San Diego State University Women's Studies Program Development

Women’s Museum of California Library & Archives 

Descriptive Finding Guide for SDSU Women’s Studies Course Development, 1970-1990


Collection Overview:

            Title: Women’s Studies Course Development, 1970-1990

            Number: AC-019

            Location: Archive; Aisle C

            Creator: unknown

            Date Acquired: unknown

            Head Archivist: Bonnie Domingos

            Prepared by: Victoria Taormina

            Biographical Note by: Megan Brookover, July 2015

            Processed on August 2013

Administrative Information:

            Access Restrictions: None

            Use Restrictions: None

            Acquisition Resource: Unknown

            Related Materials: SDSU Archives


The first Women’s Studies program in the United States was founded in 1970 at San Diego State University. In the early days of the program’s inception, there was a schism of ideologies regarding a grassroots community-based program versus a program based within a classical academic hierarchy. The two parties went their separate ways regarding how the new program should be run. It is believed that this collection came into our possession as a result of this split, although we do not have a name to identify who the original collector was.

Transcription of SDSU Department of Women’s Studies “A 20-year Celebration” pamphlet…” In the summer of 1969, students from the SDSU women’s liberation group, in cooperation with faculty and community women, formed an Ad Hoc Committee for women’s studies, collected signatures from over 600 students in support of establishing a women studies program, and arranged for five classes to be offered by regular faculty on a voluntary overload basis in the spring semester of 1970…Finally in May of 1970, the University Senate approved a proposal for a curriculum of eleven courses. The program (later department) began officially in the fall of 1970. The instructors included students, faculty, from existing departments, and one full-time Women’s Studies instructor hired specifically for the program.”


Historical Note:

Carol Council, a student at San Diego State, formed the first Women’s Studies program in the nation at San Diego State College. Her interest in feminism grew from her participation in anti-war and student right’s movements. After attending a teach-in on sex role stereotyping in Reno, Nevada, feminism became a passion of hers and she started her mission to meet like-minded women on campus.  In the spring of 1969, she started asking students if they are interested in feminism and this led to her introduction to a literature professor and poet named Joyce Nower. With the help of Nower, Council started a women’s “rap group” which acted as a salon for women to discuss various feminist topics (91). This rap group became the birthplace for the idea to start a women’s studies program at San Diego State.

The women’s “rap group” evolved into the Ad Hoc committee for Women’s Studies, which Council was named coordinator for. The Ad Hoc committee was dedicated to grass roots campaigning to raise support for the Women’s Studies Program. However, the members of the group grew impatient and they decided to start experimental Women’s Studies classes while simultaneously applying for formal status. They decided to start 5 experimental Women’s Studies classes and in order to do so; they had to find faculty members to get on board with their vision. They were successful in convincing 5 professors in different departments to lend their classes to the group. The professors were “Joyce Nower, Rose Sommerville, Nona Cannon, Lois Kessler, and Jacqueline Tunberg” and the experimental classes were ‘“Women’s Roles in History and Literature,” “Human Sexuality,” “Women in World Drama,” “Family Interaction: male and Female Liberation,” and “Women in Contemporary British Literature”’ (135-136).

Council, a student and now a teacher, was working on the process of applying for formal status. The process consisted of a 7 step plan which consisted of presenting in front of 7 different committees (141). The final step was addressing the faculty senate and on May 22, 1970 the faulty senate approved their proposal for a women’s studies program (159). Council and her team were successful in establishing the Women’s Studies Program and it officially began in the fall of 1970.           

The classes that the Women’s Studies Program offered were ‘“Women in Contemporary Cultures,” “Socialization Process of Women,” “Self-Actualization of Women,” “ Contemporary Issues in Liberation of Women,” “Women in History,” “Women in Literature,” “Human Sexuality,” “Status of Women Under  Various Economic Systems,” “Women and Education,” and “Field Experience”’(165). 


Carol Rowell Council. The Centaur for Women: Memoirs of the Student Founder of the First Women’s Studies Program. Gilroy: Bookstand Publishing, 2008.

Scope and Contents of Material:

Series I

Collection of articles regarding the history of Women’s Studies programs in California. It features syllabi and course guides from actual women’s studies classes between 1970-1973 including articles and suggested reading materials. Series I contains dissertations and theses from the Women’s Studies program dated between 1978-1993. We are assuming the dissertations are from SDSU students and can be cross-referenced at San Diego State.

