The tradition of women’s education at Denison University began in 1858 with the establishment of the Young Ladies Institute located in the Baptist Church in downtown Granville. In 1887, the Institute developed into The Shepardson College for Women, which had a separate campus from Denison’s uphill campus, including a separate dining hall. In 1900, Shepardson College was incorporated into Denison University and so began the strong and lasting tradition of women’s education at Denison.
The first formal feminist event was the Faculty Luncheon in March of 1972 entitled “What Harriet Taylor Should Have Told John Stuart Mills.” It was a 14-point program presented by Joan Straumanis for ending sexual discrimination in the academy. In the fall of 1972, Ann Fitzgerald taught a directed studies course relating to Women’s Studies. The students that she taught became TAs for the first official course in Women’s Studies. This was offered in Spring of 1973 and was team-taught by Ann and Joan. 120 students, including 11 men, enrolled. This first course was interdisciplinary; each week addressed a different liberal arts discipline or feminist topic. Another early course was “Women in Groups and Subcultures” which focused on all kinds of women’s groups—including nuns in convents.
Under the leadership of Ann Fitzgerald, the first Women’s Studies director, the program flourished. In 1981, Denison established a 13 credit-hour Women’s Studies minor. In 1983, an interdisciplinary major in Women’s Studies was established.
Due to the dedication of the directors and many faculty across campus, our Women’s Studies Program continues to develop and expand. As of fall of 2013, there have been a total of 90 majors graduated through the Women’s Studies program. The Denison Women's Studies program currently offers approximately 25 courses throughout the college and provides both a major and a minor. A major requires completion of 32 hours in Women's Studies; a minor requires 24 credit hours. The program is unique for its breadth and depth at a college of Denison's size.
- 1858: The Young Ladies Institute (YLI) and forty-four women pursue higher education in the basement of the Baptist Church in Granville, Ohio.
- 1887: After graduating two classes, the YLI develops into The Shepardson College for Women.
- 1900: Shepardson College is incorporated into Denison University.
- 1973: First course defined as a Women's Studies course is offered in the Spring Semester.
- 1978: Denison is the first co-ed college in the country to institute a graduation requirement for either a black studies or women's studies course.
- 1981: Denison establishes a women's studies minor in response to growing interest in the field as an academic course of study.
- 1983: A major in women's studies is established at Denison. Since this time, more than 50 majors have graduated from the program.
- 1989: The women's studies program takes residence within the faculty office of the director of the women's resource center.
- 1994: The women's studies program is given independent offices in Knapp 108.
- 2005: The women's studies program moves to Knapp 210 and enjoys shared library space with the Black Studies program.
- 2010: Women's Studies Alumni Conference & Reunion.