The Women

The Women’s 1969 Sociology Caucus, Sociologists for Women in Society and the ASA:

A Forty Year Retrospective of Women on the Move,


By Pamela Ann Roby
Department of Sociology, University of California – Santa Cruz

To really understand the meaning of the Women’s Sociology Caucus held forty years ago at Glide Memorial Church and the San Francisco Hilton, one needs a sense of what life was like for women in sociology before 1969. When I began graduate school in 1964, there was no SWS – Sociologists for Women in Society. There were no ASA or regional sociological association Committees on the Status of Women. There were no women on the ASA’s eleven member Executive Committee or thirty member Council, and this was not a new occurrence. There were no sociology classes on women. There were less than a handful of sociological books and articles written on women over the past thirty years. There was no ASA Section on Sex and Gender, and no International Sociological Association Research Committee 32 on Women in Society. There was no journal on Gender & Society. And there appeared, to those of us who talked about this back then, to be little place for women at the ASA’s annual meetings except as companions of men. At least as importantly, there was simply no place for the discussion of women’s issues; and no organized audience for papers, articles and books on the sociological study of either women or gender.

Furthermore, the expanding market for sociologists and the growth of the ASA, failed to open doors for women in our field.[2] Within the larger context of the Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement, we turned to organizing.


The ’69 Sociology Women’s Caucus

I remember well the September 1969 Women’s Caucus. A dozen UC Berkeley women graduate students had obtained a room, not at the ASA hotel, the San Francisco Hilton – the ASA wouldn’t let us meet there, but in the basement of Glide Memorial Church nearby. Once there, I felt lucky to have learned of the meeting that I had not heard of before leaving NYU for San Francisco. Anticipation filled the room. I’m not good at estimating numbers, but Carol Brown recalls about 200 of us being there (p. 47).

Our senior colleagues, Gertrude Jaeger Selznick and Alice Rossi told us personal stories about their experiences as women and wives in the profession. Gertrude was at the time a Lecturer without stipend in the Berkeley Department of Sociology, a position to which she had been appointed in 1967 after years as a Research Associate at and the mainstay of the UC, Berkeley, Survey Research Center (Jaeger, 1; Robert Bellah, 1; Blauner, Hochschild and Lowenthal, 131). Growing up, “In high school Gertrude [had been] forced to wrap her school books under plain covers so that her mother who wanted her to be a secretary might not know she was taking mathematics. Finding her family climate intellectually too confining, “she left home at seventeen, supporting herself through secretarial and similar work, and taking college courses at night” (Blauner, Hochschild, and Lowenthal, p. 130). At the caucus meeting, Dr. Selznick appeared glad to see the organizing that was taking place and the possibility of a new reality for women.  Three years later in 1972, she was the first woman elected “president of the Pacific Sociological Association and moved quickly to establish” a P.S.A. Committee on the Status of Women (Philip Selznick quoted in Bellah,” 1979, 1; cf. Gertrude J. Selznick 1969).

Along with the personal sharing of stories that was a bonding experience, Berkeley graduate students who called themselves radical feminists gave us tips for obtaining jobs as well as their perspectives on the profession. Knowing that I would be going on the job market during the coming year, I absorbed their advice including how to sit in order to look confident during job interviews. I also knew that I would continue with this group in one way or another for the rest of my life.

Like me, Arlene Kaplan Daniels was in the audience. Then an assistant professor at S.F. State, Arlene, who was to become a friend, recalls, “I became intensely involved in the outpouring of emotion by the speakers, who talked about their difficulties in finishing their studies and finding careers against the odds of institutionalized and explicit sexism. …. Suddenly, I recognized the larger pattern in all the slights, snubs, omissions, and patronizing acts that I had shrugged off as my paranoia or my just desserts. …. I resolved to help younger women, to protect them against the systematic frustration and neglect that I had experienced” (36).

