Women at AU
History : AU's Feminist Foundation

The Alfred University Women's and Gender Studies Program grew out of Alfred's historically liberal, progressive college environment and unique feminist history. Founded in 1836, AU was the second co-educational college in the United States and the first in New York State.

Alfred University has always encouraged not only women's education, but also the opportunity for women to work. Jonathan Allen, the University's second president, once said, "I cannot see why, if woman has a mind, it was given her to be cramped and dwarfed and starved." He refused to let the narrow visions of other institutions interfere with his goals for the young women of Alfred University. "Woman is knocking at college doors for admission," he said, "...Many colleges have slammed their doors in her face."

Abigail Allen, Jonathan's wife and a professor at AU, shared her husband's vision of educational equality at Alfred. A revolutionary woman of her time, Abigail's contributions are still honored by university students and faculty today. Abigail Allen believed that men and women alike must work to challenge the limits set by society and institution. "Any culture to be noblest .... must move on the high tide of human progress, keep abreast of the world's advance movements: in one word, be radical, radical to the core."

Founded as a Women's Studies Program in 1983, the name was changed to Women's and Gender Studies in 2013 to better reflect the program's focus and curriculum. The program continues to offer students the opportunity to explore the interdisciplinary fields of women's and gender studies by combining courses from a variety of traditional disciplines with ones designed specifically for the program.

Our approach exposes students to a variety of conceptual frameworks, experiences, personal styles, ideas, and issues. We encourage an exploration of the many ideological positions possible within as well as outside the body of work considered Women's and Gender Studies. Faculty from throughout the university participate in the program.

Abigail Allen and President Jonathan Allen
Abigail Allen and
President Jonathan Allen,
partners in co-education.