In the beginning of the 1980s staff members at the Faculty of Arts started to list research and education in gender studies. This activity resulted in publications such as, Vrouw’n , Letter’n, Groning’n by R.Paasman and H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg (1983), in which staff members presented their research. That same decade the Working Group Women’s Studies in the Arts (the WVL, Werkgroep Vrouwen Studies Letteren) was founded and started a minor programme. The WVL included staff and students from the Faculties of Theology and Philosophy. The WVL participated in the advisory board for funding of gender projects by the central Gender Committee.
Around 1995, the working group was transformed into the Centre for Gender Studies at the Faculty of Arts under the supervision of professor Helen Wilcox. She was the first chair of the board of the Centre. Anneke Mulder-Bakker took over and remained chair until 2005. In this period the minor programme (30 credits) was reduced and replaced by a special programme (20 credits). Since 2005, Petra Broomans is the chair of the board of the Centre for Gender Studies. After the drastic cutbacks in 2013, the special programme Gender Studies was discontinued. The Centre maintained its advisory function and provided international collaboration within the framework of the U4.
In 2013 a colloquium was set up by PhD students in collaborated with the board of the CGS. The CGS and the colloquium merged in 2015. The name of the colloquium was changed in ‘working group’. The working group organises events and workshops. The board is responsible for policy making and formal contacts. In 2016 a proposal for a university minor was formulated. The proposal is now in the process of approval by the university board.
"From 1991 to 2006 I was Professor of Post-Medieval English Literature, and American Literature, at the University of Groningen. Throughout that time, I taught courses on women’s writing and feminist criticism, including one entitled ‘Shakespeare’s Sisters’ to draw attention to English female-authored texts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, my own research field. I also contributed to interdisciplinary courses and research seminars on Women’s Studies, both within and beyond the faculty, and benefited greatly from discussions with like-minded students and colleagues working in history, modern languages and religious studies. From 1994 to 2002 I was chair of Women’s Studies, which metamorphosed during those years to become Gender Studies. I remember taking part in a public debate on the change of name for the Centre, during which I argued that although the new title was more appropriate, we should pause to lament the fact that – typically – just as we ‘women’ had managed to get our name in lights, some new terminology came along to render us invisible once again! During my time as chair, we initiated the post of Visiting Professor of Gender Studies, for which I remained on the advisory board until I left the university in 2006. I was also instrumental in bringing Germaine Greer to Groningen to deliver one of the annual Aletta Jacobs lectures on International Women’s Day – a most memorable occasion!"
After her time at the RUG, Helen Wilcox returned to the UK and became Professor of English Literature at Bangor University, Wales, where she is now Professor Emerita after having retired in 2020.
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