Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Finding a pattern to follow for the women's studies coursework

As their proposal took shape, the committee appointed to establish the women's studies curricula began meeting with students and faculty to vet their concerns. They also gathered information from other schools that were doing similar work. Along the way, they discovered that the existing interdisciplinary framework at UNC provided a natural structure for their ideas.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAMELA DEAN:
Who did the work gathering this information together, contacting other programs….
MARY TURNER LANE:
Well, we divided it up into really three areas here. Margaret O'Conner chaired the group on consultation. This was the group established to talk with interested groups, with student leaders, and other people who were concerned with Women's Studies. That was essentially on this campus. We had an open meeting at which all members of the University community were invited to offer suggestions and to ask questions. I remember some of the open meetings because several of the men about whom I just made some comments, simply said very frankly to us, in an aside, "Well, you'll just have to answer the questions because I don't know how to answer them." But the meetings were helpful because you had opened up a range of questions from students, from other faculty. I won't say that there five hundred students besieging us with questions about it. But there was enough response, I think, for the sessions to at least lead to some opening up of discussion, of being able to think in other ways. So there were four or five people who worked to organize that group. Another group worked around the topic of a UNC-CH interdisciplinary curriculum and Duncan McCray from political science chaired that group with Peter Filene and Catherine Maley. They were to look at other interdisciplinary curricula on this campus to see how they were put together, what people said about them, and how a Women's Studies curriculum might fit into something like that. Then the third study group was one on women's studies elsewhere. Dell Johanson chaired that group, and Earl (), and Ann Woodward, and I were on that group. We looked up, we simply wrote to as many universities as we could and got copies of their programs and recommendations from them and models, etc.
PAMELA DEAN:
How many other programs, do you recall roughly, at this time?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Not many, not many. That was very interesting. We had very few models to go by. And we'd included these models of Women's Studies Programs. We came up with a way to categorize them from all of the different universities that sent us programs. We found one group that had no program. We called that Model 1. Model 2 simply referred to isolated courses relating to women's studies. Then Model 3 would include those universities that had Women's Studies programs and even within that context there might be no major or they might have a minor or a concentration or a major or a degree. But there were very, very few that had anything that was a real major or that was a degree. We did find one or two places that had a graduate degree, no undergraduate degree but a graduate degree. So these models or these descriptions of programs did a great deal, I think, to support our request that there be something on this campus. They also did a great deal to support the notion that, yes, Women's Studies is interdisciplinary. And that in whatever direction we moved, it would be appropriate to stay within the interdisciplinary context.
PAMELA DEAN:
Its interdisciplinary nature is one of the basic arguments for bringing together different perspectives, different approaches to this question and cross-fertilizing.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, well, I think it's a true liberal arts approach because I think interdisciplinary programs truly reflect the best of a strong liberal arts program. As I look through the material, it's interesting how many places at that time—for instance, the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro had programs that they called them as such but they offered something called a certificate rather than a major. The University of Pennsylvania had something that was called an interdisciplinary program in Women's Studies, and it had two areas of concentration. One was Preparation for Women in Medicine and Preparation for Women in Public Life. Then the University of Washington at Seattle had a Women's Studies major with certain courses in women's studies and others in relevant departments. So while the programs were very few, there were certain strands in them that were very helpful to us, we thought.
PAMELA DEAN:
Gave you something to draw from in developing, deciding what you wanted to recommend.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, so then what we really did, I suppose, was to take the strands that emerged from the knowledge about Women's Studies Programs elsewhere and merge them with the strands or the core that came out of the subcommittee on interdisciplinary curriculum because that was what was already fixed on our campus.
PAMELA DEAN:
It gave you a kind of a framework you had to fit in.
MARY TURNER LANE:
This notion of a core requirement and what a major might be and then what electives might be. We had maybe four programs at that time in the general college or in the College of Arts and Sciences that were interdisciplinary in nature. And we did have—it's interesting that I don't see that in this report—we also had—no, I take that back, there were at least eight programs that were interdisciplinary at that time—but we also had a B.A. or a B.S. in interdisciplinary studies that simply was not labeled. That was different from African Studies, Afro-American Studies or American Studies. That degree in interdisciplinary studies was one that a student and a faculty member created. They devised it around a central theme. You remember, you don't remember, but at that time so many young people were interested in different aspects of the environment.
PAMELA DEAN:
Right, ecology, things of that nature, yeah.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, so that I would say that the thrust of that new degree in interdisciplinary studies was to accommodate students who wanted to study different aspects of ecology. They wanted to bring together courses in plant life and marine life and water purity with courses in city and regional planning. So that program did exist where the individual could really tailor a course.