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May 7, 2001

PCSW celebrates 25 years

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld


Past, present and perhaps future generations of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) gathered Thursday, April 26, to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary.

Founding members of the Women’s Caucus (PCSW’s predecessor) mingled with daughters of current PCSW members at the two-part celebration, which included a luncheon and evening reception, both held at the Carlos Museum.

The centerpiece of the celebrations was a “Herstory” timeline documenting the evolution of women’s rights at Emory and nationally. Major figures in the University’s women’s community were featured in the display, as well as past Emory Women’s Handbooks and the initial memo calling for the creation of the PCSW. Names of women who had worked at Emory for 25 years or more were used as the background for the display panels.

When Vice President for Human Resources Alice Miller welcomed the luncheon crowd, she said Emory currently has 367 female employees who have worked at Emory for 25 years or more—adding up to roughly 11,500 years of service. All of these women were invited to the PCSW events as guests of HR, which sponsored both receptions.

President Bill Chace then presented the annual PCSW writing awards. The undergraduate winner was Rebecca Grunfeld for “Title IX: The Sports Equity Act of 2000” and the professional winner was School of Medicine student Noha Sadek for “Mental Health Issues in Older Women: Life after Menopause.” Both students received a $250 prize and a plaque.

PCSW Chair-elect Kathy Reed introduced a panel of women representing students, staff, faculty and alumna, moderated by Jan Gleason, assistant vice president for University Communications and former PCSW chair. Joining Gleason were College senior Brandie Knazze; Ali Crown, director of the Emory Women’s Center; Patricia Hudgins, a School of Medicine professor; and Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the Chapel and Religious Life. In front of a group of 75, the panelists discussed the role of women at Emory and what they hope to see in the future.

The memories varied, including comical stories such as Henry-Crowe’s tale of women literally hiking the floors of the theology school to go to the building’s lone women’s bathroom, located on the top floor. Then there was Knazze’s confession of diligently reading the sports section of the morning paper just to keep up with an economics professor’s daily discussion of sports with the male-dominated class.

And there were the somber memories. Hudgins said Emory was the only hospital she contacted that would hire women physicians when she came to Atlanta in the mid-1980s. Crown told the group that when she arrived in 1980, Emory would not grant degrees to part-time students. Thanks to work from groups such as PCSW, this policy was changed, she said.

The women all had similar hopes for the future of women at the university: more flexible schedules for working mothers, the recruitment of more female faculty and administrators, more mentoring programs and that the Emory community keep a watchful eye on the progress of women on campus and off.

“I think this is a great time to be complacent, but I don’t want to see all of this [hard work] unravel,” Hudgins said. “It’s tempting to sit back and say ‘We’ve made it.’”

Women must continue to work for diversity and equal rights, she said.

It was a sentiment that carried over into the PCSW’s evening reception, where Martine Watson Brownley, Goodrich White Professor of English, addressed a group of about 50. A past PCSW member, Brownley was director of the Institute for Women’s Studies from 1992–96.

“When I arrived at Emory [in 1975], there were so few women in the instructional ranks that we all knew each other. There was no child care, no maternity leave policy, no women’s studies, no Women’s Center. I could give a long list of ‘no’s,’” she said.

While the PCSW and Emory have helped to make incredible strides for women, that doesn’t mean that the fight for equal rights has to stop, she added.

“Tonight we celebrate 25 years of PCSW work, but we’re also remembering. Such remembering is crucial to the history of women; what women have done in the past has too frequently been forgotten,” Brownley said. “As Santayana long ago pointed out, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Women have repeated their pasts over and over and over. We have got to remember.”

Following her address, current PCSW chair Deb Floyd and Reed presented former chairs with necklaces featuring a silver goddess emblem.

At both events, Reed announced the PCSW would be donating 25 trees to be planted at the new child care center at University Apartments. Varieties of trees to be planted include sourwoods, Virginia pines, sawtooth oaks and magnolias, and a bench will commemorate the plantings.

The PCSW was established on Feb. 7, 1976 as an advisory body to the President on issues related to women of Emory. Today, it has 32 members representing students, faculty and staff. More information about PCSW can be found at


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