Next, Alice Rossi reported on her recent study of the representation or rather the lack or representation of women within graduate sociology faculties (1970). As planned, we in the room finalized and approved a “Women’s Caucus Statement and Resolutions.” We presented these to the ASA’s General Business meeting September 3rd. The statement read in part:  

We have already gathered the empirical facts concerning the distribution of women among students and faculty of graduate sociology departments. What we seek is effective and dramatic action: an unbiased policy in the selection of stipend support of students; a concerted commitment to the hiring and promotion of women sociologists to right the imbalance that is represented by the current situation in which 67 percent of the women graduate students in this country do not have a single woman sociology professor of senior rank during the course of their graduate training, and when we participate in an association of sociologists in which NO woman will sit on the 1970 council, NO woman is included among the associate editors of the American Sociological Review, or the advisory board of the American Journal of Sociology, and NO woman sits on the committees on publications and nominations.

We urge (t)hat every sociology department give priority to the hiring and promotion of women faculty until the proportion and rank distribution of women faculty at least equals the sex ratio among graduate students with a long-range goal of increasing the proportion of women among graduate students. In working toward such a goal, this must supplement rather than detract from department efforts to train, hire, and promote black and Third World personnel and students.

Although a day later we scattered ourselves around the ASA business meeting of over 600 and were prepared to stare down anyone who spoke against our resolutions, the latter action was not needed. Someone quickly called the question. All the nonvoting members and all but two of the voting members endorsed the spirit of the resolutions. Shortly after the meeting, the ASA Council did the same. It also urged all sociology departments to study the resolutions, which it voted to publish along with the “Women’s Caucus Statement” as part of the convention proceedings in The American Sociologist.

I later learned more about how the UCB women graduate students, Pauline Bart and Alice Rossi came to organize the 1969 Women’s Caucus meetings. Arlie Hochschild called the UC Berkeley sociology women together in meetings that were precursors to the Caucus. She recalls:

In 1968, I was a [graduate student] instructor in the [UC Berkeley Sociology] department, with a master’s degree three years behind me. A series of women had come into my office in the fall of that year, each talking casually about dropping out of graduate school. When one highly able student, Alice Abarbinal, said she planned to drop out, I remember dropping what I was doing. Why would Alice drop out? …. It was one of those grains of sand that made me question the universe. A week later, after talking with friends, I invited women graduate students to my apartment on Virginia Street. Besides Alice – who did eventually drop out to become a psychotherapist—those who came included Judy Gavin, Dair Gillespie, Sue Greenwald, Suellen Hungtinton, Carol Joffe, Ann Lefler, Anita Micossi, Margaret (later Rivka) Polotnick, Marijean Suelzle, and Ann Swidler. The late Gertrude Jaeger, then a lecturer in the department, [also] came to that first meeting….”

That evening, we sat in a circle on the living room floor, drank coffee and beer, ate a lot of potato chips, and felt a certain excitement. I remember asking whether there was some problem we shared as women that is causing us to become discouraged. One by one we went around the circle: “No.” “No.” “No.” [the women replied and then went on to describe issues they were confronting.] “No one hinted that there might be a link between these issues, dropping out, and being a woman. I remember turning to a friend and confiding, ‘Never mind, we tried.” But after adjourning the meeting, a curious thing happened: no one left. Two hours later, graduate students were huddled in animated groups, buzzing about professors, courses, housing, boyfriends. An invisible barrier had disappeared.

Apart from Gertrude Jaeger [who was a lecturer], no professors in our department were women. Yet a fifth of the graduate students were women, hoping one day to become professors. How was this to happen? That was the question our meeting allowed us to unbury. After that first meeting, we met periodically for several years. (135-136)

Across the country, after working for fifteen years in various research positions, Alice Rossi at age 47 was about to assume her first academic faculty position as an associate professor at Goucher College (1988, p. 47). She was already an active feminist scholar. In the early sixties, as Alice later wrote, she had had her “first consciously defined experience with sex discrimination” when a University of Chicago Professor of Anthropology seeing “a good thing in a study” she had designed, supervised the field work for and begun to analyze, fired her as a research associate days after the National Science Foundation funded the proposal she had drafted (1990, p. 308; 1988, p. 45). Alice’s resulting burn inspired her first sociological study of gender and first feminist publication,” the ovarial 1964 Daedalus article, “Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal” (1990, p. 309). Withstanding collegial warnings against her doing so, she also plunged “into abortion law reform in Illinois” in 1960 (Rossi, 1985, p. 2) and founding NOW [the National Organization for Women] with twenty other women in 1966” (Rossi, 1990, p. 309).

