Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Women's and Gender Studies


Dána-Ain Davis

Subject Categories

Women's History | Women's Studies


Center for the Study of Women and Society, women’s studies, academic center, archive, CUNY


In the early 1970s, New York City was experiencing an extreme fiscal crisis, with a reported debt of at least $600 million. In CUNY, students were protesting admissions policies that favored the white middle class and hikes in tuition. At the same time, the women’s movement was in the midst of the “second wave,” focusing on women in the workplace and in education. It’s in the midst of these tumultuous times that the first motions to create what was then called the Center for the Study of Women and Sex Roles began in 1975 by Graduate Center faculty Joan Kelly, Gerda Lerner, Cynthia Epstein, Judith Lorber, and Gaye Tuchman. It officially opened in 1977 to advance interdisciplinary feminist scholarship through conferences, a speaker series, and individual faculty and student research projects. This thesis provides the history of the Center for the Study of Women and Society through the analysis of 68 archival documents that include correspondence, newsletters, grant proposals, internal and external reviews and studies, meeting agendas, and much more. It positions the Center’s history within the history of New York City, CUNY, and the women’s movement, to better understand how the Center was affected by the larger society it was located in as well as the ways in which it was particularly innovative.