5 An Annotated Bibliography on the History of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies in the Americas

By Julie Shayne and Estephanie Guzman, University of Washington Bothell

Illustration of Julie Shayne with yellow sash in right hand and left fist in the air. Sash has transfeminism symbol in purple.
Julie Shayne by Nicole Carter
Estephanie Guzman resting on her left palm.
Estephanie Guzman by Nicole Carter










This essay is an annotated bibliography about the field of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS).[1] It is meant to serve as a resource for others interested in the development of GWSS as a field, predominantly in the US, but with additional resources in Latin America and the Caribbean.[2] With respect to US sources, we only include books and one online source. We chose books which 1) offer a history of the field, 2) offer theoretical conversations of the field, at least at the time of publication, and/or 3) are canonical texts still shaping the field. We were partial to anthologies and works by historians because they tend to provide better bibliographies thus serve as sources for more sources, especially the journal articles we do not discuss. Interestingly, many of the anthologies we annotate that were originally meant to be theoretical discussions are now historical texts which tell the story of GWSS with respect to the theoretical, ideological, administrative, curricular, discursive, etc development. For example, Wiegman (2002).

Next, we provide a variety of types of sources related to GWSS programs and scholarship in Latin America and the Caribbean. We chose this region due to our shared interest in those histories and Estephanie’s fluency in Spanish. We were less systematic in the types of sources we chose and opted for breadth over depth with respect to countries included. We only included open-access sources, and several are Spanish only. Julie collected, read, and annotated the US sources, and Estephanie the Latin American and Caribbean ones.

We make no claims that what we provide here is exhaustive nor that our summaries of the sources, especially the anthologies or digital collections, do them justice. We are thrilled that there are more resources than we are capable of annotating and sharing; that means researchers are busy documenting academic feminism and our important work. We hope what follows will be of value to begin to piece together a mosaic-like history of the development of GWSS in the Americas, and, inspire more researchers to keep digging and documenting.

THE UNITED STATES: Print sources + one fantastic exception

Bambara, Toni Cade, ed. 2005 [1970]. The Black Woman: An Anthology. New York, NY: Washington Square Press. (327 pp). This book is a primary source and a fundamental part of the Black Women’s Studies canon. According to Toni Cade Bambara, “it is a collection of poems, stories, essays, informal, reminiscent, that seem best to reflect the preoccupations of the contemporary Black woman in this country” (6). Bambara explains that the collection grew out of impatience: “Especially out of an impatience with all the ‘experts’ zealously hustling us folks for their doctoral theses or government appointments. And out of an impatience with the fact that in the whole bibliography of feminist literature, literature immediately and directly relevant to us, wouldn’t fill a page” (5).

Bell, Roseann P., Bettye J. Parker, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, eds. 1979. Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday. (422 pp). According to Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Sturdy Black Bridges is “an anthology … [of] critical essays on black women writers, interviews, and short literary selections of fiction and poetry that included positive, complex images of black women. … [It was] the first anthology of black women’s literature published in the United States” (in Howe 2000, 221).

Berger, Michele Tracy and Cheryl Radeloff.  2015 [2011]. Transforming Scholarship: Why Women’s and Gender Studies Students are Changing Themselves and the World, Second Edition. New York, NY: Routledge. (324 pp). This book is written to GWSS students with the goal of helping them maximize their studies and focus themselves so they can be successful post-graduation in their careers and lives in general. It helps students with “elevator speeches” to cynics, be they in their own families or potential employers. The book is written to students, but it is also an amazing resource for GWSS faculty, advisors, and Career Services staff who seek to support our students to maximize their education, find jobs, and learn how to talk to people who do not see the value in GWSS.

Bowles, Gloria. 2009. Living Ideas: A Memoir of the Tumultuous Founding of Berkeley Women’s Studies. Self-published: Gloria Bowles. (309 pp). This memoir tells the author’s personal feminist story as intertwined with the development of UC Berkeley’s Women’s Studies. Bowles discusses many themes common in most program founders’ stories: An initial motivation being the androcentric nature of her own graduate studies; close and not always harmonious collaborations with students; curriculum building from scratch; non-stop meetings; and the pains, pleasures, and limits of consensus decision-making. Additionally, institutional struggles and debates were constants, and on-the-job learning par for the course.

