women’s Studies in Today’s curriculum was prepared for the first Women’s Studies Colloquium by Professor Marcia McGowan
1989– The Women’s Studies Committee made a request that the college “show its support for this growing interdisciplinary field” by making a full time faculty appointment that would include teaching, administering the Women’s Studies program, and directing the Connecticut College Women’s Center. Request was denied.
1990- A request was made for the Women’s Center to be formally recognized as a center.
1991- A formal document tracing the history of Women’s Studies at Connecticut College was created and titles “Women’s Studies at Connecticut College: Past, Present, and Future.“
1991- Division existed between academic activities and student activities. Student services fell under the Dean of the college, while the Women’s Studies program fell under educational activity. The center served both purposes with limited funds.
1992- The Women’s Center was endowed with a $100,000 gift from the estate of Harriet Buescher Lawrence, for a the construction of a new room in the renovated Crozier-Williams. It was set to begin in June but was never implemented.
“The Connecticut College Women’s Center is located in 417 B Fanning and serves to promote opportunities for women to reach their full potential and awareness of women’s issues” -June 1991
1992– Conn’s first annual Take Back the Night March and Rally occurred, with 400 participants (300 women, 100 men). Students marched around the entire community, culminating on Harkness Green with a rally and Speak out. The rally included speakers and music in support of survivors of sexual assault.
1992-1993- The center became the Connecticut College Everwomen’s Center and gained funding from the college. It also became a part of the Office of Student Life and established a student advisory board.
1995- Name changed from the Everywoman’s Center to The Women’s Center at Connecticut College. The Center engaged in events such as the National Young Women’s Day of Action and Domestic Violence Awareness month.
1995- The Women’s Information Groups were residential meetings held in dorms once a month.
Late 1990’s– The Women’s Center was located in Freeman 101.
“The EWC has gained visibility and support within the campus community through the planning and implementation of several diverse events, and through collaborative activity with other campus offices and organizations… the Everywomen’s Center is now better placed to serve the needs of the community as well as to provide a valuable environment in which students may grow and develop.” Connecticut College Everywomen’s Center Annual Report (1992-93)
Establishment & Evolution
2002- Students, staff and faculty of Connecticut College performed in the first annual Conn chapter of “The Vagina Monologues.” The performance was during V-Season (Feb. 1- April 30) to raise money for V-Day and local organizations and programs with the same mission.
2006- A group of students in the GWS 295 Fieldwork course formed the Sexual Assault Free Environment (Think S.A.F.E) with the mission to foster a more responsive environment toward survivors of sexual assault and prevent sexual assault.
2007- The former dance studio in the basement of Smith House became home to the Women’s Center, opened to serve as a meeting space for the feminist clubs on campus.
2009- Originally called the Think S.A.F.E. Project, the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy was established at Connecticut College with a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The grant funded the program for three years. It is now funded by the College.
“I think many women at Connecticut College are silenced in their own individual struggles on race and sexuality because they don’t have an environment that offers them the change to think about their problems in a constructive forum.” -Women’s Center Application
2013- Alia Roth ’14, producer of the 2014 Connecticut College Vaginas Monologues, created a viral video asking 100 men “Why are vaginas important to you?” to raise awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault. It has gathered over 200k view on Youtube.
2015-2016- The Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion was officially created in the academic year. This division is now home to Gender and Sexuality Programs and the Title IX Office
2016- As Told by Vaginas became The Women’s Empowerment Initiative to include more identities and experiences. The production is a fundraiser for Safe Futures, an organization rooted out of New London that provides services to survivors of domestic violence all throughout SouthEastern Connecticut.
2017- Students and staff changed the name of the center to the Womxn’s Center, adding an X to be more inclusive of all gender identities.
2017- Shameesha Pryor ’17, organized the second Black Women’s Conference hosted at Conn with the assistance of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board.
“The terms ‘woman’ and ‘women’ have long been recognized as problematic… This conceptualization validates and helps to perpetuate gender discrimination, prejudice, and institutionalized sexism while also marginalizing those who do not fall into the dominant intersections of gender, race, and sexual orientation. With this in mind, we have chosen to replace the ‘a’ and ‘e’ in the traditional spelling of woman/women with an ‘x.’ This reflects an ideological shift to a more inclusive conceptualization that recognizes the many struggles and identities existing along the continuum of gender.” -The Personal is Political: Why Womxn?