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First Women’s Studies Department Founder On A Life Committed To Feminism

First Women's Studies Department Founder On A Life Committed To Feminism


Carol Rowell Council is the co-founder of the first Women's Studies Department, which was established at San Diego State University. Her memoir is called "The Girl at the Fence."


Photo credit: Carol Rowell Council

"The Girl At The Fence," is a memoir by Carol Rowell Council. Council co-founded the first Women's Studies department in the world at San Diego State University in 1970.


Event: Reflections on the Women's Studies Movement

Event: Reflections on the Women's Studies Movement

Event information for Reflections on the Women's Studies Movement discussion with Carol Rowell Council on Feb. 2, 2015.

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The first Women's Studies Department in the world was developed at San Diego State University in 1970.

It's now been 45 years since the department has been uncovering the unsung female heroes of history, while giving a voice to the issues that are important to women's lives.

Carol Rowell Council co-founded the Women's Studies Department along with Joyce Nower. Council was 22 when the department was established.

Council said she first noticed inequality when she was a 13-year-old girl in Texas.

"My father and my mother were pro-Civil Rights, yet when the blacks came to the church — they weren't let in beyond a certain point," Council told KPBS Midday Edition. "I looked at my mother and she said, 'I guess we'll have to let the men decide this.' With that background, I learned about women's oppression. I was propelled into action."

Six years later as a student at San Diego State, Council and Nower began drafting a curriculum for the Women's Studies Department.

"We dreamed the impossible," Council said. "We said, 'What would we like to learn about and what are our resources?'"

But the creation of the first-ever Women's Studies Department came with some opposition.

Council, who documents her story in the book, "The Girl at the Fence," said she recalled a senior faculty member saying the department wasn't needed.

She said there's still "pockets of ignorance anywhere" but women have made headway.

"There's much more awareness," Council said.


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