Series II

 A collection of women’s interests’ publications; including newspaper and magazine articles of varying scope. This includes publications exclusively devoted to women’s issues as well as individual articles from the early 1990’s pulled from major publications like ‘TIME Magazine’, ‘Los Angeles Times Newspaper’ and the ‘New York Times’. These individual articles pertain to major issues still being contested today such as Roe v Wade, HIV among young mothers in Africa and the future of the women’s movement. 

Series III

A collection of newspaper and magazine articles specifically pertaining to marriage and housewives. The majority of the articles examine deeper financial issues of housewives. This includes the plight of housewives that have been displaced from their role due to divorce or death and also various discussions about giving a monetary value to the work that entails being a housewife. There is also a large series of newspaper clippings devoted entirely to the nations first public palimony case between Lee Marvin and his mistress between 1979 -1983. 

Series VI

Contains publications that examine the social role of elderly women and women’s health, globally.

Series V

Miscellaneous newsletters from political organizations and government related projects. There is also a large selection of the ‘Women’s International Network News’ publication from the year 1979 through 1981. 

Container List

Box and Folder Material: 

Series I:

Articles regarding the History of Women’s Studies Programs in California 

Box 1

Folder 1 of 8: Articles on Global Women’s Education and Literacy

Folder 2 of 8: Formal Request for Minor Program in Women’s Studies at CSU’s

Folder 3 of 8: History of California Women’s Studies Programs and Course       Guides 1970-1973

Folder 4 of 8: Articles and Notes from Women’s Studies Program Coursework

Folder 5 of 8: Women’s Thesis and Dissertations from SDSU, 1978-1993

Folder 6 of 8: Articles on Women’s History in Military

Folder 7 of 8: “Women’s Studies Newsletter”, 1973-1976

Folder 8 of 8: Documents From Political Organizations

Series II:

Newspaper Publications on Women’s Movement and Interests

Box 1

Folder 9 of 31: SDSU Women’s Studies Course guides

Folder 10 of 31: ‘In These Times’ Newspaper, 1992

Folder 11 of 31: ‘Women’s Times’ Newspaper, 1992

Folder 12 of 31: Carolyn O’Toole Campaign Info, 1992

Folder 13 of 31: ‘Los Angeles Times Newspaper - Africa’s Death Sentence’,  1992

Folder 14 of 31: Unitarian Pamphlets

Folder 15 of 31: Planned Parenthood Volunteer Packet

Folder 16 of 31: ‘The Communicator’ Newsletter, ‘Moral Response to Conquest’, 1992

Folder 17 of 31: ‘New York Times’ ‘How To Get Women’s Movement Moving Again’, 1985

Folder 18 of 31: ‘Broomstick’ Magazine for Women over 40

Folder 19 of 31: ‘Women’s Political Times’, 1992

Folder 20 of 31: ‘May Our Circle Widen’, Newsletter

Folder 21 of 31: ‘Gay and Lesbian Times’, 1992

Folder 22 of 31: ‘Update’ Newsletter, 1992

Folder 23 of 31: ‘The Daily Aztec’, 1992

Folder 24 of 31: ‘NOW – National Times’ Newspaper, 1992

Folder 25 of 31: ‘New Directions for Women’ Newspaper, 1992

Folder 26 of 31: ‘Time’ Magazine – Roe v Wade  May 4, 1992

Box 2

Folder 27 of 31: “Sojourner – The Women’s Forum’ Newspaper, 1992

Folder 28 of 31: Women’s Interest Book Catalogues

Folder 29 of 31: Political and Feminist Movement Flyers

Folder 30 or 31: Misc. News Clippings

Folder 31 of 31: Misc. Papers

Series III:

Articles on Marriage and Housewives

Box 2

Folder 32 of 36: Newspaper Articles on Displaced Housewives, 1977- 1993

Folder 33 of 36: Newspaper Articles on Financial Value of Housewives, 1977- 1981

Folder 34 of 36: Newspaper Articles on Palimony Cases 1979-1983

Folder 35 of 36: Divorce and Military Alimony Cases, 1979

Folder 36 of 36: Adults Only Rental Ban in San Diego, 1980

Series IV:

Articles on Aging and Healthcare

Box 2

Folder 37 of 38: Articles on Aging and Older Women, 1981

Folder 38 of 38: Global Women’s Healthcare, 1979-1980 

Series V:

Political/Government Related Documents and Articles

Box 2

Folder 39 of 43: WHRP (Women’s History Reclamation Project)

Folder 40 of 43: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1979

Folder 41 of 43: UNESCO, 1995 – 1996

Folder 42 of 43: Political Science Publications, 1975- 1988

Folder 43 of 43: ‘Women’s International Network News’ 1979 - 1981

San Diego State University Women's Studies Program Development