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Our History

Over a quarter century of breaking new ground and building community

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Our History.

In 1988, a small group of feminist faculty and friends gathered around the kitchen table of Ruth Perry and shared their ideas for a unique graduate consortium in gender and women’s studies. In the spirit of feminist collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking, they envisioned a program that would train the next generation of feminist scholars under the guidance of multidisciplinary teaching teams.

Four years later, with the support of President Linda Wilson at Radcliffe College, founding members Joyce Antler (Brandeis University), Laura Frader (Northeastern University), Carol Hurd Green (Boston College), Barbara Haber (Radcliffe College), Alice Jardine (Harvard University), Ruth Perry (MIT), and Christiane Romero (Tufts University) formally launched the Boston-area Graduate Consortium for Women’s Studies (GCWS).

Since its founding, the GCWS has expanded to its current membership of nine institutions: Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Simmons College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Simmons College and the University of Massachusetts Boston joined in 2004; Boston University did two years later. The GCWS was housed at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study from 1992 until 2005. In 2005 it moved to MIT, its current host institution.

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Inventing a Feminist Institution in Boston:

An informal history of the Graduate consortium in Women's Studies at Radcliffe College

The GCWS offered its first seminar in spring 1993. Since then, it has offered over a hundred courses to over 600 graduate students at its participating institutions. In 1996, in just its third year of operation, a team of prominent women’s studies faculty evaluated the Consortium and deemed it “an outstanding enterprise and a truly unique inter-institutional experiment.” Participating institutions sign a five-year Memorandum of Agreement in which they confirm their commitment to GCWS, make arrangements for their faculty to teach courses, and specify mechanisms for course credit transfer.

In 2016 the GCWS changed its name from The Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies to the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality. This change retained the Consortium’s original abbreviation. In Spring 2018, current and past GCWS faculty gathered to celebrate the Consortium’s 25th anniversary. As the landscape of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies continues to change, the Consortium looks forward to the next 25 years of dynamic feminist collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. 

For more on the history of the GCWS, we encourage you to check out this article, co-authored by the Consortium’s founding members.


The GCWS Mother Board

The ‘Mother Board’, a term created by the founding members, consists of the feminist faculty who conceptualized and created the GCWS in 1992. Their originating vision and efforts allowed for shared bonds and knowledge between faculty and students at our member institutions and beyond. These impacts and goals still reverberate in the current efforts and goals of the GCWS.