History of Women's Studies and FGSS at Wesleyan

At Wesleyan, the drive for a Women's Studies Program began in 1968. Women re-entered the University in that year and a few members of the faculty, motivated by the lack of courses addressing women's status in society, took the initiative in developing individual Women's Studies courses. In 1977, a faculty committee was formed. Within a year and a half, the focus of concern shifted from ensuring a minimum number of courses to the development of a coordinated program. The impulse behind this was the desire to create an academic Women's Studies community.

Over the summer of 1977 students began to take initiative. They collected information on Women's Studies Programs at other schools and brought pressure to form such a program at Wesleyan. In the spring of 1979 a student tutorial laid the groundwork for a formal proposal for a Women's Studies Program. A group of students continued working over the summer and wrote a rough draft of the proposal after an open meeting with the faculty. In the spring of 1979, the proposal was passed by the Wesleyan faculty, thus culminating ten years of effort by students and faculty to create a Women's Studies Program.

However, Women's Studies did not yet have majors. In 1988 a Major Committee was formed to create a proposal that was submitted to the Educational Policy Committee in the fall of 1988 and approved by the faculty in the spring of 1989. WMST's first majors declared in the 1989-90 academic year. The Program has flourished ever since.

During the 2002-03 academic year a group of WMST students were involved in a year long student forum that sought to investigate the history of WMST at Wesleyan and to evaluate the program in comparison to other programs at similar institutions.  During the same time many faculty were involved in a seminar on Intersectionalities. One of the conclusions that the students and faculty had separately, but simultaneously, drawn was that while "Women's Studies" served us well for a long time, it no longer fully captured what the program is and does.  The name "Women's Studies" tended to suggest a unitary reading of the subjects of our scholarly work and could occlude important focal points that are an integral part of our curriculum and pedagogy, i.e. sexualities, including lesbian, bisexual, queer, and other radical sexualities; multiplicities of gender; the intersections of gender, race, class, ethnicity and other mutually constructed categories of social difference, and transnational dimensions of feminism, gender, and sexuality.

After a couple of years of discussion, it was agreed that Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) best described the evolution of the work of the program, the courses, and the work our majors have been doing in their theses and senior essays. In 2007, we graduated our first FGSS majors.