History of the Women and Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC)

By Diane Martell, 1990 & Laura Lockwood, 2004  

In 1972, a group of undergraduate women formed the first student women's group at Trinity, Trinity Women's Organization.  TWO had an office in the basement of Mather and was funded by the student government.  Dianne Hunter was their faculty advisor. 

In the spring of 1976, ten students submitted a proposal to Vice-President Smith and the Committee on Space Allocation requesting space for a Women's Center.  The students were granted an apartment at 86-88 Crescent Street but the project fell through when it was heard that the College would be demolishing the building. 

At the first meeting of President Lockwood's Special Council on Women, on February 3, 1977, a subcommittee was formed to investigate the possibility of establishing a Women's Center which would serve the needs of faculty, administrative, and staff women, as well as students.  The subcommittee (Anne Boornazian, Kathy Frederick, Susan Kepnes, Susan Haberlandt, Dianne Hunter, Judy Rohrer and Diane Zannoni) wrote to Vice-President Smith and requested the use of the third floor guest apartment in Mather.  On February 25, he granted their petition.

In March a proposed budget was submitted.  The President's Office paid for Diane Zannoni and Kathy Frederick to attend a five day training conference on Women's Centers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  In June, the Center was granted $3,000 to staff the Center, $6,000 to furnish the space and pay for programming.  $880 was received from the Student Government Association to pay for its first major event.  Ann Leventhal and Judy Rohrer were hired as the two co-coordinators and the Center officially opened in September of 1977.

In the fall of 1977, a coordinating committee consisting of students, the coordinators, staff, administrators and faculty (15 members in total), was formed.  The committee decided that TWO would elect students to be on the coordinating committee, and that 5 of the members would always be students.  There was no formal method by which other slots were filled, though vacancies were published throughout the campus.  The coordinating committee members formed subcommittees to deal with time consuming issues.  In the interest of centralizing primary responsibility, the committee voted to hire only one coordinator, Leslie Wright, for the 1978-79 school year.

Coordinating committee members produced a job description for themselves which stated their responsibilities.  The members were responsible for attending weekly meetings, appointing a secretary to take minutes at the meetings, appointing new members to the committee, evaluating center events, approving and submitting a budget, deciding the direction of the Women's Center, and evaluating, overseeing and assisting the coordinator, especially with long range planning and the implementation of programs.  At times, the committee invited guests representing feminist organizations or persons well-versed in an important women's issue to their regular meetings or an evening meeting to inform them about specific issues.

Part-time coordinators worked in conjunction with a very active coordinating committee from 1977 to 1983.  Lectures, workshops, discussion panels and films were the most common types of programs sponsored.  Anywhere from 5 to 12 events falling into each of these categories were sponsored every year.  Other types of programming included open houses, receptions, dinners, exhibits, coffeehouses, theatrical and dance performances, concerts and bus trips.  Non-programming activities, such as counselling staff and students, providing referral services for the campus and community, presenting papers and workshops at conferences, serving on campus and community committees, aiding students and faculty who are doing research on women and maintaining contacts with other women's issue organizations were also a part of the work of the Women's Center. 

In the fall of 1984, Judith Branzburg was hired as the first full time coordinator (9 month position).  At that time, the purpose of the Women's Center was expanded to the following:

"The purpose of the Women's Center at Trinity College is to educate members of the Trinity community about women's and gender issues, to serve as a center of support for women, to be an advocate regarding women's concerns on campus, to be a resource center for students and faculty, and to be a liaison to women's groups in the community.  The Center's programs and the activities of the coordinator are directed toward women and men of the faculty, administration, staff, and student body.  The Center is also concerned with taking advantage of the College's urban setting by using the resources of the community and by fostering interaction between the diverse Hartford community and the Trinity student body."

With a full-time coordinator, there was a substantial increase in the number of programs produced in the next three years and attendance at programs improved greatly.  The lunch series was instituted and awareness week programs were established.  In 1986, the first newsletter was produced.  The Rainbow Sound poetry series was launched in 1987.  Community attendance at Women's Center events and coverage by local news media increased dramatically.  The Women's Center became a better known and more integral part of the life of the College and within the Hartford community.  A complete listing of all Women's Center programs from 1984 to the present is available in annual reports.