That spring of 1969, Pauline Bart among others wrote Alice proposing they “do” something about the status of women in sociology by organizing “some kind of political action at the annual meetings in San Francisco that summer” (Bart p. 6). They wrote Alice because they did not want to see a repetition of colleagues’ sexist laughter that occurred when Cynthia Epstein recommended at the 1968 ASA business meeting that ASA address discrimination against women. During the next months Alice prepared for some action by designing, conducting, and analyzing a survey of sociology department chairpersons on the gender distribution of their graduate students and faculty at all ranks.[3] The survey had a 78 percent response rate. With the results in hand, correspondence flew back and forth between Berkeley and Baltimore in preparation for the August 1969 meeting. In Berkeley, graduate students made posters with long lists of departments with NO women on their faculty to compare with the much shorter lists of “good” departments; fact sheets for ASA Committee meeting rooms showing the proportion of women on the given committee over the last several years, usually a big ZERO; and summary reports of the survey on graduate departments. We used all these resources to good effect at the ‘69 meetings.

In contrast to the Glide meeting, Alice has recalled other Women’s Caucus actions such as the following that were challenging.

… we had requested and been denied any meeting space for the Women’s Caucus, which I made known at a meeting at Glide Church (across the street from the Hilton, where meetings of the Berkeley Women’s Sociology Caucus and the Radical Women’s Caucus of the Sociology Liberation Movement were held that year). The Glide Church group decided to “force” the issue by insisting on access to a large ballroom (scheduled for lunchtime roundtables) “or else” we would hold such a meeting on the ground floor lobby of the hotel. This would have triggered the hotel to call in the local police, a tactic ASA agreed to in order to keep the proceeding as orderly as possible under the politically charged atmosphere that year. President [Ralph] Turner reluctantly agreed to the demand for a large ball room, reluctantly because it meant cancelling the session for roundtable discussions in the regular program. It was a memorable occasion on many counts. The room had been cleared of round tables and chairs, so those who came to the caucus meeting sat on the floor, while around the walls were less sympathetic observers who came to participate in roundtable discussions that did not take place. I chaired that meeting, aware of and sympathetic toward our speakers, who spoke about the position of women at various stages of a sociological career (1985, 3).

Ann Leffler, who was among those at the early meeting in Arlie’s Berkeley living room, and Lucy Sells, whose UCB sociology dissertation data showed that the number of graduate women who dropped out of the UCB sociology department decreased after they formed a caucus, discussed that of women graduate students. Arlie Hochschild and Barbara Laslett represented women in first academic positions. Marlene Dixon and Alice represented those in later stages of their academic careers (Rossi 1985, 3).

Frustrated, one of the sociologists who had not been able to present his roundtable paper, later in the day “literally spat” in Alice’s face “as he furiously rejected our ‘women-libber’ action”. His spitting was only one of a number of equally flagrant although varied reactions “colleagues” directed at Alice (1985, 3).


Solidifying Our Efforts

A year after the 1969 Women’s Caucus, I myself remember many of us who were at the Caucus again meeting at the ASA, this time in Washington, D.C. where others joined us. We debated what to call our group and very deliberately, and at long length, decided to call ourselves Sociologists for Women in Society so that our organization could include all feminist sociologists, men as well as women; and so that our goals would not be limited to the liberation of women in sociology but extend to the liberation of all women. We also wrote petitions to create the ASA Committee on the Status of Women in Sociology and the ASA Section on Sex Roles as well as deciding to hold a mid-year meeting for the continuance of our work. In that one winter meeting held February 12-14, 1971, thanks largely to Alice Rossi’s circulating model by-laws during the Fall, twenty SWS members finalized by-laws and selected acting officers in an effort to solidify the new organization into one that might have ongoing effectiveness.[4]

I remember quite a different scene at the 1972 ASA meetings in New Orleans. Over a hundred of us SWSers, including Tony Cline, then President of the Russell Sage Foundation, sat in with local NOW members for several days at the convention hotel’s all male lunch room where policy makers often met. Not leaving a stone unturned, we proposed resolutions at the ASA business meeting resulting in a delegation of ASA officers calling on the Monteleone Hotel management to change their policy (J. Milton Yinger, p. 6). September 18th, 1972, the hotel manager responded with a letter, printed in The American Sociologist, that included his stating, “I am very pleased to announce that our management has changed this policy and women will be allowed in all of our public rooms and there will be no discriminatory policies” (Editor, October 1972, p. 6).

