In 1969, Katharine Graham (A.B. '38) became the first women elected to the Board of Trustees. Nine years later, the University appointed Professor of History Hanna Holborn Gray its tenth president, making her the first woman to serve as president of a major research university in the United States. Concerns about women's place in the University did not subside in the wake of these appointments, however. While some women made the case that University policies disadvantaged women, others were concerned that special consideration for women could interfere with the free marketplace of ideas.
Federal policy including Roe v. Wade and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 established new rights for women in sports, education, and bodily autonomy. A group of Hyde Park women established the Rape Action Group Hotline in 1973, a University Women's Center opened its doors in 1974, and feminist groups on campus multiplied, along with a host of feminist student publications. At the same time, many students and faculty felt that still more work remained to fully incorporate women and feminist theory into the curriculum, the classroom and the faculty-particularly when many other U.S. colleges and research universities had already committed to fostering scholarship and supporting research institutes in the growing field of women's and gender studies.
After a decade of campus organizing in the 1980s, faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions-led by Leora Auslander (History), Lauren Berlant (English), and Elizabeth Helsinger (English and Art History)-established the Center for Gender Studies (CGS) in 1996. In its first year, CGS boasted fifty-five affiliated faculty members and outlined ambitious plans for curriculum, programming and fundraising. In 1997, the College approved the undergraduate concentration in Gender Studies.