A momentous event occurred in 1972: the Women’s Center was founded. Originally called the Women’s Resource Service, it began with a $2,500 grant in the fall of 1971 and officially opened with an open-house event on March 1, 1972.
“The Women’s Center has survived partly because of the institutional commitment from UMKC,” Women’s Center Director Brenda Bethman said.
Because of this support, the Women’s Center is the second oldest in the Midwest behind Minnesota, and one of the oldest in the country.
“Many of the centers that started in the ‘70s didn’t make it,” Bethman said.
Bethman attributes a majority of the success of the women’s center to volunteers as well as great partnerships in the surrounding community like that of the former alumni and organizations like Kansas City Modern Quilt and The Roasterie.
There are many events focused on celebrating this historic anniversary spread throughout the academic year. The first is Saturday, Oct. 1 with Quilts on the Quad, featuring more than 200 quilts that have been created by local artists as well as members of Kansas City Modern Quilt organization. There will also be an open house to kick off the year-long celebration. Attendees will be invited to learn about the history of the Women’s Center, hear about upcoming events and sample the custom coffee blend created by The Roasterie in honor of the 40th anniversary.
“The quilt unveiling at the Kauffman Center is what I’m looking forward to the most,” Women’s Center work study Emily Mathis said. “It will be great to have the event in a brand new building and to see amazing work of both men and women’s stories come together. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Mathis is a junior majoring in history with a concentration in women’s studies, and has worked at the Women’s Center as a work study since January 2010.
The Women’s Center focuses on three main areas of awareness that are important for both women and the university. These are the Her Art Project, Women in (STEM), Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields and Violence Prevention.
“Though these are our main focus areas, we still co-sponsor events like book discussions as well as important issues like body image,” Assistant Director Arzie Umali said.
Though some issues that women faced in the 70s have changed, several remain the same. These include “pay equity, sexual assault and violence, and equity in the arts,” according to Bethman and Umali. They also said newer issues include body image and eating disorders, which have become more problematic.
These are just a few of the topics that the Women’s Center are involved in and been since the establishment of the Women’s Resource Service in 1971.
“For me, the Vagina Monologues in the spring semester is one of the biggest events, and the Gala will measure up to that,” Mathis said. “But all Women’s Center events tend to be fun and energizing and make you want to go out and change the world.”
The celebration of the anniversary will have several events up through April 20, the last event being the Anniversary Gala. The gala will include a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and drinks, as well as music provided by the Barclay Martin ensemble, which will performing a song written in honor of the 40th anniversary. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Women’s Center.
To find out more about the Women’s Center’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and the events taking place this year go to: www.umkc.edu/womenc/40thanniversary or stop by the office in Haag Hall, Room 105.