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Institute for Women's Leadership History

Early History of Women’s Education at Rutgers University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has a unique history as a colonial college, a land-grant institution, and a state university. Chartered in 1766 as Queen's College, the eighth institution of higher learning to be founded in the colonies, the school opened its doors in New Brunswick in 1771. In 1825, the name of the college was changed to honor a former trustee and Revolutionary War veteran, Colonel Henry Rutgers.

Rutgers College became the land-grant college of New Jersey in 1864, resulting in the establishment of the Rutgers Scientific School, featuring departments of agriculture, engineering, and chemistry. Further expansion in the sciences came with the founding of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1880, the College of Pharmacy (now the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy) in 1892, the College of Engineering (now the School of Engineering) in 1914, and the College of Agriculture (now Cook College) in 1921. Rutgers College assumed university status in 1924, and expanded significantly with the founding of an evening division—University College—in 1934, and the addition of the University of Newark (now Rutgers–Newark) in 1946, and the College of South Jersey at Camden (now Rutgers–Camden) in 1950. Legislative acts in 1945 and 1956 designated Rutgers, “The State University of New Jersey.”

During the first decade of the twentieth century, only one college in New Jersey admitted women. The College of St. Elizabeth, which had been founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1899, graduated its first class of four women in 1903. To increase women’s access to higher education, the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs launched a campaign to create a public liberal arts college for women that would be non-denominational and affordable.

Under the leadership of Mabel Smith Douglass, a Committee of the Federation of Women’s Clubs devised a multi-pronged strategy to create a space in which women would have comparable educational opportunities to men. Pointing out that federal land-grant funding for Rutgers was being used exclusively to benefit men, who comprised less than one-third of the high school students in the state, Douglass mobilized school superintendents and principals to support higher education for women. Lobbying wives of members of the Rutgers Board of Trustees, Douglass creatively deployed their influence to help persuade the President and the Board to allocate land and a building for the new college.

Tapping the political commitments and economic resources of women across the state, Douglass initiated a “one-dollar women’s subscription” to raise $150,000 to support the college. Building a coalition of supporters strong enough to overcome significant opposition, Douglass succeeded in founding The New Jersey College for Women at Rutgers in 1918 to offer women “a cultural broadening in connection with specific training so that women may go out into the world fitted not only for positions on the lower rung of the ladder of opportunity but for leadership as well in the economical, political, and intellectual life of this nation.” Throughout the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, the college offered public higher education to women, growing in size and reputation. The first class of 42 women graduated in 1922. In 1955, the college was renamed Douglass College in honor of its founder and first dean.

Douglass College Douglass, the College for Women at Rutgers, is the Foundation for Research and Policy Centers at Rutgers
Building on the early initiatives at Douglass College, Rutgers, in the late 1960’s was among the first schools in the nation to offer courses in Women’s Studies and to encourage path breaking new research on women and gender. By 1970, Rutgers established a Women’s Studies Program. Rutgers was also one of the leaders in offering educational programs on women in public leadership, and in 1971, the Center for American Women and Politics was founded at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on the Douglass College Campus. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s women’s education at Rutgers expanded and, across the nation, women’s studies became a major social, political, and intellectual movement in the United States. The Institute for Research on Women was founded at Rutgers in 1971 and in 1989, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership was founded at Douglass College.

Today Rutgers is home to the largest and most distinguished collection of academic units devoted to women and formally connected since the early 1990’s as the Institute for Women’s Leadership consortium.

Launching the Institute for Women’s Leadership Consortium
In the late 1980’s Mary S. Hartman, then Dean of Douglass, began to meet informally with the directors of the women’s programs and centers located on the Douglass campus. These gatherings became a forum for working collaboratively to develop and strengthen women’s education at Rutgers and to consider the critical underrepresentation of women in leadership in all arenas at the local, national and international levels. In 1991, under Mary Hartman’s leadership, the directors formed a consortium to address this underrepresentation. Declaring the mission of the Institute as “dedicated to examining issues of leadership and advancing women’s leadership in education, research, politics, the workplace, and the world,” the founding directors established the Institute as a collaborative enterprise, the nation’s first such consortium dedicated to women’s lives and leadership.

