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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987. Interview L-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Joan Scott's dedication to women's studies and women's issues on campus

Joan Scott headed the committee that proposed beginning a women's studies program. O'Connor outlines the arguments used to push for the program and the ways the purposes outlined in the proposal created the basis for the first women's studies class.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987. Interview L-0031. 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

So the committee report, and let me again put in, I think one of the most important part of this whole committee report is "A Women's Studies Program at UNC? A positive Reply," that Professor Joan Scott submitted as Appendix D.
Yes, I've got a copy of that, and it is superb and leads right in, if I recall the content of it, to the question I was going to ask you. What did the committee see as the purpose of a Women's Studies Program, the justification? What argument was Joan Scott making to the University community as a whole? MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR: There's always the "everybody's doing it," which works when you're four years old and works when you're thirty as well. "Everybody else has one. Why can't we have one?" I think that there were two major rationales. One was remediation, to offer a course that would give information and a perspective that was simply unavailable in any other part of the University. A second major reason was research and movement into a new area, that UNC had not just gone along with the crowd in the past, that we'd always been an innovator and that we, as much as the University was behind in this area, that it also offered the kind of spirit that could, with a feeling of good will, just move toward change and make some very positive changes and really become a leader. We had the capacity after the hirings of women and their interests. Women's Studies was burgeoning all over the United States. Now, for the first time, you could have faculty members who had actually had a women's course at another institution, and that was utterly, I would guess, virtually impossible until about '73 or '74, particularly at the graduate level. So those were the two major reasons. It was also offered as a service course to the entire University community, the way that the English Department offers freshman composition. It's a tool that we hope that a student will master and then be able to use to their advantage all over the University, and so we might have three thousand freshman students in our English Department for a year, and maybe our number of majors is quite a bit less than that ultimately. That's what we thought would happen with Women's Studies. We wanted to offer a broad course that would give students a set of questions that they could bring to other classes where the instructor might not have thought of the role of women yet, and take this role of "remediation" quite a bit further, not only just for the individual students involved, but use those students from that class to disseminate interest in women's issues and ideas all over the campus.
So that was the purpose of and remains, I believe, the purpose of Women's Studies 50. MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR: That is our major course, and I believe it's organized, essentially, as Joan Scott first set it up. It is the question of sex roles as it adapts to various separate fields, and it's the same format that she put together ten years ago. She taught that course for the first two or three years. That's an incredible heritage, given, again, her prominence today.