- Editors’ Note
The 1970s was a foundational decade for women’s studies. In the first issue of the Women’s Studies Newsletter, published in the fall of 1972, Florence Howe surveyed the burgeoning field, writing, “Two years ago … there were two women’s studies programs at Cornell and at San Diego. There are now, as of yesterday’s mail, 46 programs, most of which are located up and down the west coast; in New Mexico and Arizona; north of Maryland on the east coast and as far west as Buffalo and Pittsburgh” (Howe 1972, 2).1 “Yesterday’s mail” would have been delivered to the Feminist Press, which Howe had founded in 1970 and which continues today as one of the oldest feminist publishers in the world.2 Howe, who would later describe herself as “the historian and record keeper of women’s studies,” was uniquely qualified to receive “yesterday’s mail” and to comment on the state of the field under construction (2011, 265). She had been tracking personnel and curricula associated with women’s studies (a.k.a. “female” studies) since 1969, both as the administrator of the Clearinghouse on Women’s Studies and as chair of the Modern Language Association’s Commission on the Status and Education of Women. In her introduction to the first installment of Who’s Who and Where in Women’s Studies, published by the Feminist Press in 1974, Howe wrote, “In scope and in the rapidity of its extension across the country, it would be difficult to find an historical parallel to ‘women’s studies’” (1974, VI). That unparalleled expansion needed good record keepers, to be sure. But as A Life in Motion, Howe’s memoir and personal history of the Feminist Press, beautifully demonstrates, keeping track of women’s studies required a lot of hustle. Women’s studies was moving faster than the post. [End Page 9]
The Women’s Studies Newsletter was originally conceived, at least in part, as a vehicle that might speedily trace the many vectors of women’s studies in those formative years of the 1970s. Notably, the Newsletter positioned itself as “a forum throughout the country for the women’s studies movement—in higher education, continuing education, secondary and elementary schools, and in community liberation centers” (Howe 1972, 1; emphasis added). That first issue contained not only Howe’s assessment of women’s studies on college and university campuses but also a case study of a progressive feminist elementary school in Brooklyn, the Woodward School, and an overview of some fifty high school feminist courses. As a social, political, and intellectual movement, women’s studies relied on bridge building across institutional registers, and the Newsletter clearly intended to connect various educational communities.
In fact, feminist publishing was a key element that allowed the early women’s studies movement to emerge, and the 1970s were, without a doubt, a groundbreaking time for feminist publishing. Preceding the launch of the Women’s Studies Newsletter by several months, Feminist Studies, the first academic journal in women’s studies, was established in 1972, joining a nascent feminist periodical scene that already included the popular magazines off our backs, launched in 1970, and Ms., whose first issue came out in 1972. These new publications were quickly followed by other interdisciplinary sites for publishing women’s studies scholarship, such as Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, founded in 1975; Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 1975; Women’s Studies International Forum, 1978; and Feminist Review, 1979. As the field grew, discipline-specific journals emerged as well, including Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture and Media Studies and Psychology of Women Quarterly, both of which were founded in 1976. Related fields of study also launched new journals, such as Journal of Homosexuality, which was founded in 1976 as well.3
Though the Women’s Studies Newsletter would become Women’s Studies Quarterly in 1981 and then WSQ in 2005, the journal continues to work in the same spirit that animated its earliest incarnation: building, connecting, moving. As the content of this issue shows, the foundational work undertaken not only at the Feminist Press and through WSQ but...