In 1987, Judith Branzburg became the part-time affirmative action officer for Trinity.  Anne Menard was hired as the part-time Assistant Coordinator for the Women's Center.  Upon her resignation, Pat Reville was hired for this position.

The Women's Center was very effective in bringing large numbers of students to the Center in 1988-89.  Four student organizations (TGLBA, TWO, SOAR, Community Outreach) as well as one staff group (TOPS) used the Women's Center for meetings on a regular basis.   It was reported in the annual report that the Center seemed to have moved from one more accommodating to faculty and administrators to one more accommodating to students.  At this point the limitations of the physical space in which the Center is housed became apparent and a search for more adequate space was initiated.

In the fall of 1989, Judith Branzburg resigned and Pat Reville was hired as part-time Interim Coordinator.  A large broad-based group of students, faculty, staff and administrators joined to work together as the ad hoc Sexual Assault Task Force and to plan Trinity's first Sexual Assault Awareness Week.  Diane Martell was hired in January of 1990 as the new full-time coordinator (10 month position).

Despite the rapid changes in coordinators in the past year, the loss of many activists in TWO and TGLBA (graduation), the addition of several new members to the coordinating committee, and the appointment of a new Trinity College President, the Center continued in it's tradition of advocacy and programming for women in 1989-90.  The Center assisted in producing the alumni celebratory conference, Co-Education at Trinity:  Women Making a Difference; provided support to two new student groups, Students for Choice and Students for Equality (residential student group); provided space and refreshments for the annual conference of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Hartford Women; co-sponsored readings by Margaret Randall and Michelle Cliff; and assisted in the planning of Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days.  The student coordinated peer education program was developed and implemented.  The Center actively involved fraternity and sorority members in women's issues by including them in the activities of the Sexual Assault Task Force and sponsoring a workshop at Kappa Kappa Gamma on "Sex, Alcohol and Stereotypes".

After a successful nine years as the Director of the Women's Center, Diane Martell left for the position of Director of the First Year Programs at Trinity. In the fall of 1998, Laura R. Lockwood was hired. Laura received her Masters in Public Policy from Trinity College in 1995, and hailed from the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), where she served as Education Director.

The Center continued many of the same programs and  student groups, and added a few more: the Safe Zone Program (see link); the Women's Reading Group, and the Big Sister/Little Sister Program (see link), in collaboration with the First Year Program.  With the departure of Marilyn Cardone, the Sexual Assault Counselor, in 2000, Laura assumed her duties, and has since then worked hard in collaboration with varied student groups, administrators and faculty to stengthen SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), and increase reporting.  In addition, she is the College's sexual harassment and assault trainer, and annually trains new supervisors, faculty, and student leaders.  The Center also recently developed a new Sexual Harasment brochure for students, as well as staff, faculty and administration.

In the fall of 2003, the Women's Center had a retreat to formulate a new mission statement, and to plan an agenda and strategy for the coming year. The following is the Women's Center current Mission Statement:

"The Women's Center is a place of advocacy, support, and welcome for all members of the Trinity community. Through educational, social and cultural programming, it seeks to promote women's self-determination and empowerment; awareness of women's rights and issues; redress of gender inequities; understanding among women of different economic classes, cultural backgrounds, and sexual identities; and the creation of a campus environment conducive to repectful interaction between women and men."

In 2003, Laura put the Women's Center library of 850 volumes on-line, as part of the State Library ReQuest website, available to the entire state. The Women's Center 's walls became pink:) over the summer of 2004, and finally upgraded to a decent sized TV/VCR/DVD for movie nights and educational programming in fall, 2004.  In 2006, after much deliberation and discussion with students, the Women's Center became WGRAC - Women & Gender Resource Action Center- to reflect WGRAC's work in serving the entire Trinity community. In 2008, WGRAC received funding from Trinity to hire a part-time Assistant to the Director.

Currently, WGRAC employs a part-time Assistant to the Director and five student staff; many volunteers, and an Coordianting Committee, who work hard to serve the campus through activism, advocacy, counseling and community building. Please visit the links to the many WGRAC organizations and publications we sponsor, as well as our Calendar of Events to learn about our current operations.