SWS participated in other local feminist demonstrations near the ASA meetings as well. I remember our picketing Macy’s in New York City because Macy’s sold Stevens sheets. The Stevens Corporation had held out for over a year against Chicanas striking and pressing for a union and decent working conditions in the Southwest. Later, in 1978, SWS voted to move its August 1980 meeting from Atlanta to a state that had ratified the Equal Rights Amendments. Initially the ASA Council refused to do the same, but then after hours and hours and months of debate, the Council voted to bring the issue to the membership that voted in a mail referendum to withdraw the 1980 meeting from Atlanta. We met in New York (Roby, 1978; Editor ASA Footnotes, 1978). In addition to supporting causes we considered important, our participation in these and other social issues helped us as women sociologists to remember that our daily confrontations with sexism were part of a larger effort.

Within sociology, we organized, organized, organized. We founded new committees and nominated and elected feminists to the executive councils of the ASA and regional professional associations. We set up a model child care program at the 1972 ASA meeting and challenged the Association to do the same in the future (Howe et al). We taught our colleagues about the importance of gender neutral language and having diverse intellectual orientations represented on editorial boards. (American Sociological Association 36-7).

We much improved the quality of ASA Annual Meetings for ourselves, by creating the SWS room where we could and still do drop by at any time to find, meet and relax with other women sociologists and a few feminist men. We also taught ourselves many skills by exchanging information in “SWS How To Sessions.” Each winter we came and continue to come together for the SWS “Mid-Year” meeting that is part party, part formal meeting and always a time of much informal sharing (cf. Lorber). Through SWS and/or the ISA Research Committee 32 on Women in Society, dozens of us also met with and learned from women in Bulgaria, Cuba, China and elsewhere (Hunt). We networked, formed the SWS Job Market Committee and SWS Job List, and encouraged the ASA to develop a fuller “Employment Bulletin” modeled after our own as well as to conduct audits of women and minorities in sociology departments.

We launched local and regional SWS chapters, and engaged in promotion struggles. Not days of struggle, but months and months and sometimes years and thousands of dollars of effort. There were successful cases involving not only the promotion but the tenuring of women faculty. These included those of Arlie Hochschild at UC Berkeley in the ‘seventies and Nancy Stoller Shaw at UC Santa Cruz, my own institution, in the ‘eighties (Linden).


Achievements and Ongoing Action

Much has been accomplished. Today 40 years following the 1969 caucuses and 38 since the founding of SWS, through our pressing for changes in the ASA and sociology, much work, and the will to stand up and to keep standing until we were heard, we now have:

  • ASA and regional annual meeting sessions on an array of issues related to women,
  • a considerable and still growing body of published feminist sociological research,
  • feminist theorizing (Ferree, et al.) and courses on the sociology of women,
  • an increase in the number of women heading the ASA from one in its first sixty-eight years to eleven over the past thirty-six.[5]This year, 2009, Patricia Hill-Collins, the ASA’s 100th president, is the first woman of color to serve in this position. At the conclusion of these meetings, Evelyn Nakano Glenn will be its second.[6]
  • the ASA regularly collecting and publishing information on the status of women in sociology (Spalter-Roth and Risman); 
  • The percentage of sociology graduate faculty members who are women increased from 9 percent in 1970 to 48 percent in 2007 (Roby 28; Spalter-Roth and Scelza).[7]


We also have:

  • The ASA Sections on Sex and Gender, and on Race, Gender and Class;
  • the ASA Jessie Bernard Award in recognition of scholarly work on women in society (Bernard; Martin; Roby 2004) as well as dissertation, paper and book section awards;
  • the SWS e-list and journal Gender & Society;
  • the SWS political issue targets, currently universal health care in the United States, with an ever expanding wiki and sessions among other action components (Sherwood); and
  • SWS itself which made much of this possible, and which continues to press for better conditions for women inside and outside of sociology.[8]



Since 1969 a sizeable segment of women in sociology and other professions has advanced in rank and income. For many reasons, this is not an unimportant accomplishment.

