IROW’s First Decade: 1987-1997
By: Chris Bose (Founding Director, 1987-91), Iris Berger (1991-1995), Gwen Moore (1995-98)
Under the leadership of Director Chris Bose and Associate Director Edna Acosta-Belén from 1987 to l991, IROW received internal and external funding for a variety of activities, including support from the Ford Foundation for a project, with the Center for Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CELAC), "Integrating Puerto Rican Women into the Curriculum and Research." Several other grants during this time supported the Albany PR-Womenet Database (an annotated bibliography on Puerto Rican women), two conferences, symposia, film festivals, and faculty exchanges. The Institute quickly became a center for interdisciplinary, cross-cultural gender scholarship. National prominence was increased by the establishment of IROW News and by membership in the National Council for Research on Women, an organization of gender research centers that helps exchange ideas among Center Directors.
When Iris Berger assumed the directorship in 1991, IROW extended its wide visibility both on and off campus, while also garnering increased university and external support, and welcoming new Faculty Associates. IROW Associate Director Sucheta Mazumdar moved to Duke University before her IROW term was completed. Grants from the Ford Foundation and the UUP/NYS Joint Labor Management Committee on Affirmative Action supported an international conference in 1994 on "Women in the Global Economy: Making Connections" that brought together scholars and labor activists. Ford also supported a faculty workshop the following year on "Global Women’s History." Scholars from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe--as well as the US--visited the University as IROW Visiting Faculty, conference participants, and speakers. IROW also played a major role in establishing Initiatives for Women (IFW), a campus wide fund-raising effort now in its fifth year. [See Gloria DeSole’s article] In the final year of Iris’s term as director, IROW was awarded a major grant from the Ford Foundation for a three-year project, with CELAC and the Center for the Arts and Humanities, "Internationalizing Women’s Studies: Cross-Cultural Approaches to Gender Research and Teaching."
In 1995 Gwen Moore assumed the directorship and Lillian Williams the associate directorship. Gwen joined Iris, Edna Acosta-Belén and Francine Frank as co-director of the new Ford Foundation-sponsored study. This project brings together gender scholars from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean with US scholars at conferences and faculty development institutes on gender research and teaching.
Papers presented at the June 1997 confrence include Cheryl Johnson-Odim (Loyola University, Chicago), "Who's to Navigate and Who's to Steer: The Role of Theory in Feminist Struggle;" Kornelia Merdjanska (Sofia University, Bulgaria), "North American Feminism: A View from Eastern Europe;" Asuncion Lavrin (Arizona State University), "Researching Women and Gender in Latin America; Not Quite There Yet;" Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck (Regional Women Program, Soros Foundation, and Moscow Center for Gender Studies), "Revolution of Her Own: Voices of Old Women in Russia;" and Nalova Lyonga (University of Buea, Cameroon), "African Literature and the Concept of Women's Empowerment." [See related article by Marjorie Pryse.]
Continuing and extending IROW’s development of international linkages, Gwen is collaborating on a joint project between the University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and the University at Albany’s Russian and East European Studies Program. With Bulgarian colleagues, she will examine recent trends in the participation of women and minorities in public life in Bulgaria.
The Institute for Research on Women began with 47 Faculty Associates from 24 departments and programs in 1987 and now has 66 Faculty Associates from 31 departments and units of the University. With financial support from varied sources, IROW has sponsored numerous conferences, workshops and presentations; awarded research initiation grants; published eight volumes of IROW News; welcomed visiting scholars and speakers from many states and nations; and published teaching and research materials.
On campus, IROW’s success has been nurtured by the University’s remarkable community of feminist scholars and activists as well as supportive administrators. Among the many colleagues we are grateful to, we want to mention Vice President Jeanne Gullahorn, Dean Francine Frank and Dean John Webb for their support of Chris’s vision of an Institute for Research on Women in 1987.