Women's studies (also known as feminist studies, gender studies, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies) is a field of academic inquiry that developed from the women's movement in conjunction with the new social history of the 1960s. Scholars in a variety of fields questioned why the experiences and roles of women were so often left out of the historical record--from this basic question, women's studies scholars have developed a rich and divergent methodology to examine the many power inequities in human society.
There are currently nearly 1,000 worldwide academic programs, offering minors, majors and graduate degrees. The field of women's studies is closely aligned with the overall project of achieving equality for women in society. That commitment to social change makes women's studies scholarship feminist and links it to social movements across the world to end many forms of discrimination such as sexism, racism, and heterosexism.
If you are interested in learning more about the development of women's studies as an academic discipline, please see the following:
Berkin, Carol R., Judith L. Pinch, and Carole S. Appel. Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
To locate books and e-books in the library's collections use the online Library catalog. Select Basic Search to search for title, author, or subject heading. For example, use these subject headings, as suggested by the Library of Congress, to locate relevant works:
The heading "Women" can be followed by subdivisions, which can be geographical, topical, chronological, or by form.
Examples of subdivisions are: United States, North Carolina, Folklore, History, 19th century, Bibliography, Biography, Periodicals, or Maps.
These can be strung together in a fixed order: Women—United States—Bibliography or Women—North Carolina—History—Indexes.
The heading "Women" can be followed by an occupation, as in Women poets; Women social reformers; or Women surgeons.
The phrase "Women in" can be followed by terms such as Women in literature; Women in missionary work; Women in television broadcasting; or Women in the professions.
New subject headings are created when catalogers feel that there is a sufficient mass of material to need increased specificity, and not before there is a physical item in hand to catalog. Some women's terms are of surprisingly recent creation; for example, "Lesbianism" and "Motherhood" (and "Fatherhood") are rarely found before the middle of the twentieth century. When searching for older materials, especially before 1975, be aware that current subject terms may not have been used.
Other subject headings also may apply. If you cannot find exactly what you need, ask at the Reference Desk.
Director, Special Collections & University Archivist
629 Z. Smith Reynolds Library