The founding directors of the new Institute for Women’s Leadership were:
Mary S. Hartman, Dean of Douglass College
Ruth B. Mandel, Director, Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics
Alice Kessler-Harris, Director, Women’s Studies Program;
Carol Smith, Director, Institute for Research on Women; and
Charlotte A. Bunch, Director, Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

Shortly after its founding, the Institute added the new Center for Women and Work, directed by Dorothy Sue Cobble at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (1993). In 2007, the Institute for Women and Art joined the consortium, Judith Brodsky and Ferris Olin, Co-directors, and in 2008, the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, under the direction of Vice President Joan Bennett, became the eighth member unit of the Institute for Women’s Leadership.

Institute for Women’s Leadership
Chronology of Progress for the Consortium


  • Following several years of planning, the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) is formed as a consortium at Douglass College. Participating members include: Douglass College, Women’s Studies Program, Center for American Women and Politics, Institute for Research on Women, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and later, Center for Women and Work, within the School of Management and Labor Relations.

  • NJ WomenCount is established to collect, analyze and publish data on the status of women in New Jersey.

  • Women’s Scholarship and Leadership is designated as a university growth area; and a university-wide committee is formed to identify priorities for internal funding.


  • Mary S. Hartman, former dean of Douglass College, becomes full-time director of the Institute.

  • IWL/IRW Interdisciplinary Research Seminar for Faculty and Graduate Students established through a seed grant from university funding and a grant to IWL from the Ford Foundation.

  • Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building at 162 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, is dedicated, becoming location for IWL, Women’s Studies Program, and Center for Women and Work.

  • The Leadership Scholars Program is initiated through the Women’s Studies Program to provide undergraduates a two-year interdisciplinary experience to combine classwork, internships and social action projects in learning about leadership. Dr. Mary K. Trigg is hired to direct the program.

  • Wittenborn Scholars Residence is dedicated, providing convenient housing for visiting scholars associated with the IWL and member units.

  • The IWL and the Center for Women and Work collaborate to co-sponsor the Senior Leadership Program for Professional Women (SLP) to serve 24 corporate and professional women annually. SLP becomes the Executive Leadership Program which runs annually through 2015.

  • Leadership Scholars Program gains approval as a university certificate program. The IWL receives a $200,000 endowment gift for Scholars Program.


  • Division on Women, NJ Department of Community Affairs and the IWL form a research partnership to renew NJ WomenCount.

  • The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies is established and new PhD is approved.

  • The IWL receives a $500,000 endowment grant from the Ford Foundation to establish the Visiting Global Associates Program to link international work at the Global Center with IWL curricular and leadership development programs.

  • The IWL collaborates with Center for Women and Work to launch WINGS, a college-to- career mentoring program to link undergraduate students with senior business women. Deloitte & Touche becomes the first corporate partner in this program.

  • Ford Foundation approves a two-year research grant to fund “Re-affirming Action: Designs for Diversity in Higher Education.”

  • The Division on Women, NJ Department of Community Affairs, grants $140,000 to the IWL to continue NJ WomenCount. When funding is completed in 2007, the IWL continues the project as Women’s Leadership Fact Sheets.

  • The IWL receives a $1,000,000 endowment gift from Gretchen and James L. Johnson for core support. The IWL launches the annual Susan and Michael J. Angelides Endowed Lecture Series.


  • The IWL pilots the High School Leadership Program at Snyder High School, Jersey City, as a component of the IWL Leadership Scholars Certificate Program.

  • The IWL launches Community, Leadership, Action & Service Project (CLASP) – to provide summer placements for Rutgers undergraduates to learn about the needs of underserved populations in New Jersey. Funding provided by the J. Seward Johnson Sr. 1963 Charitable Trust.

  • The Institute for Women and Art (IWA) joins the IWL consortium becoming the seventh member unit. In 2016 the IWA is renamed the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities.

  • Rutgers re-affirms the importance of women’s education, establishing Douglass Residential College as the first residential college within its re-organized undergraduate structure in New Brunswick.

  • The Office for the Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics joins the IWL consortium as the eighth member unit.

  • The IWL Leadership Scholars Certificate Program is named the 2009 recipient of the Wynona M. Lipman Award for Empowerment by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division on Women, and the Commission on the Status of Women.

  • Transforming Lives Documentary Film Project launched in partnership with Rutgers Writers House to provide IWL Leadership Scholars opportunities to interview women leaders and produce short documentary films based on the interview for web distribution.


