Guest blogger: Hana/Connor Yankowitz (Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies & University Archives Student Intern) - Pt. 2
This week we are excited to welcome back and hear from one of our talented University Archives student interns, Hana/Connor Yankowitz (Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies '23), in the second of a two-part series tracing their path to the Archives, and their work to uncover the history of gender studies at Stanford.
Happy Women’s History Month to all the gals and pals!
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post describing my journey to working at the Stanford Archives. This week, in honor of the celebrations, I’d like to share some of my most interesting takeaways from my research so far…
The progress of technology over time
From typewritten letters to interdepartmental fax memos to emails (from @leland.edu addresses!), technology was on the move during the first two decades of the program’s existence. As someone who grew up in the digital age, it was fascinating to see vastly different methods of communication being used, often by the same people, over such a short period. Who knows what kinds of materials we’ll be archiving in twenty years?
(Above: Three examples of different communication technologies from Feminist Studies' history)
Feminist Studies’ affiliations over the years
Initially, the program in Feminist Studies was quite closely tied to the Anthropology Department– perhaps not surprising, given the important roles of anthropologists Shelly Rosaldo, Jane Collier, and Sylvia Yanagisako in the program’s early years. Admittedly, anthropology is a field I know very little about, evidencing the dwindling ties between Anthropology and Feminist (Gender, and Sexuality) Studies in the 21st century. However, there is a much larger variety and depth of classes in queer studies now than there were at the program’s start, including multiple courses in queer theory and queer history. Seeing as how that’s my area of study, I’m quite thankful for the evolution!
FGSS has also been involved in funding a massive number of events and programs throughout the years–everything from the Clayman Institute’s Jing Lyman Lectures to queer undergraduate arts magazine Masque to women’s dance prizes at Stanford Powwow.
(Above: A selection of posters from Feminist-Studies-sponsored events)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that some issues we might think of as not receiving attention until recent times were in fact being considered from the program’s very inception. For example, the importance of ensuring that women of color and queer women’s voices were heard and studied was a point of discussion as Feminist Studies was being formed. In addition, documents from Estelle Freedman’s time as program chair point toward a desire to deepen offerings on hard sciences, in order to complement the strong background in social sciences and/or humanities available to majors. Finally, the program has always been concerned with helping students learn to eloquently articulate their interests and experiences in writing, whether that be via submitting proposals for individually-designed majors, writing detailed honors theses, or reporting on their experiences in the practicum/seminar component of the program.
Students… just like me!
One of the more impressive (and to me, nostalgic) histories I investigated was that of the Stanford Workshops on Political and Social Issues, commonly known as SWOPSI. SWOPSI was a student-initiated program which ran from 1969 to 1992, wherein students, faculty, and staff could teach hands-on classes concerning timely social issues. SWOPSI was one of the first places where classes which rested explicitly in the field of women’s studies were offered at Stanford. Browsing through some of the available materials from such classes, along with other student-written materials from the time period, I was deeply impressed by the eloquence and nuanced thought offered by undergraduates. The quality of writing in proposals for various events, workshops, and classes was striking; good evidence that the program was succeeding in its goal of creating scholars who wrote well.
(Above: A page from a student proposal for a Gender Issues Focus House, 1988)
Stories from the archives
In a perhaps unsurprising turn, the materials in the “Feminist Studies” collection at the archives (a collection which covers the first two decades of the program’s existence, and which I suspect was pulled from the files of various Program Coordinators over the years) include not just the business and administrative history of the program, but also a wide range of more personal stories and correspondence. The links between work, study, and family; personal and professional life; and the often-biased preservation of primary documents have, of course, long been an important component of all fields of feminist study.
I unearthed some really amusing drama from the Program’s past, including the time that Ms. Magazine refused to send any less than 26 boxes of its magazine every month to the Feminist Studies office, until the FS Program Coordinator was forced to write a strongly-worded letter to the journal’s office to stop the deluge of periodicals.
(Above: Program Administrator response to Ms. Magazine shenanigans, 1994)
Interest in my work
I’ve been heartened to see how much excitement my little project has drummed up!
In July, at Josh’s behest, I presented my research to a summer class for undergraduate research interns at CESTA (Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis). After the presentation, I received a number of interested (and interesting!) queries from the students, as well as suggestions of possible contacts at Queer Student Resources and beyond. I also posted about my archives work on the Stanford Summer Session Instagram page, as part of a story takeover for my other summer job as a residential High School Mentor, which led to messages from an Art Department professor requesting future access to my completed spreadsheet of feminist classes throughout Stanford history. Finally, folks at the library seem quite interested in the data science work I’m conducting with Academic Technology Specialist Quinn Dombrowski to complete the aforementioned spreadsheet as a possible model for future collaborations.
(Above: A screenshot of my spreadsheet of feminist courses in Stanford's history. Currently 853 rows!)
Paths toward a bright future
My hope for the work I’m conducting at the Archives is that within the next year it will all be publicly accessible and available as a resource for others’ research– maybe even research papers for FGSS classes!
The documents I’ve scanned and information I’ve compiled are rich for possible inquiry– there are many questions that arose for me during my investigations that I’d love to see answered. (What departments are the most common cross-lists? When was the first class in queer history, queer theory, queer media studies? What would an interactive map of feminist hangouts on campus over the years look like?) In particular, I hope that I (or someone else!) get(s) a chance to conduct oral history interviews with all the folks who’ve been instrumental in the program’s growth over the years. Since FGSS is still relatively young, many of those brilliant folks are still around, and would be invaluable resources for historical research on any number of topics. I’m especially hopeful that they’d be able to provide more personal stories, information about the program in the 21st century (after the archives’ records end), and pictures of feminist events at Stanford– something the library is currently lacking. Hopefully, my pages on both the FGSS and Library websites can be a useful hub for such research!
Finally, archives are cool
as hell. Wait, am I allowed to swear in this?
I’m so thankful for Josh, Hanna, and Claudia’s warmest of welcomes into the world of the archives. I’ve really appreciated spending time with all of them, and our conversations about history, Stanford, and library studies, as well as all of the awesome opportunities working here has afforded me! In the past six months, I’ve presented at the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion fair; organized the deaccessioning of several Stanford Trees back to the LSJUMB Band Shak to make room for other archival materials; visited the Conservation Lab, Media Preservation Lab, and Born-Digital Preservation Lab at the Stanford Redwood City Campus; helped accession boxes and boxes of materials from retired professors’ offices; assisted in putting away Jane Stanford’s death mask (!!); and so much more. I’ve had an absolutely amazing time working here, and it’s made me increasingly certain that I’m headed for a career (and eventually, graduate degree) in archival work. I would love to continue researching Stanford history if possible, especially the history of co-operative living on campus and, of course, the history of the LSJUMB– though I’d need to find funding for either venture (if you know anyone offering grants, let me know!)
For now, I’m just excited to be involved at the Archives– and to be unearthing the history of my favorite academic program.
(Above: Pictures from my time in the Stanford Archives)
Hana/Connor Yankowitz ('23) is an undergraduate studying queer art, culture, and history in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Stanford University.
About the University Archives
The Stanford University Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to content in any format that documents the history of the university, in support of teaching, learning, and research at Stanford and beyond. Please contact us if you would like to share materials with us, work with us, or if you have any questions about using the collections.