Boxer, Marilyn Jacoby. 1998. When Women Ask the Questions: Creating Women’s Studies in America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. (360 pp). This is a thoroughly researched book, with Boxer’s training as an historian clearly benefiting the reader and the field. Though old, the bibliography is a wonderful resource. As far as we know, it remains the only monograph about Women’s Studies as a field. Boxer was the first chair of the first Women’s Studies program (SDSU) and writes with authority of experience and her extensive research. The book offers an overview of the field, as it existed in 1998, including early debates about pursuing department status; pedagogy; curriculum; publishing; “diversity;” administrative struggles; theory; methodology; epistemology; and dealing with the proverbial critics. The book tells a predominantly white Women’s Studies story without sufficiently problematizing the racism that women of color had been writing and organizing about for decades by the time the book was published.

Braithwaite, Ann, Susan Heald, Susanne Luhmann & Sharon Rosenberg. 2004. Troubling Women’s Studies: Pasts, Presents and Possibilities. Toronto, Canada: Sumach Press. (258 pp). A co-authored, meta-analysis of Women’s Studies (past, present, and future), based on autobiographies and autoethnography as both texts and subjects. Each chapter approaches the topic from a different angle, addressing self-reflexivity as central to Women’s Studies knowledge production and pedagogy. The authors are “troubled” by the construction of a single narrative and maintain that “how we come to know something that is, how we construct narratives of Women’s Studies, is as important as, if not more important, than, what we tell” (28).

Butler, Johnella E. and John C. Walter, eds. 1991. Transforming the Curriculum: Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (341 pp). The editors maintain that both Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies use, in the words of Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools,” (racism and patriarchy of Western scholarship, respectively) and both are class-blind. This collection reflects on those flawed traditions and attempts to rectify the errors. The editors envisioned the collection as generative and hoped to invite debate. Researchers of GWSS should pay close attention to Guy-Sheftall’s chapter “A Black Feminist Perspective on the Academy,” for definitions of Black Women’s Studies and canonical texts.

Evans, S. Y. February 2019. The Black Women’s Studies Booklist: Emergent Themes in Critical Race and Gender Research. Retrieved from https://bwstbooklist.net/ [accessed: 5/15/2020] “The Black Women’s Studies (BWST) Booklist connects foundational texts of critical race and gender scholarship to newer publications. This comprehensive bibliography identifies long-term trends and places recent contributions in historical context. Beyond a ‘generative’ project, the BWST Booklist identifies past, present, and forthcoming work to create a robust, regenerative discussion. … The BWST Booklist is an open access, online resource that contains over 1,400 entries.” (https://bwstbooklist.net/). Make sure to share this resource with your librarians.

Ginsberg, Alice E. 2008. The Evolution of American Women’s Studies: Reflections on Triumphs, Controversies, and Change. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. (239 pp). This is an accessible discussion of Women’s Studies. Like many stories of the field, the essays trace personal and professional histories from the beginning of US Women’s Studies to the mid-2000s. Authors include leaders in the field like Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ann Russo, and Nancy Naples, who self-consciously invoke their social locations with respect to class, culture, race, and of course gender. In the context of each author’s personal story, her own expertise, and thematic point of departure, she also speaks to two points: the question of integrating the multiple identities of women, and whether it is appropriate to move toward the creation of Gender Studies. The Introduction provides a useful history of the discipline, though it reads more like white Women’s Studies, failing to credit the women of color who also built the field.

Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. 1995. Women’s studies: A Retrospective (A report to the Ford Foundation). New York, NY: Ford Foundation. (45 pp). This is a thoroughly researched and documented report that tells the history of US Women’s Studies from its inception through the mid-nineties. Guy-Sheftall provides the reader a Women’s Studies history distinct from those in the Introductions of other books referenced here in that she makes clear that Black feminists and women of color in general were central to Women Studies scholarship from the beginning. Researching the history of the field? Start here.

