Celebrating Trailblazers and Scholars Who Amplify Women’s History

February 28, 2022

From the first dean to the first graduate, the Graduate Center was shaped by women trailblazers.

Women's History Month Listicle 2022
GC women trailblazers: (top row, from left) Nantasha Williams, Mina Rees, Wendy Barrales, (bottom row, from left) Elena Romero, Sara C. Flowers, Michelle Millar Fisher.

Women’s History Month gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many female trailblazers at the Graduate Center and our scholars who are illuminating and amplifying the important and often untold stories of women.


Mina Rees
Mina Rees

Mina Rees first broke barriers as a mathematician who led the math department at the Office of Naval Research, then became the first dean of the Graduate Center in 1962. She also made history by becoming the first woman president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Barbara Stern

Just three years after the Graduate Center was founded, Barbara B. Stern (Ph.D. ’65, English) was the first woman and one of only two members of the inaugural graduating class to be hooded. She was also pregnant, and the graduation ceremony was moved up by a month because of her impending due date.  


Nantasha Williams

Ph.D. candidate Nantasha Williams (Social Welfare) was elected to the New York City Council, which, for the first time in history, is made up of a majority of women. An activist for issues impacting women and girls, Williams also founded the New York City Black Women’s Political Club in 2019.  


Close crop portrait of Mande Holford

Professor Mandë Holford (GC/Hunter, Biochemistry, Biology, and Chemistry) made CUNY history last month when she became the first CUNY professor to be named an Allen Distinguished Investigator. With the distinction, Holford and her research partner, Li Zhao of The Rockefeller University, received $1.5 million to study immunity and its evolution. 


Ph.D. candidate Brenna McCaffrey (Anthropology) talked to The Thought Project podcast about her research into the history of the relentless campaign for legal abortions in Ireland. Her research influenced her decision to become an abortion rights activist via TikTok after the passage of the Texas abortion ban in September 2021. 


Ph.D. student Rachel B. Tiven  (History) started the @DailySuffragist social media project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and now, at the Graduate Center, is deepening her knowledge of the movement for women’s full citizenship in the United States


Wendy Barrales

Ph.D. student Wendy Barrales (Urban Education), is the founder of Women of Color Archive (WOCArchive), a “storytelling project that seeks to preserve the stories of our matriarchs, femmes, and non-binary folks of color.” 


Ronnie Ancona and her latest book

In their new book, Ronnie Ancona (GC/Hunter, Classics) and her former student Georgia Tsouvala (Ph.D. ’08, Classics) reflect and build upon Distinguished Professor Emerita Sarah Pomeroy’s landmark study, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, which has been described as one of the first English academic books on women’s history in any period


Elena Romero

Ph.D. student Elena Romero (Urban Education) is a correspondent and producer of Latinas on CUNY TV and is co-editing a book on the history of hip-hop style


Kayla Reece

As an editorial assistant at WSQ, master’s student Kayla Reece (Women’s and Gender Studies) is working on the 50th anniversary issue that celebrates 50 years of feminism at the journal and 50 years of feminist archives


Ralph Bunche Institute research scholar Ellen Chesler talks to Rachel Vogelstein, the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, about the advancements of women in terms of economics and family planning since the advent of International Women’s Day as a global celebration in the 1970s.  


Ph.D. candidate Michelle Millar Fisher and the cover of her book, Designing Motherhood

Ph.D. candidate Michelle Millar Fisher (Art History) explains how her book Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births was inspired in part by the breast pump and its role in hidden labor, “designed often by men, but made for women to do three things at once, if not more.” 


Elizabeth L. Block standing outside with book

In her new book, alumna Elizabeth L. Block (Ph.D. ’11, Art History) explores how newly wealthy American women, the daughters and wives of late 19th-century industrialists, were a fashion force during a pivotal time in U.S. history


Sara C. Flowers; Photo: Sara C. Flowers

Alumna Sara C. Flowers (D.P.H. ‘16) talks to the Alumni Aloud podcast about working for the 100-year-old reproductive rights organization Planned Parenthood, her journey as a sex educator, and how other graduate students can get into the field.   

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing