OHIO Archives

Ohio University Libraries Archives & Special Collections

A Brief History of the Ohio University Women’s Center through Scrapbooks

By Taylor Connelly, BSJ ‘26, 2023 Archives Assistant

THE COLLECTION:  As an assistant archivist in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections during Spring 2023, I processed and described collections of historical materials that had been donated over the years to the Ohio University Archives. As I sifted through a multitude of papers, documents, images, and files documenting, in one way or another, various aspects of OHIO history, life, and culture, one of the collections that captured my attention and enthusiasm for the work that I was doing was the Ohio University Women’s Center Scrapbook Collection.

The Ohio University Women’s Center Scrapbook Collection

The Ohio University Women’s Center Scrapbook Collection comprises six scrapbooks which together outline the origins, evolution, and achievements of the Women’s Center. Four of the scrapbooks document Women’s Center-related events and membership during single academic years, from 2012 through 2016, while the remaining two scrapbooks include information and images that cover a larger, general span of several years ranging from the mid-1970s through 2011. Each of the scrapbooks detail a number of events and projects hosted by the Women’s Center, which include, but are not limited to, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Take Back the Night, and Brown Bag Thursdays.

Most impressively, these scrapbooks showcase the individual involvement and diligent activism of OHIO women in women’s issues on campus, including their struggles, failures, and, finally, successes over time in making the Woman’s Center a campus mainstay for OHIO women.

THE HISTORY:  The idea of a women’s center at Ohio University originated in conversation during the early 1970 as part of the nationwide women’s movement, emerging first in 1972 as the University Women’s Union (UWU).  Over 100 women, including OHIO students, faculty, administrators, and Athens community members attended the first UWU meeting; the group having secured office space in McGuffey Hall on the College Green. However, as the decade progressed, the natural attrition of graduating students and a severe downturn in enrollment, combined with the downsizing of faculty and staff as a result of changing economic times during the early to mid 1970s, interest and membership in the UWU waned.

Although the union was briefly resuscitated mostly through the hard work of Cam Stoufer, who at once became the Women’s Center director, coordinator, and secretary, by the mid-1970s and for the entire last quarter of the 20th century, the Ohio University Women’s Center no longer existed.

Renewed interest in reestablishing a women’s center at OHIO first emerged after a hiatus of 31 years in Fall 2004, when the Women’s Affairs Commission of the University Student Senate presented a revitalized proposal for a women’s center at OU, and, in November 2006, the Ohio University Women’s Center returned to the campus. The Center, of which the stated core values are “promoting awareness, education, and advocacy related to women, gender, and diversity ,” provides OHIO women with a space to express themselves, engage in thoughtful discussion, and learn from speakers who are passionate about feminist-related topics.

Academically, the Women’s Center works closely with the OHIO Women’s Studies program and provides students and staff with services, information, and programs that shine light on matters of particular concern to women.