Howe, Florence, ed. 2000. The Politics of Women’s Studies: Testimony from 30 Founding Mothers. New York, NY: The Feminist Press. (422 pp). This is a collection of first person narratives of “founding mothers of Women’s Studies.” The essays are a combination of personal history and how those histories influence the development of all things Women’s Studies on the respective campuses. The book is divided into six sections: “Naming the Problem;” “Overcoming Barriers;” “Inventing Successful Strategies;” “Providing Feminist Scholarship;” “Building Women’s Studies Programs;” and “Looking Back?” I (Julie) was confused as to why “Building Black Women’s Studies” by Barbara Smith and “Other Mothers of Women’s Studies” by Beverly Guy-Sheftall didn’t end up in the “Building Women’s Studies Programs” section. By separating them out, Howe creates a narrative that Women’s Studies is white and Black Women’s Studies is Other.

Howe, Florence. 2011. A Life in Motion. New York, NY: The Feminist Press. (587 pp). This is a lengthy memoir by Florence Howe, best known in GWSS as a co-founder of the The Feminist Press which, like Women’s Studies, is also celebrating its 50th birthday. Part three of this book speaks to the development of GWSS as a field.

Hull, Akasja (Gloria T.), Patricia Bell-Scott & Barbara Smith, eds. 2015 [1982]. All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: The Feminist Press. (413 pp). This classic text by Black women, about Black Women’s Studies, known as Brave, was originally published in 1982 and begins with the powerful words: “Merely to use the term ‘Black women’s studies’ is an act charged with political significance” (xvii). The editors created Brave to provide examples of recent research and teaching by Black women and they hoped it would be a catalyst for greater gains in the future (xxviii), including similar collections by different groups of women of color (xxxi). Brave also includes an annotated bibliography and syllabi because the editors knew their project was bigger than one book. They maintain, “only a Black and feminist analysis can sufficiently comprehend the materials of Black women’s studies: and only a creative Black feminist perspective will enable the field to expand” (xxi). The book communicates agency, autonomy, and intellectual leadership.

James, Stanle M., Frances Smith Foster & Beverly Guy-Sheftall, eds. 2009. Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies. New York, NY: The Feminist Press. (444 pp). The editors of Still Brave describe it as “an anthology that provides a retrospective on the state of Black Women’s Studies since the publication of Brave” (xx). They explain, “we believe that each selection is a classic, a benchmark, a turning point, or a moment of startling clarity in Black Women’s Studies” (xxi). The editors make clear that they do not see Still Brave as a “sequel” to Brave but rather, “it is a praise song to those who gave us that gift, that garland of flowers. Still Brave recognizes the courage it takes to respond to, yet not imitate, a major political and academic achievement” (xxv).

Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky and Agatha Beins, eds. 2005. Women’s Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. (347 pp). In this book the authors collectively ask: “Is Women’s Studies ok with who we are, and, if not, how do we change?” This is a pioneering collection because a lot of the conversations that the authors initiated, including feminist pioneers like Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Evelyn Hammonds, and Bonnie Zimmerman, have since been integrated into the National Women’s Studies Association and GWSS programs nationally. The Introduction, though somewhat dated (2005), has an excellent literature review for any student mapping out the evolution of  feminist theory and Women’s Studies scholarship. Another noteworthy chapter, especially for our essay is “The Institutionalization of Women’s and Gender Studies in Mexico,” by Lorena Parada-Ampudia (pp. 262-271).

O’Barr, Jean Fox. 1994. Feminism in Action: Building Institutions and Community Through Women’s Studies. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. (301 pp). Feminism in Action was written by the founding director of Duke’s Women’s Studies Program and former editor of Signs. The essays explore the process of “building feminist institutions and community through women’s studies” (pg 1) through discussion of her efforts in adult education, program development, fundraising, journal editing, teaching, and consciousness-raising. Many of the chapters were originally talks and by now are quite dated but useful for a different part of GWSS history telling. Relatedly, O’Barr’s experiences do not necessarily translate well to public schools given Duke’s elite status.

Orr, Catherine M., Ann Braithwaite, and Diane Lichtenstein. 2012. Rethinking Women’s and Gender Studies. New York, NY: Routledge. (376 pp). This collection is a critical engagement with key concepts in GWSS meant to complicate earlier meanings by asking new questions, looking at linguistic lineages, and pushing GWSS scholars to not let the terms dissipate into vacuous buzz words. Some of the concepts that remain most salient today are: 1) feminism; 2) queer; 3) intersectionality; 4) identity (politics); 5) interdisciplinarity; 6) sexuality; and 7) trans. The editors and authors ask GWSS practitioners to rethink many of our most basic assumptions and stock narratives (329).

