Since its founding, CSW has had a powerful impact on the study of gender, sexuality, and women’s issues across the campus and around the world.

On September 21, 1984, through the dedicated leadership of Professors Helen Astin, Nancy Henley, Anne Peplau, Kathryn Sklar, and Karen Rowe, the Center for the Study of Women (CSW) was officially authorized by the Board of Regents, becoming the first organized research unit (ORU) in the University of California system to develop and coordinate research on women and gender-related issues. According to Professor Rowe, by authorizing the creation of CSW, “UCLA and the University of California Board of Regents affirmed their commitment to creativity and change—to visions of the future and the power of transformative interdisciplinary research.”

“As we debate mainstreaming and specialization in research and in teaching, it is clear that scholarship on women continues to alter our view of the world as it was originally ‘taught’ to us. At CSW, we seek to help newer generations of scholars continue to expand knowledge of the role that gender plays in our understanding of who we are and what we can accomplish”

Founding Director Rowe ran CSW for four years. During her tenure, Constance Coiner received the first Mary Wollstonecraft Dissertation Award, which was made possible by the generosity of Barbara “Penny” Kanner, Ph.D. CSW sponsored or cosponsored six major symposia, mounted a Women’s History Week photo exhibit in Powell Library, published a quarterly newsletter, coordinated a major reception with the Wight Art Gallery, and submitted a grant for the Ethnic Women’s Curriculum Transformation Project, which sought to incorporate the history and perspectives of women of color into undergraduate liberal arts curriculum.

“I envision a Center as a collectivity of bodies, minds, and spirits, sharing a commitment to the centrality of studies of women as an integral part of the academic goals of a great university and human society.”

“CSW has been a ‘gem’ in our midst. Established to support and celebrate the research of academic women and for women, it has played a transformative role for feminist scholarship at UCLA. It has supported and continues to do so many generations of feminist scholars. Particularly heartwarming is that it has been critical to the work of young scholars and graduate students.”

During the tenure of Acting Codirectors Carrie Menkel-Meadow and Anne Peplau in 1988–90, Ford funded Ethnic Women’s Curriculum Transformation Project. CSW also hosted the annual meeting of the National Council for Research on Women, with representatives from over forty research and policy centers across the country gathered on the UCLA campus to identify current research priorities and link them with issues of public policy.

Helen Astin and Julia Wrigley took over as acting codirectors in 1990, and Professor Astin continued her role as the acting director from 1991–1992. Under their leadership, CSW developed its first Graduate Student Research Conference, now called Thinking Gender, in 1991, published the CSW Research Bulletin, and awarded the first Jean Stone Dissertation Fellowship. Made possible by the generosity of Mrs. Jean Stone, this fellowship helps fund an exceptional graduate student dissertation research project focusing on women or gender.

During Professor Kathryn Norberg’s term from 1992–1995, CSW hosted the first annual event to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In 1992, Professors Janet Bergstrom (Film) and Anne K. Mellor (English) received funding from CSW to establish a feminist theory series, which featured E. Ann Kaplan, Linda Kauffman, Amelia Jones, Jacqueline Rose, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Mary Ann Doane. In 1994, CSW began a new series on Gender and Science, generously funded by UCLA Biomedical Professor Thelma Estrin and designed to present current research on gender issues in the social and cultural studies of science, technology, and medicine.

Professor Sandra Harding took over as director in 1996. Catharine Stimpson, Patricia Hill Collins, and Adrienne Rich were some of the distinguished speakers during her tenure. Several student awards were also endowed: the George Eliot Dissertation Prize, the Constance Coiner Graduate Fellowship, the Constance Coiner Undergraduate Prize, and the Paula Stone Fellowship.

Under Professor Miriam Silverberg’s direction from 2000–2003, CSW began to host the editorial offices of the acclaimed peer-reviewed feminist journal Signs. Former CSW Directors Sandra Harding and Kathryn Norberg coedited the journal, which completed its first year of operation at UCLA in June of 2001.

“CSW is an important platform for feminists at UCLA. Before it was created, there was no public place where new developments in feminist theory and in feminist research could be displayed to the whole community at UCLA. But now that has changed, and CSW remains an important showcase for feminist thinking across the campus.”

In 2001, the CSW Workshop Project was initiated, bringing together five groups of faculty members to foster intellectual community across the disciplines and enable the groups to use CSW support as seed funding to gain grants, which would be administered through CSW. Cosponsoring ongoing lecture series with LGBT Studies and Sociology, in 2002 CSW began also to cosponsor a new lecture series, titled Feminist Ethnographies, bringing in leading scholars such as Trinh T. Minh-ha (UC Berkeley), feminist anthropologists Sherry Ortner (Columbia), and Sylvia Yanagisako (Stanford). In 2003, Miriam Silverberg stepped down due to illness. Sadly, she passed away in March 2008. Her contributions to CSW were innovative and inspiring and we all miss her.

