Skip to main content

Creation of Women and Gender Studies

'Women at Noon' lunchtime lecture, 1975.jpg
Women attending a lunchtime lecture series held in OISE in 1975. The lectures were also open to the public, attracting up to 500 people weekly. The popularity of these lectures highlighted student and public interest in the Women's Studies Programme. Some notable speakers included Rosalie Abella, Margaret Atwood and Jill Johnston. 
Women's Studies Programme Calendar 1973-74(prepared by Ceta R and Kay A) (dragged).jpg
A page from the unofficial Women's Studies program brochure (1973-74), created by Ceta Ramkhalawansingh. Circled on this page are he/him pronouns present in the Arts & Science course calendar. He/him pronouns are the only ones used. 

The Birth of Women's Studies

In the late 1960s, feminism was flourishing in society and spread into University life. Like other women on campus, undergrad Ceta Ramkalwansingh was fed up with the lack of feminist perspectives in her courses. Ceta and a group of women graduate students including Kay Armatage began to develop a course called “Women in Society”. 

The course was popular, attracting hundreds of students. A ‘lunch-time’ lecture series also showed the University that there was interest.

In 1974, the group proposed a Women’s Studies program when they created an unofficial course calendar in the form of a brochure. The Dean of Arts and Science told the group the University would need to form a committee to determine if there was interest and a need for the program. They chose Joan Foley, a psychology professor, to chair the committee. 

The program officially launched in 1974/75. Around the same time, in 1971/72, Professors Jill Conway and Natalie Zemon Davis began teaching the first women’s history course called “Society and the Sexes.”

These efforts were the starting point of the feminist movement at the University. Over the years, the program has gained notoriety and has thrived despite a number of obstacles.

Click the play button to hear from Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, Kay Armatage, and Joan Simalchik on the importance and creation of the Women and Gender Studies program. 

"The purpose of the brochure was not so much to increase enrolment as it was to get recognition that this was indeed a valid subject for study."

-Ceta Ramkhalawansingh

Women's Studies Brochure, 1973-74 (2).jpg
A page from the unofficial Women's Studies program brochure (1973-74). Ceta Ramkhalawansingh reviewed all the courses offered by the Faculty of Arts in their course calendars. The courses listed on this page are ones she believed would be compatible with a Women's Studies degree. 

To learn more about the struggle for different kinds of equity at the University of Toronto click "Equal Opportunities" in the bottom right or select a topic from the table of contents above. 

Education Equity
Creation of Women and Gender Studies