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Our History

The Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) has helped to define the discipline of women's studies in the United States. It has sought from its start to connect the study of women and gender with race and class, and not to isolate gender as a single category of analysis.

As it has matured, Emory Department of Women's, Gender, & Sexuality (WGSS) has also brought the categories of ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and other aspects of identity, together with gender, race, and class, into its feminist analyses. WGSS has also sought from its beginning to establish programmatic connections with organizations and persons outside the academy, most with Rosalynn Carter of the Carter Center, and through service learning opportunities for our undergraduate majors.

It has also sought sustained relationships with other local schools and women's studies programs, including those at Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, and especially Spelman College.

The Institute for Women's Studies

student on quadWGSS began as the Institute for Women's Studies (IWS), founded in 1986 with the hiring of its first director, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a distinguished historian. It began by offering a minor in Women's Studies in 1986-87, and a major and a graduate certificate in 1988-89. A Ph.D. in Women's Studies began in that same year under the auspices of Emory's Institute for Liberal Arts (ILA). The first appointed faculty started in 1989-90.

In the fall of 1990, the first class of Women's Studies Ph.D. graduate students started under the IWS itself, in connection with the ILA. In that same academic year, the first set of Rosalynn Carter Fellows in Public Policy was named. The first Rosalynn Carter Distinguished Lecture in Public Policy followed in 1993.

Our first Women's Studies Ph.D.s, Paula Washington and Isa Williams graduated in the spring of 1995, and we have produced over 40 Ph.D.s in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Recognized as a leader in the field of doctoral education in women's studies, Emory has gained national visibility for producing top-notch students with a high placement rate and a strong commitment to the profession. Many of our Ph.D. alumnae hold positions in Women's Studies programs across the country, and several are now directing these programs.

Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Department

The IWS became a department in the Fall of 2003, and since that time we have continued to consolidate our reputation nationally, internationally, and at Emory. The department conducted an external review in 2005-2006 that acknowledged it to be the leading department in the country. Our number one ranking by Academic Analytics confirmed this in 2007.

In Fall 2007 we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Women's Studies at Emory with a Women's Symposium. Also recognizing the 30th anniversary of the President's Commission on the Status of Women and the 15th anniversary of the Center for Women, this two-day event marked the decades-long collaborative efforts at Emory on behalf of women that have led to our current position of prominence. As the Emory Department of Women's Studies (EDWS) expanded, its name has changed to reflect the scope of its intersectional inclusivity. Our department is now known as the Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies (WGSS) located in Candler Library suites 128-129.