Office of Women’s Affairs

Office of Women's Affairs-"Majority Report" Newsletter, Apr. 1989
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Majority Report” Newsletter, Apr. 1989

The Office for Women’s Affairs (OWA) was established on August 15, 1972 in response to the growing awareness of discrimination against women in the academic community. Bloomington Chancellor Byrum E. Carter stated that the OWA’s purpose was to “establish a climate in which women faculty, students, and staff are provided with full opportunities for the development of their abilities.” One of the greatest responsibilities of the OWA was to advocate on behalf of women and other IU community members who felt discriminated against.

OWA’s first dean was Eva Kagan-Kans, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature. During her post from 1972-1975, her function, she stated, was to be an “ombudswoman,” investigating specific grievances, reviewing salaries and budgets for gender discrimination, examining access to research opportunities in graduate program, and redressing the underrepresentation of women at the faculty and administrative levels. Kagan-Kans also counseled undergraduates on future career choices at both the college and high school levels.  Jessie Lavan-Kerr, a professor of Art Education, served as OWA’s second dean. In 1976, while noting the “foundational inroads” the OWA made under the leadership of Kagan-Kans, Lavan-Kerr specified a need for “redefinition” of the office, gearing it to more “action-oriented directives” regarding equal opportunities for women faculty, students, and staff. Lavan-Kerr was dean from 1975 until 1979.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Among Women" Newsletter, Oct. 1981
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Among Women” Newsletter, Oct. 1981

OWA’s third dean, D’ann Campbell, was an assistant (later associate) professor of History and an adjunct associate of Women’s Studies. Campbell saw her job as an “advocate.” OWA’s function, she stated, lay in “coordinating, funneling, and being a catalyst for a lot of projects to enhance the status of women on campus. We’re the affirmative side of Affirmative Action. We don’t wait until something falls apart. We can be sensitive to areas in which there are potential problems.” Under Campbell’s leadership, OWA oversaw the development of such projects as creating a videotape dealing with sexual harassment on campus (the first of its kind in the country), addressing the lack of female social networks in graduate school, and conferences to integrate women’s history into standard course work (80% of Western Civilization and American History courses never mentioned women in either books or lectures). Campbell was dean of OWA from 1979 until 1985. In 1985, Nancy Brooks succeeded Campbell, serving as interim director.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1" Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1” Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus" Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus” Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978











The Collection of OWA records housed at the University Archives contains flyers, correspondence, advertisements, grant information, mentor-mentee program information, data on reports, and surveys of students, faculty, and staff members at Indiana University. All matters pertaining to the OWA are now handled by the Office of the Dean of Students (for student concerns) or the Provost’s office (for staff and faculty concerns). The Collection has been updated with newly acquired materials and is open for research. Contact the IU Archives for more information.

It’s Women’s History Month!

It’s March, which means not only is spring just around the corner, but also that it’s Women’s History Month! In addition, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Indiana University Office for Women’s Affairs. In honor of both of these events, I’d like to highlight one of the archives’ collections – Indiana University Office for Women’s Affairs records, 1971-1985, bulk 1972-1980. But first, I would like to mention that there is a display in celebration of these events as well in the lobby of Wells Library. I collaborated on the display for an internship project and anyone who is interested should take a little time to check it out!

Focus Newsletter
The first Focus newsletter, 1977

For anyone who’d like to conduct research on women’s issues or the OWA, or for those who are just curious, the aforementioned collection would be a great option to investigate. The collection covers the office’s early years and consists of five boxes made up of four series, some of which are divided into sub-series. The series are as follows: Reference files, 1964-1981; Focus newsletter, 1977-1979; Program development, 1971-1983; and Administrative subject files, 1975-1985. Pictured at right is the first Focus newsletter, just one of the finds within the collection. Copies of later newsletters are also available in the collection, and all of these are featured on the “Women’s Issues in the News at IU” poster in the library’s lobby. For more information on the contents of the collection, please feel free to take a look at the finding aid.

More information on women, women’s issues and the OWA can also be found in the archives’ reference files. Take advantage of Women’s History Month and come see what the archives have to offer!