The women’s movement in the 1960s and 70s in North America led to the establishment of many different organizations and institutions in which issues directly relevant to women’s lives were put at the core of the agenda. At the University of Manitoba, Women’s Studies was established as an academic program in the early 70s by committed feminist academics who felt that women needed a program which specifically addressed women’s issues. We owe a great deal to the vision of the women who set up our program at a time when there were still very few women employed on the University of Manitoba campus, and to discuss women's issues in separate classrooms was a bold departure.
The University of Manitoba has offered a major in Women's Studies since 1987. The program expanded in 1998 to offer an honours degree and an advanced major degree. While we do not have a graduate program we do offer directed reading courses at the graduate level. In 2007 we changed our name to "Women's and Gender Studies" in order to reflect national and international trends in feminist scholarship and our changing curriculum.
The Women’s and Gender Studies program has grown from offering one or two courses a year to its present status as an independent program in the Faculty of Arts with five faculty members (two of whom are cross appointed with other Departments: Dr. Janice Dodd with the Department of Physiology and Dr. Sherry Farrell Racette with the Department of Native Studies). Our current faculty is able to offer our students many different research perspectives and fields of expertise on feminist issues. We study a wide range of women-centred social, political and cultural issues. We explore both current and historical debates about feminism and its implications. Fundamental questions of equity and social justice are still very much with us, and as a dynamic, interdisciplinary program, we study diverse theoretical and practical approaches, including feminist cultural studies and studies of popular culture, violence against women, lesbian and queer studies, women in science and technology, gendered violence in urban spaces, sex work and sex workers, feminist geography, indigenous feminisms, masculinity studies, and reconstructing indigenous art histories that recontextualize museum collections and reclaim women's voices and lives.