The Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.
This week we’re exploring 1991 and the historical context of the year the Women’s Center opened its doors.
In 1991, Anita Hill stood up to sexual harassment in the workplace. Hill testified against her former employer, Judge Clarence Thomas, as he had perpetrated inappropriate sexual behavior towards her while she was working for him a few years prior. Thomas was being appointed as a Supreme Court Justice when Hill came forward, ending her silence and sparking a national interest in sexual harassment in the workplace. The majority male Senate went on to confirm Thomas, but this highly publicized trial brought the issue of sexual harassment into focus. After Hill stood up, more women came forward about their own experiences, and more measures were taken to prevent harassment in the workplace. This included places like higher education and our own UMBC.
After this event, many more women became involved in politics, and many believe this boom came about as a direct response to the nomination of Thomas. While this wasn’t the only reason the Women’s Center was founded on campus, the national attention being paid to women’s issues in the workplace certainly helped spark an interest in creating a safe space and resource for women on campus. This story of our beginning is captured in our 20th anniversary video about the Women’s Center.
Other 1991 noteworthy events include, the release of Thelma and Louise and the influential documentary Paris is Burning. Riot grrrl, the punk feminist music movement, also began in the early 90s, and ushered in a new format of women creating activist art and music at the same time the internet opened up to commercial use for the first time ever.
What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!
Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!