At the same time, due to legislative and presidential actions, the federal minimum wage effective after this past July 24th increase, is still two dollars and twenty-five cents an hour less in real dollars than it was in 1968, and for this and other reasons, women with incomes and wealth in the lowest deciles of the U.S. income and wealth distributions have significantly less financial resource today than they did in 1969.[9]

What did we learn from our feminist organizing during the ‘sixties and seventies that might be of use today as we and others strive to create a humane, just and sustainable society in the midst of this hurtful, awkwardly collapsing capitalist economy? First, we learned to listen to one another with respect about our personal and professional lives. Arlie Hochschild listened to Alice Abarbinal and then created a space for a dozen Berkeley women sociology graduate students to speak and listen to one another. These Berkeley women and Alice Rossi created a space for a much larger number of us to speak and listen to one another in the basement of Glide Memorial Church and the Hilton Hotel. And SWS among other groups has continued to create spaces for us to do the same. By speaking and listening to one another’s stories, we were, in C. Wright Mills’ words, able to connect our personal troubles to larger social issues affecting women throughout society.

Second, we saw the importance of informing ourselves about and making visible our past and present conditions as women. We did so, for example, by listening to one another as I just described, by conducting surveys and other research concerning the conditions of women in sociology, presenting resolutions at professional business meetings, and creating journals, book series, e-lists, web-sites, and wikis for dissemination of our findings, and publishing in them.

Third, we learned that in order to achieve many goals it is necessary to work collectively. While working together we learned that we could sometimes achieve our explicit goals, but even when we didn’t, in acting together we formed valued friendships and gained knowledge helpful in our next efforts. We also learned that collective actions generally begin with some one individual making a decision to act and acting. I appreciate Arlie’s inviting other Berkeley women graduate students to her home on Virginia Street in 1968 for what was to be the first of ongoing meetings that were precursors to the 1969 Sociology Women’s Caucus and eventually SWS. I appreciate Alice Rossi, who was already parenting three children and preparing for her new full-time teaching job, conducting the first ever study of the status of women in graduate departments of sociology in preparation for the 1969 Sociology Women’s Caucus. I appreciate Pauline Bart writing to Alice suggesting that we call a meeting of a Woman’s Caucus at the next ASA meeting so that we’d no longer have to deal with laughter when calling for an end to discrimination against women. And I appreciate all of us who have contributed since then in a multitude of ways to women’s liberation efforts inside and outside of sociology.

The organizing of women and others during the next decades will differ from that of the past forty, just as the feminist organizing since 1969 differs from that before. But three actions: listening respectfully to one another about each others’ lives; gathering and making visible information about our conditions; and individually deciding to act and inviting others to join us in acting collectively toward the end of achieving shared goals are each likely to be part of effective future efforts.



American Sociological Association, Revised ASA Publications Manual, Washington, D.C.: The American Sociological Association, December 1988, pp. 36-7.

Pauline B. Bart, “Anniversary Remarks and Two Poems,” SWS Network, Vol. XIV, No. 2, November 1985, pp. 6-7.

Robert Bellah, Chairman, “Memo to All Faculty, Staff Graduate Students: Professor Gertrude Jaeger Obituary,” Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, September 4, 1979.

Jessie Bernard, “My Four Revolutions: An Autobiographical History of the ASA,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 4, January 1973, pp. 773-791.

Bob Blauner, Arlie Hochschild and Leo Lowenthal, “Gertrude Jaeger, Sociology: Berkeley, 1915-1979, Professor Emerita,” Calisphere, Internet: California Digital Library, 2007, 130-132.

