In the Fall semester of 1974, Dr. Jill Raitt (the only woman on the Divinity School faculty at the time) gave up her office space so for the use of a new student program: The Duke Divinity School Women’s Center.
That space was used for more than 31 years. As a thanks to Dr. Raitt, the Women’s Center named a lecture series in her honor in 2009.
Now located in a new space in the Gray building, The Women’s Center began its work by partnering female students with faculty members who would meet during the semester to discuss the concerns of female students in the classroom. One such concern was the importance of inclusive language. For instance, some professors began class by saying, “Dear Gentleman.”
The DDS Women’s Center was determined to give female students ordained role models through interviews featured in its official newsletter, as well as speaking invitations, brown bag lunch discussions, and other programs.
In the 1980s, The Women’s Center spent most of its energy trying to incorporate women into the curriculum. This meant not only asking for more female faculty, but also for texts by women in course reading lists.
In the 1990s, the Women’s Center worked toward supporting the tenure of female faculty and the concerns of physical and emotional violence against women.
In the early 2000s, it began to respond to the growing need for education in the areas of gender studies, which include Feminism and Womanism, as well as LGBT and Men’s issues. By 2010, the first official Men’s Group was formed under the umbrella of the Women’s Center.
Today, the Women’s Center continues to serve as a resource and support center for the entire Divinity School community, responding to the needs of both women and men as they relate to issues of gender and theology.