1971: The UMKC Women’s Center has been in existence for over 35 years, originally founded as the Women’s Resource Center in 1971 as a part of the Division of Continuing Education with a grant of $2,500 from the University Associates. It was housed in the bottom floor of a house pm Charlotte Street which also included the Psychology Department. Kay Waldo (later Barnes) was hired as the first part-time coordinator.
1976: The Women’s Resource Center was moved to the Division of Students Affairs because so many female non-traditional students had returned to school. The Women’s Resource Center had received high public visibility and continued to meet the needs of the community, however, the Center still lacked the resources and time to develop a campus-based program. Many faculty and staff continued to push for more support for women students on campus.
1981: A survey of women students’ needs entitled, “Creating Change for College Women,” was sponsored by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Gary Widmar. The study revealed that female students’ concerns included career counseling, attitudes of faculty and staff, scheduling of classes, and child care. In addition, they wanted a place to gather on an urban campus where women could feel less isolated. The report was taken to Chancellor George Russell and a committee was created by Jeannette Lee, a community volunteer, to study the report. Interviews were conducted and recommendations were made. The task force’s recommendation was the need for a physical space and expanded staff and resources. The recommendations were accepted with very little opposition by then Chancellor George Russell even though there was a scarcity of resources at the time. Many of the women who served on Jeannette Lee’s task force were asked to be on a Chancellor’s Advisory Board to the Women’s Center which reported directly with Chancellor Russell. As time progressed the Advisory Board became larger. Carol Bayreader hired as the first director.
1983: Ruth Margolin hired as director. Ruth went on to serve as Director for 15 years, retiring in 1998. Under her leadership, Women on the Move continued and expanded, and the Women’s Leadership Institute was founded.
1993: The first Start Symposium is held, named after Martha Jane Starr and funded by the Family Study Center Endowment. It should be the first Starr Symposium.
1994: In 1994, strategic planning was conducted around the use of the Board. The conclusion was that more faculty representatives needed to be added. Additional appointments were made and the Board included a faculty member form each of the schools. This brought Board participation up to 50 members. Focus then shifted under the leadership of Mary Kay McPhee to make the Board a working board with committee assignments and delineated tasks.
1995: The Women’s Center moved to 105 Haag Hall, where it still resides. Led by board member “Corky” Pfieffer, the UMKC Women’s Center was painted a coral color, and complete furnishings, including a board room and built-in bookcases to house the library were finished.
1997:The Women’s Center, Women’s Council and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program form the UMKC Women’s Collaborative.
1998: Ruth Margolin, longest-serving director of the Women’s Center retires, and Linda Rodriquez, Assistant Director, takes the role of director.
2002: Linda Rodriguez retires. The UMKC Women’s Center programming is almost non-existent. Many community members believe that the Women’s Center has ceased to exist. Jane Wood, Ph.D., faculty member at Baker University, is hired to lead the UMKC Women’s Center in Spring of 2002.
2003: The LGBT Office is established and begins to serve LGBT students under the director of the Women’s Center.
2005: The LGBT Office, which had been established under the Women’s Center, moves to the Student Life Office.
2005:Throughout the history of the Women’s Center, a collaborative relationship has existed with the Women’s Bureau, Department of Labor. Through this relationship and programming geared towards working women, focus groups were created and indicated that a growing need for women was leadership skill development. The Women’s Bureau sponsored a Black Women Leaders Conference that the Women’s Center hosted in April 2006 with a start-up grant from Skillbuilders Fund.
2005:The Women’s Center was repainted and newly furnished, made possible by a gift from Barbara Pendleton’s estate. The mission centered on creating social justice events for students, staff, faculty, and community members, leadership institutes, and violence prevention programming.
2007: Brenda Bethman is hired as Director of the Women’s Center after Jane Wood’s departure for a position at Park University. In spring 2007, the Director and Advisory Board engaged in a strategic planning process, resulting in a re-focusing of the Center’s mission, programs, and services. New Board guidelines are also established.
2011-12: The Women’s Center celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a series of programs and projects.