Carol Brown, “The Early Years of the Sociology Liberation Movement,” Martin Oppenheimer, Martin J. Murray and Rhonda F. Levine (eds.),  Radical Sociologists and the Movement: Experiences, Lessons and Legacies, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, pp. 45-51.

Arlene Kaplan Daniels, “When We Were All Boys Together: Graduate School in the Fifties and Beyond,” in Kathryn P. Meadow Orlans and Ruth Wallace (eds.), Gender and the Academic Experience: Berkeley Women Sociologists, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994, pp. 36-41.

Editor, ASA Footnotes, “Council Debates ERA Issues and Convention Sites,” ASA Footnotes, Vol. 6, No. 5, May 1978, 1, 16.

Editor, The American Sociologist, “The Grilling of the Monteleone,” The American Sociologist,Vol. 7, No. 8, October 1972, p. 6.

Myra Marx Ferree, Shamus Rahman Khan and Shauna A. Morimoto, “Assessing the Feminist Revolution: The Presence and Absence of Gender in Theory and Practice,” in Craig Calhoun (ed.), Sociology in America: A History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Arlie Hochschild, in Kathryn P. Meadow Orlans and Ruth Wallace (eds.), Gender and the Academic Experience: Berkeley Women Sociologists, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994, pp. 135-137.

_____, “Postcript,” The American Sociologist, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1970, pp. 11-12.

Carolyn Howe, Jerry Lembcke, Art Stinchcombe and Carla Howery, “Differing Views on the ASA’s Annual Meeting Child Care Service,” ASA Footnotes, Vol. 16, No. 8, November 1988, p. 6.

Janet Hunt, “SWS Goes to China and Cuba,” SWS Network, Vol. 12, No. 1, October 1981, pp. 1, 19.

Kay Klotzberger, “Chapter 16: Political Action by Academic Women,” in Alice S. Rossi and Ann Calderwood (eds.), Academic Women on the Move, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1973, pp. 359, 375, 376, 379-384.

Heather Laube and Beth Hess, “SWS Activism: A Brief History,” 2001; reprinted in ASA Centennial, January 26, 2005.

Barbara Laslett, “Feminist Sociology in the Twentieth-Century United States: Life Stories in Historical Context,” in Craig Calhoun (ed.), Sociology in America: A History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Robin Rush Linden, “Nancy Shaw Denied Tenure at UC Santa Cruz,” SWS Network, Vol. 13, No. 2, April 1983, pp. 3, 20, 22.

Judith Lorber, “The Mid-Year,” SWS Network, Vol. 12, No. 2, July 1982, pp. 6-7.

C. Wright Mills, “The Promise,” The Sociological Imagination, New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.

Patricia Yancey Martin, “The Significance of the Jessie Bernard Award,” ASA Footnotes, Vol. 37, No. 6, July/August 2009, p. 5

Sandra Morgen, Joan Acker, Jill Weigt and Lisa Gonzales, “Living Economic Restructuring at the Bottom: Welfare Restructuring and Low-Wage Work,” in Keith M. Kilty and Elizabeth A. Segal (eds.), The Promise of Welfare Reform: Political Rhetoric and the Reality of Poverty in the Twenty-first Century, New York: Haworth Press, 2006.

Pamela A. Roby, “ASA Council Rejects Move from Atlanta: Agrees to Referendum,” SWS Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 2, July 1978, p. 3.

_______, “Women and the ASA: Degendering Organizations Structures and Processes, 1964-1974,” The American Sociologist, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring 1992, pp. 18-48.

_______, “Jessie Shirley Bernard,” in Susan D Ware (ed.), Notable American Women, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 51-53.

Alice S. Rossi, “Equality Between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal,” Daedalus, Vol. 93, No. 2, 1964, pp. 607-652.

_______, “Status of Women in Graduate Departments of Sociology, 1968-1969,” The American Sociologist, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1970, pp. 1-12.

_______, “The Formation of SWS: An Historical Account by a Founding Mother,” SWS Network, Vol. XIV, No. 2, November 1985, pp. 2-4.

_______, “Growing Up and Older in Sociology,” in Matilda White Riley (ed.), Sociological Lives, Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 1988, pp. 43-64.

