A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York

Brooklyn College Feminist Trailblazers of the 1970s

Brooklyn College history professor Renate Bridenthal remembers stuffing copies of fliers into the mailboxes of women faculty members across her campus in 1971 for the first meeting of what would become the Brooklyn College Women's Organization. This group became the birthplace of one of the longest running Women's Studies Programs and Women's Centers to date, as well as the class-action lawsuit against sex discrimination against women faculty at CUNY, popularly known as the Melani Case. By 1974, co-founders Tucker Pamella Farley of English, Pat Lander of Anthropology, and Renate Bridenthal of History would join with Lilia Melani of English, Fredrica Wachsberger of Art History, and others to win academic legitimacy for the field of interdisciplinary feminist inquiry. The Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College began to offer a joint baccalaureate from Brooklyn College's Schools of Social Sciences & Humanities.

Using feminist pedagogical principles of collectively steering and co-governing the program, as well as offering offering co-taught courses, these trailblazers helped develop women's studies as a field in national professional associations, as well as in high schools.

This collection—curated by Yana Calou from the larger archive at the Brooklyn College Library, with additional contributions from Renate Bridenthal and Tucker Pamella Farley—offers an introduction and overview of the achievements of first decade of the Women's Studies Program, Women's Center, and sex discrimination case. Included are the first proposals for the center and program, meeting minutes, correspondence with Brooklyn College President John Kneller, progress reports, newspaper articles, speeches, conference programs, photographs, posters, course catalogs, as well as oral histories from Renate Bridenthal and Tucker Pamella Farley. Farley also co-founded the National Women's Studies Association and founded Project CHANCE, the program and grant that enabled the establishment of the Women's Center and provided re-entry courses and support for non-traditional returning women students.

Renate Bridenthal fought tirelessly for childcare and against the Vietnam war, and was an outpoken advocate for gender discrimination - continuously writing and speaking to national press and the college's administration. Never compromising their vision to connect intellectual rigor with social activism, this collection features the accomplishments of these trailblazing scholar-activists within a structural climate of misogyny and homophobia. These documents host a rich archive of lessons for future gains in gender parity, both institutionally and intellectually.

Go to all 38 Items in collection.

10 Featured Items:

Oral History Interview with Renate Bridenthal

This oral history interview with Renate Bridenthal, a founding member of the Brooklyn College Women’s Organization, discusses the political climate at Brooklyn College from the 1960s through the 1980s amidst the historical backdrop of the various [...]

Women's Studies Program Catalog

This catalog outlines the feminist perspectives and pedagogies used to establish the Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College. The program was governed by a steering committee of faculty, students, and staff, and included co-coordinators [...]

Proposal for a Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College

This proposal for a Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College describes a nationwide demand for courses on the subject. The document illuminates the co-founders' preliminary arguments for such a program, as well as their first ideas [...]

Proposal for a Women's Center at Brooklyn College

Just after the establishment of the Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College, program co-founder Tucker Farley began to push for a Women's Center as a complementary counterpart to the academic program. This proposal envisions the [...]

"The Past and Future of Women's Studies" - Conference Talk

Women's Studies Program co-founder historian Renate Bridenthal gave this talk for the Brooklyn College Institute in Women's Studies for Secondary School Faculty conference in 1980. Bridenthal recounts the formation of the Brooklyn College [...]

Oral History Interview with Tucker Pamella Farley

This oral history interview was conducted with Tucker Pamella Farley, a founding member of the Brooklyn College Women’s Organization. In it, she discusses the political climate of the 1960s through the 1980s and the range of activities, actions, [...]

Tucker Pamella Farley's Women and Literature Class

This photograph shows Tucker Pamella Farley (left) teaching her popular Women and Literature course in a discussion circle with her students. Farley taught at Brooklyn College from 1970 to 2005, where she was central to developing the Women’s [...]

Women's Studies Program Office

The Women's Studies Program at Brooklyn College, founded in 1971, was one of the first such programs in the country. Taken in 1982, this is one of the few photographs of the Women's Studies office located at 2157 Boylan Hall and features [...]

"City's Personnel Policies Called Biased"

This New York Times article outlines charges against the city that alleged discrimination against women and racial minorities in hiring and promotions at CUNY. Women's Studies Program co-coordinators and Brooklyn College Women's [...]

Periodic Review Report to Commission on Higher Education

Six years after the Women's Studies Program began offering a joint BA from Brooklyn College's Schools of Social Sciences & Humanities, the program issued this progress report outlining their accomplishments and concerns to the [...]

Go to all 38 Items in collection.

Brooklyn College Feminist Trailblazers of the 1970s