“As boundaries between the disciplines—as well as between the sciences, social sciences, and humanities more generally—have become more porous, ‘interdisciplinarity’ has become a charmed word….With three decades of experience to draw on, feminist scholars are uniquely positioned to provide insight into the potential—and the predicaments—of interdisciplinary research in the modern academy.”

Professor Christine Littleton served as interim director from 2003–05. In 2004, CSW organized the Gender Equity Workshop Series and Summit, under the auspices of and with institutional support from Associate Vice Chancellor Rosina Becerra and the Office for Faculty Diversity. The summit engaged faculty to develop strategies for addressing recruitment, retention, academic climate, and other issues raised by the Gender Equity Climate Report released in Spring 2003. Recommendations developed by faculty from twenty departments and professional schools were explored in a series of workshops focused on recruitment, promotion, and leadership.

In 2005, Professor Kathleen McHugh began her directorial term, which she held until 2014. In 2006, CSW launched faculty curator and faculty development grants programs to more effectively combine and expand its programming and research functions. That same year, a Publications Unit was created to publicize information related to CSW-supported research more widely through the website and listservs. CSW Update, an online newsletter, began publishing and appeared monthly during the academic year. In 2007–08, CSW began several research projects. The Access Mazer Project, supported by the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships, involves CSW and the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives working together to inventory, organize, preserve, and digitize several key Los Angeles-themed collections. A second community-based research project, From Protest to Policy: A History of Women’s Social Movement Activities in Los Angeles, 1960-1999, led to a conference, publications, and an online archival materials. CSW held an international conference, The Gender of Terror, hosted by Associate CSW Director Purnima Mankekar. The Publications Unit started uploading Thinking Gender papers and CSW newsletter articles to the CSW site at the California Digital Library (CDL) and created a series, Working Papers in Feminist Research, to publish articles about CSW-supported research. CSW is now working with several campus groups to develop policy and research briefs. That same year, CSW began a Green Sustainability Program, and, in 2008, moved into newly renovated offices in 1500 Public Affairs Building. In 2008–09, CSW also held a multi-UC-campus manuscript workshops for junior faculty called Emerging Epistemologies, funded by a UCHRI grant. The State of the Union Conference on marriage and policy was organized by Associate CSW Director Juliet Williams.

Dr. Rachel Lee began her term as CSW director in 2015, after previously serving as the Center’s Associate Director. As Associate Director, Dr. Lee  launched Life(Un)Ltd, a research project that brought together scholars interested in postcolonial and race studies, those doing feminist and queer theory, and those working in science and technology studies and medical humanities. In 2013, under the auspices of Life(Un)Ltd, Dr. Lee organized “The Cultural Politics of Seeds,” a symposium that explored how gender, ethnicity, and race have shaped contemporary cultural and political movements related to seeds.

“UCLA has been changed by CSW in two ways: research about women, gender, sexuality, and related fields has become part of the University…and that, I think, CSW can take some credit for. The other is that a large number of female faculty—and some men too—have been recruited to UCLA in part because there was a CSW.”

CSW’s current research projects continue to pursue connections between science, social science, and the humanities. In her first year as director, Dr. Lee launched the “Feminism +the Senses” lecture series, which calls on feminist scholars to explore the implications of sensory data. “Chemical Entanglements,” a research project that will culminate in a multidisciplinary symposium in 2017, examines the gendered implications of toxic exposure. And in 2016, CSW is launching two projects under the auspices of a research initiative called “Food | Water | Shelter.” The first, led by CSW Senior Faculty Research Associate Jessica Cattelino (CSW Associate Director 2015-2017), is funded by a grant from UCLA’s Sustainable Grand Challenge, and will investigate the role of gender in everyday water use in Los Angeles. For the second project, CSW, in partnership with the Department of Gender Studies and the Institute for Society and Genetics, is bringing two Visiting Adjunct Assistant Professors to UCLA for the 2016-2017 academic year to do research, teach classes, and give public lectures on the connections between gender and food.

“CSW is growing and expanding its mission at UCLA as it develops research on gender, sexuality, and women, creates intellectual communities and networks with scholars on and off campus, and enhances the work and learning climate for all its constituents.”

CSW also remains committed to fostering collegial and community ties through cosponsored campus events and the Research Affiliate Program. CSW continues to promote scholarly exchange through conferences, senior faculty feminist seminars, interdisciplinary symposia, working groups, and workshops. We now make videocasts of talks and conference presentations available on our YouTube channel, and we engage with our community on Facebook and Twitter feed. Join us!

Recently, CSW conducted a survey to obtain input from the people who have used, worked with, or been sponsored by CSW over the years. An anonymous respondent wrote: “I am new to UCLA, and was invited to a CSW luncheon with other new faculty shortly after my arrival. I met several people at that luncheon, with one of whom I am now pursuing a research collaboration. This is someone that I would not have had any other opportunity to run across.” As we celebrate our twenty-fifth year, CSW looks ahead to continuing to contribute to the study of gender, sexuality, and women’s issues by creating more such opportunities for networking, collaboration, research, and academic innovation.