________, “Chapter 13: Seasons of a Woman’s Life,” in Bennett M. Berger (ed.), Authors of Their Own Lives: Intellectual Autobiographies by Twenty American Sociologists, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 301-322.

Lucy Watson Sells, Sex, Ethnic, and Field Differences in Doctoral Outcomes, Berkeley: Department of Sociology Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California – Berkeley, 1975.

Gertrude J. Selznick and Stephen Steinberg, The Tenacity of Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in Contemporary America, New York: Harper and Row, 1969.

Gertrude Jaeger Selznick, “Vita,” University of California, Berkeley, August 1973.

Sherwood, Jessica Holden. “SWS Targets Healthcare Policy as Action Issue,” ASA Footnotes, Vol. 37, No. 6, July/August 2009, p. 4.

Sociology Women’s Caucus, “Women’s Caucus Statement and Resolutions to the General Business Meeting of the American Sociological Association, September 3, 1969,” The American Sociologist, Vol. 5, No. 1 reprinted in Martin Oppenheimer, Martin J. Murray and Rhonda F. Levine (eds.),  Radical Sociologists and the Movement: Experiences, Lessons and Legacies, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, pp. 255-258.

Roberta Spalter-Roth and Barbara Risman, “2004 Report of the American Sociological Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Sociology,” Washington, D.C.: The American Sociological Association, October 22, 2004:

Roberta Spalter-Roth and Janene Scelza, “Women Move up the Faculty Ladder Slowly,” Footnotes, Vol. 36, No. 9, December 2008.

J. Milton Yinger, “Minutes, ASA Council Meeting Wednesday August 10, 1972,” The American Sociologist, Vol. 7, No. 10, December 1972, p. 6.



ASA2009paper.doc @SSSP_ASA @win



[1] A paper presented at The Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, August 8, 2009. I thank Rhonda Levine for suggesting this session, ASA President Patricia Hill Collins for welcoming it in her program, and both for inviting me to give this paper on the 1969 Women’s Caucus and the beginnings of SWS. For more history see Roby 1992 from which portions of this paper are revised and excerpted. Please do not reproduce this paper without permission.

[2] The ASA’s membership doubled between 1950 and 1960 and more than doubled again between 1960 and 1970.

ASA2009paper.doc @SSSP_ASA @win

[3] Alice later observed: “It seemed to me preferable to have the “facts” in advance of any political action, for two reasons: for one, it would help forestall setting up an ASA committee to do this fact-gathering, a step sure to dull the edge and postpone the bit of “doing” something instead of merely “studying” something. Second, I was convinced that a survey would get a higher response rate if it preceded rather than followed political action” (1985, p. 2).

[4] The group enthusiastically chose and Alice agreed to serve as SWS’s first Acting President (Rossi, 1985, p. 3).  In the midst of completing my dissertation and my first year of teaching, I missed this meeting that graduate students Marcia Millman, Michelle Patterson and Lenore Weitzman and Sociology chair Burton Clark hosted at Yale.

[5] Dorothy Swaine Thomas was elected ASA president in 1952.

[6] Mirra Komarovsky (1972-73) was the second woman to serve as ASA president. The membership subsequently elected Alice S. Rossi, Matilda White Riley, Joan Huber, Maureen T. Hallinan, Jill Quadagno, Barbara F. Reskin, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Francis Fox Piven, Patricia Hill-Collins and Evelyn Nakano Glenn (2009-2010) to its highest office. The American Sociological Association was founded in 1905.

[7] In 2007, women earned 64 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in sociology in the United States. Spalter-Roth and Scelza.

[8] The ASA Committee on the Status of Women in Sociology was founded in 1970, and SWS, which included most of the women who had participated in the 1969 Women’s Caucus, was founded in 1971. For a report on SWS’s recent political action see Sherwood.

[9] Welfare restructuring and regressive changes in estate taxes are other examples of legislatively and administratively determined policies that negatively affect women’s standard of living (cf. Morgen et al.). Simultaneously, legislatures, governors and the Bush administration have drastically cut resources for higher education and all forms of social services.