Delaware is known as the First State, and in 1973 UD became one of the first universities in the United States to establish a Women’s Studies program. This exhibition of fifty important feminist books from the last fifty years commemorates the founding of that interdisciplinary program, which later grew to be a department and then expanded into the current Women & Gender Studies department. A number of the books displayed were written by faculty members at UD who were instrumental in organizing and teaching feminist courses throughout the 1970s, and who were assisted in this pioneering venture by the unstinting efforts of Mae Riedy Carter (1921–2020) in her work with UD President E. Arthur Trabant. She and her husband Robert Carter would continue their generous support of feminist scholarship for many decades afterwards to ensure that UD would be the home of projects such as this one, which brought half a century of inspiring and illuminating writing to a new audience: twenty-three undergraduates enrolled in WOMS 410, the spring 2023 Women & Gender Studies capstone course for graduating majors. For this collaboration with the UD Library, and with the Special Collections department of the UD Library, Museums and Press in particular, the items on display were chosen by current faculty in the Women & Gender Studies department. Many of these works are by authors who have been educators and activists themselves. They embody an understanding of feminism as diverse, inclusive, intersectional, and politically engaged in social justice efforts, and their presence here reflects UD faculty members’ own histories of having their teaching and their lives (along with generations of students’ lives) transformed by reading these books. Forty of the fifty descriptions were written by twenty undergraduates in WOMS 410; nine were created by three Honors students enrolled in the class; the final one, exemplifying current concerns of academic feminism in 2023, was provided by Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities, who taught the capstone course, and who also edited the texts of all the exhibition labels. Viewers will find books that cover a wide range of topics, use a multitude of approaches, and target a variety of audiences, both academic and non-academic, all for the purpose of moving readers and changing the larger world for the better. Over the last half century, feminist writing has embraced subjects ranging from race and racism, to sexualities, to ability/disability, to socio-economic disparities, to campaigns against gender-based violence, to trans and non-binary activism, to numerous other transnational social and legal rights movements, while forging new ways of looking at the past—whether in art history, the sciences, politics, or literature—and honoring those, especially women, who had been left out of the record. What the faculty members, librarians, students, and other creators of this display hope is that it will persuade everyone to read or reread the important books in it and to learn from them, and then to begin assembling their own lists of influential titles, including the many that could not be represented here. That would be a wonderful way of celebrating fifty years of achievements in feminist education at UD and ensuring that this vital work continues.
Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies
and Professor of Humanities