Scott, Joan Wallach, ed. 2008. Women’s Studies on the Edge. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (223 pp). This book’s first incarnation was a 1997 special issue of the journal differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 30(2). Scott retained the most “topical and controversial” (8) essays and added some in direct response to the original ones. Collectively the essays offer conflicting interpretations of the field. This collection includes Wendy Brown’s now infamous “The Impossibility of Women’s Studies,” and a response from Robyn Wiegman. There are three essays that take up various aspects of Othering that happen within Women’s Studies and Western feminism by students, colleagues, and even foreign policy makers (Najmabadi; Mahmood; Salamon). There are conversations about knowledge production as related to Cultural Studies (Rooney) and Black Women’s Studies (Guy-Sheftall and Hammonds), and Biddy Martin’s concluding thoughts about the fine line between success and institutional stasis.

The University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Consortium. 1999. Transforming Women’s Education: The History of Women’s Studies in the University of Wisconsin System. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. (162 pp). Like all histories of Women’s Studies, even when they are local, they are telling part of a national story because trends were strikingly similar throughout the US. This book is unique however in that it traces women’s education in the University of Wisconsin system. Transforming Women’s Education is based on archival research and oral history interviews with 80+ individuals. The Consortium intentionally structured each chapter with additional sources to encourage readers to continue the research, knowing the story they were able to document is partial.

Wiegman, Robyn, ed. 2002. Women’s Studies on its Own: A Next Wave Reader in Institutional Change. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (502 pp). A collection of essays about academic feminism as it stood in the early 2000s. The essays are a combination of reflective, scholarly, and/or theoretical, written by mostly senior and leading Women’s Studies professors. They tell stories of programs built, administrative struggles,  lessons learned, and labor unevenly divided, as well as theoretically engaging questions regarding discourse, framing, curriculum, and knowledge production. Like all of the collections in this bibliography, some chapters “aged” better than others.

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: Archives, articles, and webpages


Archive: “Past Caribbean Women Catalysts for Change Lecture Series and Specialist Workshops” (2003-2020) https://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/gender/News-and-Events/Archives.aspx This archive includes lectures and workshops which have occurred since 1995. The lecture series was started in 1995 by Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica. Some of the lectures have been published in the Working Paper Series and can be found in these archives which are housed in the Institute for Gender & Development Studies website. These archives and workshops inform readers about gender issues, research, and interdisciplinary approaches and gender in the Caribbean.

Hamilton, Marlene. 2015. “Women and Higher Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean: UWI: A Progressive Institution for Women?” In Caribbean Review of Gender Studies. 9: 245–286. Marlene Hamilton was the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) from 1998 to 2006 and the first woman to serve at this level. Her article, based on a speech, “Women and Higher Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean: UWI, A Progressive Institution for Women?”, focuses on the status of women at UWI. In her speech she focuses on 1948 through 1997. In short, she argues that there has been improvement in women’s enrollment: in 1998 UWI increased to 64% of female students.

The Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), The University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados: https://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/gender/About-Us/History.aspx This is a goldmine of information for researchers interested in gender and development in the Caribbean. According to the webpage, the IGDS “was initially established as the Centre for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) in 1993, as a result of key recommendations emerging from the Women and Development Group. CGDS was later institutionalized through the groundbreaking work of the Women and Development Studies Group and a Project of Cooperation in Teaching and Research in Women and Development Studies between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at The Hague. … The Institute’s regional coordinating unit is based at the Mona Campus in Jamaica, with units located on UWI’s two other campuses.” Don’t miss the “Research & Publications” link.

Sidney Martin Library collection (2003-2020): https://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/mainlibrary/20244/collections.aspx  This is a collection at the University of the West Indies (UWI). Within the Caribbean Studies section a researcher can find information about the Gender Studies program, including undergraduate students’ past research projects.


Biblioteca Digital Feminista Ofelia Uribe De Acosta: http://bibliotecadigitalfeminista.bogota.unal.edu.co/ This is a digital collection which provides researchers access to Feminist and Women’s Studies projects from Colombia, and throughout Latin American, and the Caribbean. Contents include artifacts about women’s and feminist movements, research about violence against women, and gender rights legislation and political publications.

