Letter from the Director
Fall is a time of reflection and anticipation as we move toward the end of a calendar year and launch a new academic year. In Women’s and Gender Studies both terms are resonant in Fall 2022. Looking back, it was fifty years ago that the first interdisciplinary course in “women’s studies” was offered. That year—1972—was a significant moment in American cultural history. Shirley Chisholm became the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from a major political party. The Supreme Court was finalizing arguments in the Roe v. Wade case. And Aretha Franklin recorded “Amazing Grace,” the best-selling gospel album of all time. At Ball State, a group of faculty launched the first women’s studies course in 1972. In so doing, they planted a seed for the minor (approved in 1980) and for an expanded program that now has 30 students pursuing a major and 100 students pursuing a minor, and draws on the talents of 30 faculty at the university.
A leading member of the initial Woman’s Studies Committee (and the chair for three years) was the late emerita history professor, Sharon H. Seager. A specialist in 19th century American history and American women’s history, Dr. Seager was a co-creator and teacher of the augural women’s studies course and later served as the Acting Program Director. In 2021, following her thirty-eight-year career at Ball State, she established an endowment to reward excellence in student research focusing on the history of women, gender and sexuality. A fine teacher and scholar, Sharon was a true Renaissance woman. She was a talented youth basketball player, equestrian, and bowler; later, she was a member of the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, and Planned Parenthood; and in her retirement, she delighted in choral singing and became a talented potter. Throughout her life, she was an avid reader and enjoyed hiking and travel.
Dr. Seager’s vision for new women’s studies courses and programs responsive to the times in which she lived remains a hallmark of the Women’s and Gender Studies program. In 2022, as we look ahead, we anticipate officially joining with the program in African American Studies to form a new department in the College of Sciences and Humanities. We look forward to sharing more news about this development in future newsletters.