This project, as the website’s name suggests, is a digital history of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. It is by no means exhaustive. Instead, I tried to create a brief snapshot of the program’s early years, and what life was like at UNL during that time. UNL’s Women’s Studies program (later renamed Women and Gender Studies) was officially formed in 1976; the university offered its first Women’s Studies class five years earlier, in 1971.
In the sixties and seventies, UNL students engaged in radical activism. They challenged longstanding beliefs about the power of UNL’s administration, especially the Board of Regents. These challenges led to concrete policy changes and expanded course offerings, and are necessary in understanding the significance of Women’s Studies as a discipline, and its eventually adoption by UNL.
The subject is an important one. This isn’t simply a history of UNL’s Women’s Studies program. It’s a history of the university as a whole; it is a history of the city of Lincoln; it is a history of the state of Nebraska. Women’s Studies is not the only academic discipline to fight for a place at UNL. And, as I soon realized during my research, the changes that happened at UNL during the sixties and seventies had an impact outside the university. In the early seventies, parents across Nebraska fought against UNL students having coed visitation rights. In the fall of 1969, a group of black students at UNO—inspired by the success of similar protests held at UNL in the past spring—organized a sit-in inside the president of UNO’s office. They demanded the university more adequately meet the needs of black students, hire more black teachers, and start offering Black Studies courses; their subsequent arrests made waves throughout the state. When UNL offered a new course about homosexuality in 1971, it sparked outrage from Lincoln residents, UNL administrators and students, and Nebraska politicians alike. The changes that happened at UNL during the sixties and seventies created the climate for the Women’s Studies program; they also speak to the period of political activism and unrest during the time.
About the Author
My name is Danielle Rue. I am an undergraduate at UNL, majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and English, with a minor in human rights. Like many others, I stumbled upon Women’s Studies by accident; I decided to take Women in Contemporary Society on a whim during the spring semester of my freshman year, and I fell in love with the subject. The next fall, I took WMNS 101 with professor Carly Woods, which inspired this project. In Wood’s course, we talked about the creation of UNL’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. I wondered what it was like to be a student at UNL in the seventies. How, I thought, did a group of students and professors create such large-scale change at UNL? And so, the project was born!