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It began in the fall of 1973 as 12 courses assembled by a pioneering group of students, faculty, and staff who "challenged the curriculum as usual." In the succeeding 25 years, women's studies at Penn has grown into a program offering more than 50 courses per year, attended by more than 1,600 students and taught by affiliated faculty from all corners of the University, plus two annual faculty/student seminars, and an annual endowed lectureship that has brought noted women scholars, artists, and public figures to campus.
   That quarter century of progress -- in Penn's program and for women's studies in general -- was celebrated and debated in a two-day conference held on campus in late September. Opening the proceedings, Dr. Demie Kurz, co-director of the women's studies program and associate professor of sociology, offered "first thanks" to those early pioneers -- "part of WEOUP (Women for Equal Opportunity at the University of Pennsylvania), who were the first to systematically challenge sexism on campus and who fought for social change for women in all areas of campus life." WEOUP members also spearheaded the College Hall sit-in April 1-3, 1973, organized to protest the University's inadequate response to a series of rapes on campus. The sit-in led directly to the establishment of the Penn Women's Center (also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) and "created greater pressure on the University to recognize women's studies," Kurz said.
   Kurz, who organized the conference with program director Dr. Drew Faust, the Annenberg Professor of History (who is on sabbatical) and acting director Dr. Ann Matter, the R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor and undergraduate chair of religious studies, also offered thanks "to all those who have supported women's studies ever since," including past directors and staff (many of whom attended the conference) and key alumni supporters Judith Berkowitz, CW'64, Constance Abrams, CW'66, and Wendy Stocker, CW'74. (At a reception following the keynote speech, President Judith Rodin, CW'66, announced new alumni support, from Donna Shelley, C'82, and Larry Shelley, W'80, to establish the Shelley Term Chair in Women's Studies.) Finally, Kurz credited the Penn faculty and graduate students who were participating in the conference's panel sessions.
   The past 25 years, Kurz said, have seen an explosive growth in scholarship on gender and the related fields that women's studies scholars explore of race, ethnicity, and sexuality.
   "Women's studies is a very dynamic area of inquiry," she added, citing the work of women of color in "showing how gender is inextricably linked to categories of race and ethnicity, as well as social class and sexuality" and of women's studies scholars from around the globe who have challenged Western feminists to be open to new perspectives. "This is one of the things that keeps women's studies scholarship so exciting and creative -- the constant challenge by diverse groups of scholars to see social life in all its diversity and complexity."
   That intellectual ferment was amply displayed in the panel sessions that occupied the conference's second day (of which we offer a sample below). Before that, though, the conference's keynote speaker provided an eloquent overview of the development of women's studies, employing two figures from the Bible, one from the Fox TV network, and the metaphor of succeeding "waves" of feminism.

Continued...

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