In Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Colby students learn from and work with scholar-teachers deeply committed to the new scholarship on women, gender, and feminist theory. Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses focus on the way cultures construct concepts of gender and introduce students to important class, race, ethnic, and sexual orientation differences within and across cultures.

WGSS courses also challenge traditional scholarship and generate new definitions of culture; they illuminate women’s daily lives and social history, their language, culture, literature, psychology, and biology. In examining the new scholarship on women’s, gender and sexuality, students become sensitive to their own unexamined assumptions about women and men. As a result, WGSS courses prepare students to think more carefully about gender, race, and other social categories and to appreciate the importance of promoting justice and equality both within the Colby community and in the world beyond the College.


The first Women’s Studies course at Colby was taught in 1972. Throughout much of the 1970s, Women’s Studies at Colby consisted of a few courses taught on an ad hoc basis, often by part-time or temporary instructors, and as a concentration within American Studies. The arrival of Professors Phyllis Mannocchi (English) and Sonya Rose (Sociology) in the fall of 1977 signaled the beginning of permanent Women’s Studies course offerings at Colby. Professor Phyllis Mannocchi and Marilyn Mavrinac helped organize the Women’s Studies Advisory Committee and the Women’s Group.

In the spring of 1980, a group of five students presented a petition to President Cotter signed by 250 students requesting that an interdisciplinary major in Women’s Studies be developed. That year Women’s Studies officially became an interdisciplinary course cluster, and was the first formally organized Women’s Studies Program in the state of Maine. In 1987, the concentration in Women’s Studies was approved, and the first three WS students graduated in the class of 1988. WS111 (Introduction to Women’s Studies) and WS 493 (Senior Seminar) were offered for the first time shortly thereafter. Between 1972 and 1994, Women’s Studies grew from two courses to 40 cross-listed courses and an additional 5 designated WS, taught by 35 program faculty. During the Fall 1994 and Spring of 1995, the Women’s Studies Coordinating Committee developed the proposal for a major in Women’s Studies. The major in Women’s Studies became a reality in May, 1995.

As a result of various curricular and philosophical developments within the program and across the College as a whole, in the fall of 2002 Women’s Studies became Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.