Elaine Hedges in 1976.

Elaine Hedges in 1976.

Many people will never have heard of Elaine Hedges but she is one inspirational woman who helped create and develop the field of Women Studies in the 1970s.

Elaine was born in New York on August 17th 1927 and continued to live her life from the late 1960s in Baltimore until her death in 1997. Elaine was an impeccable teacher who had taught in America’s finest colleges including Harvard University, Wellesley College and the University of California at Berkeley. In 1970 she gained her PhD from Harvard.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement gained exceptional momentum and Elaine became concerned about the lack of how women were represented in the field of academia and how they were not mentioned enough about shaping our society. From this one thought, Elaine founded and co-directed one of the first programs in Women Studies at Towson State College in 1972. In a personal interview, Elaine said that Women Studies was a lot more then just learning about how women shaped the world we lived in but how it can also empower women for future generations to come.

So what does Women Studies really encompass? I’ve taken a look at how Towson University (State College when Elaine was there) now describes the program:

Women’s and Gender Studies, an interdisciplinary major, is an exciting and fast-growing field. By focusing on the lives, contributions and thoughts of women, a significant absence in traditional scholarship, the women‚Äôs studies major adds greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the human experience. This interdisciplinary program creates the opportunity to evaluate and reevaluate what we know about the world, past and present, and it also provides a standpoint from which students can create informed and equitable solutions for the future.

From this program’s humble beginnings in 1972 with only a small handful of classes, it rose to 50 courses and 2,000 students year by the time Elaine retired in 1996.

Elaine not only spent her time on the Women Studies program but was also a brilliant contributor to the journal Feminist Press from whom she was awarded The Feminist Press Award for “Contributions to Women‚Äôs Culture” in 1988; a noteworthy award for an outstanding woman that not enough¬†people know about.

-Charleigh Powell
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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