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Reaching Out in New Ways: Highlights from the History of Alverno's Research Center on Women

 

Historical Overview

 

Originally, the RCW had a physical location on campus and a paid staff. The first co-directors of the RCW were Sister Austin Doherty and Barbara Mulligan. They had a staff of four researchers: Patricia Gorence Bach, Nancy Lewis, Betty Weirich, and Irene Winsauer.

 

In 1973, changes were made to the RCW administrative structure. A board of directors to oversee the functioning of the RCW, its (now)coordinator and its staff, was created. The original board members were: Lois Rice, Sister Celestine Schall, Helen Lobue, and Sister Elizabeth Ann Glysh. The RCW Coordinator was Kathleen Casey Gigl. Her staff consisted of a secretary, Karen Loreck; an assistant, Katie Swonek; and a student volunteer, Claudia Porter. From 1976 until August 1978, Sandra Smith Moore was the RCW Coordinator.

The physical RCW space and its collection of materials began being absorbed into the Library in 1979. By 1981, the RCW board was gone. The RCW Interest Group took form in response to the election of President Ronald Reagan and the continuing need for a focus on women's issues at Alverno College. This was and still is a voluntary group of Alverno faculty and staff who meet approximately bimonthly and are "committed to study, reflection, research, planning and working through institutional, departmental and community structures to implement and infuse throughout the curriculum and the community women's concerns and issues." Also by 1981, the material collections of the RCW, although housed in their own room, were officially a part of the Library collections and were overseen by then RCW Librarian, Lola Stuller. By the Summer of 1994, the materials and the physical space of RCW were completely absorbed by the Library: the material collection and collecting goals were fully integrated into that of the Library and the physical space was remodeled into the Circulation/Reserves area.

RCW as a viable concept has continued to exist at Alverno. Its collections have been overseen by the Library. Its legacy has lived on through the Alverno curriculum, Career Studio, Internship Office, Telesis Institute (formerly an Alverno-sponsored program offering non-credit courses to the greater Milwaukee community), Alverno Early Learning Center (Child Care), and RCW-sponsored programming on campus. Its mission has been carried out by the Research Center on Women (RCW) Interest Group. In response to a growing need for action once again, some members of the Research Center on Women Interest Group joined with other interested individuals and organizations and embarked on a project to document the status of girls in Wisconsin. They published a report in the spring of 2007. One result of that report was that an anonymous donor provided the resources to open Alverno's Research Center for Women and Girls (RCWG) located in Clare Hall in Fall 2009.

RCW has come full-circle. With a new name, it is once again a viable place with an extensive research agenda. The Research Center on Women Interest Group continued its important work too, but was renamed to avoid confusion with the Research Center for Women and Girls--the Feminist Education Advisory Group (FEAG).

 

For more historical information about the Research Center on Women, contact the Alverno College Archives. The finding aid for the Research Center on Women Collection found in the Archives is also available online.