April 25, 2019 | 54° F

Douglass Centennial aligns with Women's History Month for month-long celebration at Rutgers

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

This year, Women's History Month aligns with the Douglass Centennial, bringing a month packed with events that showcase the University's commitment to women's education since 1918. 

This year’s Women’s History Month is a special one here at Rutgers, because 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Douglass Residential College. There are many exciting events planned all month in celebration of both of these occasions.

Douglass Residential College is “an intellectual community for undergraduate women within Rutgers University that inspires its students to learn, lead and live with conviction, creativity and critical insight,” according to its website.

Douglass was first established in September of 1918, started by Mabel Smith Douglass, who led the charge to establish a women’s college as a part of the University, according to the site

Its revolutionary establishment allowed women to pursue higher education in New Jersey — those who were previously offered very limited opportunities by the state, according to the site.

Lisa Hetfield, interim director for the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers, discussed the many events that the institute has planned for the month of March. 

The institute, which is a consortium comprised of nine units focused on the advancement of women, has eight events scheduled for March, seven of which are upcoming, she said. 

Hetfield said she was looking forward to all of the events, but was most excited about the Women, Politics and Douglass Exhibit, which will take place at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library on Thursday, March 15 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

“It looks from 1918 to 2018 — (at) all of the critical political developments that altered the history of the nation, and the role of women and the women of Douglass in responding and participating in that over its 100-year history," she said. "So I think that would be a great exhibit to go see.”

There are also campus-wide events happening this March to celebrate Women's History Month.

“A lot is going on,” Hetfield said. “Much of it is related to Douglass and the members of the Institute for Women’s Leadership, and then there’s more beyond that. I know Rutgers Global and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership is doing an event, so there’s so much happening.” 

Additionally, much of what has occurred nationally over the past year makes this Women’s History Month all the more significant, Hetfield said.

She said that the nation is in a somewhat unprecedented moment in history, because the #MeToo and Time's Up movements have opened the door for women to come forward and share their personal experiences on social media, and scrutinize sexual misconduct.

“That makes this Women’s History Month especially important,” Hetfield said. 

She also acknowledged that Women’s History Month is not just important for women, but for everyone. The struggle for gender equality is not just a women’s issue. 

Cheryl Wall, a literary critic and professor in the Department of English who specializes in Black literary works, said that the fight for equality and equal justice should concern those who have more access to justice, as well as those who have less access to justice. 

“We won’t get to full equality unless everyone is aware of the absence of it,” Wall said. “Because otherwise people don’t understand why it’s important to struggle towards it. And I do think a more just society is a benefit to everyone in the society, not just to people who are suffering from injustice at any particular moment.”

Ousseina Alidou, an Africanist scholar and professor in the Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures, said that the struggle for equality concerns everyone.

There are many factors to consider this Women’s History Month, with the 100th anniversary of Douglass and everything that has been happening nationally in the past year, but love should be the main focus of the month, Alidou said.

“It becomes very important to think about love,” she said. “Through community building, through imagining future, through imagining coexistence, for diversity of people across cultures, across ages, across gender.” 

Hannah McClain

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