Women’s Guide Makes Debut

Book published after 1.5 year delay

After a year and a half delay and a nearly $14,000 budget, The Women’s Guide to Harvard made its unexpected debut in students’ door-boxes over the weekend.

The guide, a student-written and edited compendium of resources for women at Harvard, was originally slated to be distributed at fall registration in 2000 but was delayed twice—first until registration of the following year, and then indefinitely.

After so many delays, the guide’s publication last week surprised even those who were involved in the project’s initial phases.

Margaret W. Elias ’02, who helped edit the guide, said “it was a total surprise” to find it in her door box this weekend.

“After we handed in our stuff, everyone was confused as to what was happening,” Elias said.

Many of the editors who were originally leaders of the guide have since graduated and washed their hands of the project. Even editors who are still undergraduates, like Elias, have lost track of its progress.

Several students said they were unimpressed with the guide because of its incomplete distribution and the anticlimactic nature of its arrival mid-year and long after its orginal distribution date.

Claudia J. Cyganowski ’02, who also helped edit the guide, said the book’s publication was “news to me.”

Several leaders of campus women’s groups, including Seneca President Alison E. Fisher ’02 and Julia H. Fawcett ’04, one of the founders of the Athena Theatre Company, said this weekend that they had not yet seen a copy. Both groups are profiled in the guide.

Kate Richey ’03, a guide editor and co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Project, which published the book, said that dorm crew was responsible for distributing the guide to each of the Houses. She added that a copy was placed in each first-year’s mailbox on Thursday.

While Richey acknowledged that the mid-year distribution is not ideal, she said she, guide Editor Peggy Lim ’01 and Director of the Ann Radcliffe Trust Karen E. Avery ’87 decided to go ahead with distribution rather than waiting any longer.

The Trust was one of the principle sponsors of the book.

The Radliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Committee on Degrees in Women’s Studies, the Institute of Politics and the Women’s Leadership Project also contributed funds.

Despite the publications delays, Avery said she thinks the effort was worthwhile—but does not think the guide will be updated annually.

“It’s a lasting guide so it’s not something you have to update every year,” she said.

Richey concurred, saying the cost and production time were too high for annual production. Instead, the current guide will be distributed to the Class of 2006 in the fall, possibly with a supplement, she said.

The 271-page guide is divided into five sections, including a detailed history of the Radcliffe Institute, a roundtable discussion between current leaders of female final clubs and sororities and a list of on- and off-campus health resources.

It also features interviews with Radcliffe Dean Drew Gilpin Faust, Juliet Schor, a former women’s studies professor, and Lani Guinier ’71, the first black woman to be tenured at Harvard Law School.

Julia G. Fox, acting director of the Ann Radcliffe Trust during Avery’s maternity leave, said she thinks there is something

in the guide for everyone.

Fox said she had already been approached by a student who was suprised by the small percentage of women in certain concentrations, information contained in the guide.

“That surprised me,” Fox said. “I wouldn’t necessarily think it would be the one fact a student would mention after picking it up. To me, every student who picks it up is going to browse through it.”

Natalia A.J. Truszkowska ’04, president of the Radcliffe Union of Students, said she impressed by the “multiplicity of voices” in the Guide.

“I really appreciate the fact that they tried to get it from all sides,” Truszowska said. “They didn’t limit it to feminist women. They created a product that is of interest to all women on campus.”

—Staff writer Anne K. Kofol can be reached at kofol@fas.harvard.edu.