Orozco, Carolina Marrugo. 2019. “Agencia, mujeres y pintura: la experiencia de Débora Arango Pérez, 1950-1954,” in La manzana de la discordia. 14(1): 65-74. La Manzana de la Discordia is a publication from the university that shares research findings on gender and women in the arts in the mid-twentieth century in Colombia. This article featured the artist Débora Arango Pérez.

Puyana, Yolanda. 2007. “Los estudios de mujer y género en la Universidad Nacional de Colombia,” in Colombia. 1: 115-152. http://bdigital.unal.edu.co/1387/10/08CAPI03.pdf  This article is an overview of Gender Studies in Colombia in the 19th-20th century. Puyana explains that in 2005, Universidad Nacional de Colombia started to focus more on Gender and Women’s Studies projects, with growing numbers of gender-focused studies and publications. She also speaks about the field in Latin America more broadly, explaining that it did not really start until after the 1980s.

Universidad del Valle Colombia, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios de Género, Mujer y Sociedad (CIEGMS): http://genero.univalle.edu.co/ The CIEGMS has 25 years of experience working on projects and researching topics like gender and its intersection with ethnicity. CIEGMS researchers believe it is essential to learn from LGBTQ perspectives so they can incorporate more insights in their programs and apply them to local policies and projects. A collection of interest on their site is their materials addressing their commitment to teacher training with respect to Gender Studies.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Escuela de Estudios de Género: http://www.humanas.unal.edu.co/2017/unidades-academicas/escuelas/escuela-de-estudios-de-genero The National University of Colombia started its Gender Studies and interdisciplinary research in the late 1970s. This very well organized, up-to-date, and robust site has links to their research and faculty publications, including digital scholarship, and three publications specific to the Center: “Feminismos y estudios de género en Colombia” by Franklin Gil Hernández and Tania Pérez-Bustos; “Género y cuidado” edited by Adira Amaya Urquijo, Luz Gabriela Arango Gaviria, Tania Pérez-Bustos, and Javier Pineda Duque; and “Los dedos cortados” by Paola Tabet.


Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo: “Gender” tagged articles: https://www.intec.edu.do/en/notas-de-prensa/tag/Género There is a cross-section of articles here that deal with gender, including masculinity. Collectively the pieces address how gender power arrangements relate to educational, occupational, health, political, and social barriers. The articles take different forms: analyses; summaries of workshops; seminars; conversations; reflections; conference proceedings; etc.


Centro de Estudios Asia y África; El Colegio de México: Investigaciones https://ceaa.colmex.mx/investigacion/investigaciones  This is a list of individual and collectively done research projects, including three GWSS themed ones: “Género y arte verbal africano” by Rosenberg Mether Aaron Louis; “La condición de la mujer en aspectos sociales y culturales dentro de la sociedad swahili del siglo XIX” by Saavedra Casco and José Arturo; “Acciones y pensamientos del feminismo japonés” by Tanaka Nishishima Michiko.


Maestría en Estudios de la Mujer, Universidad Central de Venezuela: http://www.ucv.ve/organizacion/vrac/gerencia-de-investigacion-cientifica-y-humanistica/centro-de-estudios-de-la-mujer/docencia/maestria-en-estudios-de-la-mujer.html This major uses gender and feminist theories to understand different perspectives and transform social realities. An interesting piece of research available on their page is a paper by Profesora Jessie Blanco called, El cuerpo como discurso de resistencia: subjetividad, cuerpo y práctica contrahegemóncia desde una mirada feminista del transgenerismo” which focuses on the need to explore the relationship between the body and feminist theoretical proposals and anti-discrimination agendas.


  1. We would like to thank Penelope Wood, GWSS librarian at UW Bothell, for helping us launch our research and moving us forward when we got stuck! You rock and we love working with you!
  2. This annotated bibliography also serves as a literature review of sorts for this entire project. As Julie read the many edited collections and histories to write this short essay, they also helped her frame the project and guide the contributors. She sees this book as a continuation of the dialogues begun by most of these authors, benefiting from their decades of research and theorizing.

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