Nine years after the start of coeducation, Bowdoin gave women students a house to call their own. This section explores the opening and early years of the Women’s Resource Center.
In the fall of 1980, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) opened at 24 College Street. This little brown house was to serve as the new headquarters of the Bowdoin Women’s Association (BWA), as a wider social space, as a dorm for ten women, and as a home for a collection of materials by and about women. The small brown house on College Street became a designated safe space for Bowdoin women on campus – something that had, in a variety of ways, been missing since co-education began.
Over the years, the women of the BWA and the Women’s Resource Center Collective worked to educate and build community around women’s issues. These women claimed space for themselves on campus by making their voices heard. Distributing informational handbooks for Bowdoin women, holding alternative educational opportunities, building up the center’s library, publishing social activism publications, working in coalition with other progressive groups on campus, bringing singer and activist Holly Near to campus, and issuing a brochure of anonymous sexual harassment stories were just a few of the ways these women spoke up in the first years of the Center.
Other students on campus did not always appreciate these women’s concerns or advocacy. Women at the Center received harassing phone calls, stalking scares, written attacks in the college newspaper, and one kerosene-rag attempt to set fire to the little brown house. Nevertheless, they prevailed, and over the years the WRC has continued to provide safe space for female students, queer students, and students seeking a variety of alliances with other students and groups.