Women at Cornell
Cornell College has traditionally been a relatively progressive school with respect to women's rights. From the start of the college in 1853, women have been accepted into all degree programs — one of the first colleges west of the Mississippi to do so. Mary Fellows graduated in 1858 as the first woman west of the Mississippi to receive a baccalaureate degree. Throughout the end of the 1800s women on Cornell's campus increased in numbers and Women's suffrage became a hot-topic on campus, just as male students were trying to get the right to vote in Mount Vernon. During this time two field hockey teams were formed, the Suffragettes and the Anti-Suffragettes, and The Cornellian's Editorial section regularly was dominated by the discussion.
In 1857 Harriette Jay Cooke, a true feminist thinker, came to campus. As a professor in German and history (as well as an assortment of other topics throughout the years), she soon held the position of the dean of women. In 1871 she became the first woman to have a full professorship and earn equal pay to her male counterparts. By 1872 she had formed the Cornell Association for the Higher Education of Women, and throughout this time she regularly fought for women's rights and brought more likeminded women to campus. Women's issues stayed relevant to campus nearly 100 years, but it wasn't until 1969 that the next big jump occured in women's rights on campus.
Third Wave Resource Group
On October 17, 1969 the Women's Liberation Front (WLF) published an article in the Cornellian declaring its creation and intent to liberate women on campus. By February the group had changed its name to the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM). For many years on campus the Association of Women Students (AWS) was responsible for much of the governing and concerns of the women on campus working as a counterpart to the Men's Senate. Around the same time as the creation of the WLF, both groups started to work underneath the Student Affairs Governing Board, and soon both Men's Senate and AWS disbanded (largely for gender equality). At this point the Women's Affairs Board (WAB) was established as a new official group to look out for the concerns of women on campus (with less of a focus on residency issues previously held by AWS). The next few years there was a variety of feminist club activity on campus corresponding with the events taking place in the movement throughout the United States.
1974 marked the next leap for women on campus when WAB and CUB (Commons Union Board) brought Betty Friedan to campus, author of The Feminist Mystique. Only days later the Women's Interest Group (WIG) was formed as a reading and discussion group focused on feminist literature (open to men and women). Feminists like Betty Freidan sparked a movement on campus that was turned to a flame by professors like Diane Crowder, who was at the forefront of the feminist movement on campus.
This same year WAB created the Women's Bureau, the first group on campus designed and supported to provide resources to women, such as information on women's health, birth control, job discrimination and many other things. This same year WAB started Womansong, a four-day celebration of womanhood with music, information sessions, discussions, lectures, and art (a precursor to TWRGStock and the Feminist Symposium that came years later).
In 1977, WAB became WAG, the Women's Action Group, now focused on programming and included members from the student body, faculty, staff, as well as the town. By 1979 the Womyn's Resource Group (WRG) had formed, where WAG focused on activism, WRG focused on providing resources; soon after the start of these groups, members from both groups established residency in Harlan House as a women's affinity program. Over the next 20 years these groups had various levels of overlap and interest, and by 2005 WAG had dissolved, and WRG became the Third Wave Resource Group (TWRG). The name change was to reflect the third-wave feminist values the group now held as well as the focus on both activism and resources.
Harlan House was built in 1874, and was the home of Professor James Harlan, class of 1869, who returned to teach at Cornell between 1873-1914, serving 1908-1914 as Cornell's fourth president. A Civil War veteran, Harlan was associated with the college for 62 years as student, professor, vice president, registrar, president, and trustee. He died in 1933, and the College acquired the house in 1934. At times, Harlan House was the residence of the Dean of the College and other faculty. Around the early 1980s a new housing program was started on campus for students with similar interests to live together. This program caused a lot of debate due to the increase in an already separated campus. Since 1986 Harlan House has been a women's affinity group residence as part of this program. The previous program was done away with and new ones followed throughout the 1990s, with Harlan House group being the only one to maintain the legitimacy required to exist. In 2001 it was grandmothered into the Living Learning Communities program, a more focused and purpose-driven program; though the name has changed, TWRG was in the first group to be in one of the focused group-living programs, and is the only one that survived till Living Learning Communities (making it the oldest Living Learning Community on campus).
Last updated: 01/25/2012
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