History of the Program

Wheaton College has a long history of nurturing women’s education and women scholars. Since its founding in 1834 by noted educator Mary Lyon, Wheaton has been committed to offering young women a challenging curriculum. As a women’s college, Wheaton’s early years were devoted to offering a liberal arts education comparable to that offered at fine men’s colleges.

By the 1970’s, feminists had begun to challenge the traditional liberal arts for its lack of attention to women’s lives and accomplishments. The field of Women’s Studies has flourished in the last thirty years as researchers and teachers have tried to develop a more complete version of human knowledge.

At Wheaton, the Women’s Studies Program, established in 1977, has developed in partnership with the Gender Balanced Curriculum Project, which was initiated three years later to integrate the new scholarship by and about women throughout the entire curriculum. This curriculum transformation project, which was funded by F.I.P.S.E. (the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) and the Ford Foundation, is nationally recognized, and Wheaton is regarded as an important educational innovator in this regard.

When Wheaton made the decision to become co-educational in 1988, the College committed itself to expanding its gender-conscious education to include young men. Our effort to be distinctively co-educational builds on our strong curricular foundation, a faculty with an equal number of men and women, faculty commitment to gender-aware pedagogy, and a Student Life staff who foster equal partnerships between male and female students in all aspects of college life.

The commitment to Women’s Studies among the faculty is one of Wheaton’s greatest strengths. Publications and conferences by Women’s Studies faculty make the College an important center for Women’s Studies scholarship. The conference on violence against women hosted by Professor Kersti Yllo in the summer of 1995 and the conference on co-education in the fall of 1998 have brought leading scholars and educators to the Wheaton campus. Frinde Maher’s co-authored Feminist Classroom and Paula Krebs’s co-edited Feminist Teacher Anthology (1998) are widely acknowledged as leading sources on feminist pedagogy. Other publications by Wheaton’s Women’s Studies faculty include Mary Beth Tierny-Tello’s Allegories of Transgression and Transformation (1996), Paula Krebs’s Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire (1999), Beverly Clark’s Kiddie Lit (2003), Allison Levy’s Widowhood and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe (2004), and a 2005 special issue of Gender & Society co-edited by Hyun Sook Kim.

The College currently offers both a major and minor in Women’s Studies.

Women's Studies emblem