History of IRWG

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender was established in 1995, after several pioneering Women’s Studies faculty members, including Professor Abigail Stewart (Psychology and Women’s Studies), organized themselves and approached President James J. Duderstadt with a proposal to establish a new University “structure” to meet unmet needs and fulfill the President’s goals, as outlined in his Agenda for Women.

Women’s Studies, founded in 1973, was already established as an interdisciplinary program dedicated to excellence through feminist research, teaching, and activism. Alongside Women’s Studies, the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), founded in 1964, had long helped community women and students achieve their professional and educational goals.

Yet, by the mid-’90s, more than 20 years after the University heralded a new era for women, no unit existed to strengthen and focus the many, varied faculty research projects related to women and gender that had emerged throughout the University– often in isolation, unknown to each other. Professor Stewart and her colleagues pointed out the need to President Duderstadt:

“In order to compete effectively for a role in the national discussion of significant issues affecting women, we must create an institutional structure that can bring together the disparate faculty research efforts at the University, focus them in significant program areas, and stimulate needed research on understudied problems demanding new or better scholarship.…[Women’s Studies and CEW] cannot by themselves stimulate and facilitate the university-wide research agenda envisioned for the Institute. Strong institutional links with both CEW and Women’s Studies are essential, and will only strengthen all three.”

President Duderstadt recognized that this proposal would help address his goal, as described in his Agenda for Women, “to make the University of Michigan the leading institution for the study of women and women’s issues.” He authorized the establishment of IRWG under the Office of the Vice President for Research, with Professor Stewart as the first director. The institute was established to serve three main functions:

  • Providing an institutional umbrella for ongoing faculty research efforts focusing on women and gender.

  • Offering coordination, stimulation and support for effective interdisciplinary research.

  • Heightening Michigan’s national profile as a major source of knowledge about women and gender.

Initially housed in West Quad, IRWG moved to West Hall in 1996, and finally to its current home in Lane Hall in 2000.

Directors of IRWG

  • Anna Kirkland, Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Michigan (2017-present)

  • Sarah Fenstermaker, Professor of Sociology and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (2012-2017)

  • Jacquelynne Eccles, Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan (2011-2012)

  • Carol J. Boyd, Professor of Nursing and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan (2004-2011)

  • Susan Nolen-Hoeksem, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan (2003-2004)

  • Barbara Gutek, Professor of Organizational Psychology, University of Arizona (2002-2003)

  • Abigail J. Stewart, Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan (1995-2002)

Lane Hall

Lane Hall, the University of Michigan's home to the Women’s Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, opened in 1917. Click here to view a slideshow on the history of Lane Hall on Slideshare.net.