“We needed some place that would be a center for women’s issues…”


Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature

People came from the Medical School, and Public Health, and wherever there were women—Business, there was one. In Journalism, there was one. Law School—wherever there were women. They came, and they participated, and they were interested, and they were helpful. They all had had problems. There was no nonsense about, “I made it. Why can’t others?” They all recognized the problems.

Essentially, as I recall, we threw them open to people and said, “Look, we’re trying to set up this committee. We’d like people to work on it. We’d like to know what are the issues you think are important for women that we should work for in the university—things like childcare, obviously, maternity leave, and obviously tenure, whether you could extend time for women who took maternity leave, lengthen the clock and so forth. All the things you would expect to come up came up; salary equity, which didn’t exist at the time.

I think we had one committee, and people would send us ideas. Then, we got in the [Columbia] Senate the Commission on the Status of Women, and so a lot of the stuff from that committee, and for the Ad Hoc Committee on Women, a lot of the things that we were pressing for went through that commission, which was tricky, but we got some of them through—sexual harassment, I think some of the childcare and maternity leave and so forth, things like that, I think, went through there. I believe never anything on salary equity because, of course, that was always secret. Nobody was supposed to know what anybody else made, so you couldn’t have an established policy.

I think that the idea that we needed more than just an occasional informally-called forum—that is, informally summoned forum—we needed some place that would be a center for women’s studies, and women’s problems, and women to meet with each other around lectures or whatever—that that was a natural outgrowth of that. I don’t know that it was mentioned as something that we should work towards at one of the forums. It certainly came out of that whole movement.