  • Alison R. Bernstein is appointed the IWL Director following Mary S. Hartman’s retirement. Bernstein begins her five-year tenure July 1, 2011, identifying three new areas of focus: Women & Health, Women, Media, & Tech, and Women & Philanthropy. She also initiates the “Dialogues with the Director Series”, which examines emerging trends for women in leadership, explores issues of social justice, and initiates new areas of interest for the IWL consortium.

  • The IWL and the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP) pilot GROW (Girls Realizing Opportunities in the World), a program to provide adolescent girls in foster care, relative care and adoptive families with resources needed to overcome adversity and succeed in life through group psychotherapy and mentoring relationships with Rutgers IWL students. Funding provided by the Cape Branch Foundation.

  • The IWL endowment total funds raised passes the $3,000,000 mark.

  • IWL initiates a collaborative project with Barnard and Spelman Colleges to develop feminist leadership studies as an area of research and curricular development.

  • The Center on Violence Against Women and Children, School of Social Work, joins the IWL consortium, making the ninth participating member.

  • In 2012, the IWL completes the “Blue Skies” Strategic Planning Process to identify goals and strategic directions for the next six years.

  • Dr. Francis Barchi becomes the first IWL Senior Fellow for Women and Health. She is followed in that role by Dr. Denise V. Rodgers, Vice Chancellor at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

  • In February, 2013 IWL signs a contract with Rutgers University Press for a series of eight books of case studies in Women’s Leadership under the title Junctures in Women’s Leadership.

  • The IWL establishes a partnership with the African Gender Institute, Cape Town University, South Africa, and Barnard College, to conduct summer study abroad opportunities for undergraduate students. Courses ran in summer 2013 and 2015.

  • In October 2014, in collaboration with the Rutgers School of Communication and Information and the School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Women's and Gender Studies, the IWL launches the campaign to create The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies and the Gloria Steinem program fund. The Gloria Steinem Chair Steering Committee, co-chaired by Geraldine Laybourne and Subha Barry is formed to lead the fundraising effort.

  • In 2015, the Gloria Steinem Media Mentoring Program is piloted, focusing on pairing recent Rutgers graduates pursuing careers in media with successful people in their field. Initial funding is provided by the Revson Foundation.

  • In March, 2015, IWL and Women’s and Gender Studies host a conference for Big10/CIC colleagues: "Collaborating for Success: Sharing Ideas, Developing Initiatives, and Overcoming Challenges."

  • As of March, 2016, Susan and Michael J. Angelides Lecturers include: Pulitzer Prize- winning author Isabel Wilkerson; Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis; feminist icon Gloria Steinem; filmmaker Ava DuVernay; and playwright, activist, and author Eve Ensler.

  • In May, 2016 the IWL launches the Junctures in Women’s Leadership Series. The first two books include: Junctures in Women’s Leadership: Social Movements edited by Mary K. Trigg and Alison R. Bernstein; and Junctures in Women’s Leadership: Business, edited by Lisa Hetfield and Dana M. Britton.

  • Alison R. Bernstein, Director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership passes away on June 30, 2016.

  • As of July 1, 2016, Lisa Hetfield is appointed the Interim Director of the IWL.

  • In July, 2016, the Gloria Steinem Media Mentoring Program is renamed the Alison R. Bernstein Media Mentoring Program.

  • In September 2016, the WINGS Mentoring Program gains approval as a one credit academic experience.

  • The documentary film, “From the Boarding House to the Board Room: 250 Years of Women at Rutgers” produced by award-winning filmmaker June Cross, premieres on campus in honor of IWL’s 25th anniversary. The collaborative project is initiated with seed funding from the newly established Mary S.Hartman, Edwin M. Hartman, and Samuel M. Hartman Founder’s Fund for the IWL.

  • Junctures in Women’s Leadership: Social Movements is selected for Choice Magazine’s Annual Outstanding Academic Title list for 2017. Outstanding works are selected “for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important—often the first—treatment of their subject.”

  • On June 15, 2017 the Rutgers Board of Governors voted to approve the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies. The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies, funded by more than 425 donors, including a dozen foundations and a matching pledge made possible by Rutgers President Robert Barchi, will immerse students in debate and scholarship about new media, social change and power structures.


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