Founded in 1972, the Women's Studies Program offered the first interdisciplinary MA degree in Women's Studies in the United States. This program grew from a highly successful Continuing Education for Women (CEW) project founded in 1965 and led by Professor Ruth Osborn. These CEW students, many of them college graduates influenced by the Women's Movement, wanted graduate work that would enable them to help other women. With demonstrated student demand, Dr. Osborn persuaded the administration to approve an interdisciplinary MA degree comparable to other Special Studies MA degrees in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The first Women's Studies master's degree students entered the program in the 1973-1974 academic year.
In 1977, the program took another groundbreaking step: the development of a public policy focus with the hiring of Dr. Virginia Allan, chair of the 1969 Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities and a retiring State Department official. He was joined by Dr. Phyllis Palmer, an American women's historian, and Charlotte Conable, a Women's Studies alumna. The public policy curriculum stressed a grounding in feminist theory and encouraged student internships and related research projects as the degree's culmination. It trained graduates to change the social policies that constrained women's lives. Since 1982, the GW Women's Studies Program has offered two MA degrees sharing the same Women's Studies core courses: the MA in Public Policy with a Concentration in Women's Studies and the MA in Women's Studies with a liberal arts concentration.
Beginning in 1997, students enrolled in the multidisciplinary PhD program offered by the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration may elect a field in Gender and Social Policy. In May 1997, The GW Public Policy and Women's Studies programs joined in affiliation with the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), an independent, non-profit research organization.
In 2000, we added several joint degrees between the Law School and Women's Studies, making ourselves one of two programs nationwide which offers such degrees.
At the undergraduate level, a Women's Studies Minor was inaugurated in 1989. A major as well as two, five-year MA/BA programs were added in 2000. LGBT became a minor in 2011.