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Dr. Janet Sharistanian

With much sadness we announce that he founding director of KU Women's Studies, Janet Sharistanian, emerita professor of English, died on 6 February.  

Without Janet there would not be the department we're all part of.  When the February Sisters demanded a Women's Studies program, Janet, then an assistant professor, stepped up to head the program. She had been chairing an ad hoc committee of feminist scholars who met in her home, so seemed like a good choice.  With a tenacious spirit (always punching above her tiny stature) and commitment to high academic standards she made it happen -- teaching the first interdisciplinary Women’s Studies course with Shirley Harkess, attracting the NWSA annual conference to KU in 1979, and, as Coordinator of Women’s Studies between 1972-76 is widely credited for its initial success both on the local and national level.  She served as the Director of KU’s Research Institute on Women between 1979 – 83 and was instrumental in securing a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support the 1980 Summer Research Institute on Women’s Public Lives. The Institute’s research was published in two-volumes, Gender, Ideology and Action:  Historical Perspectives on Women’s Public Lives (1986) and Beyond the Public/Domestic Dichotomy:  Contemporary Perspectives on Women’s Public Lives (1987). 

Janet regularly taught Women Writers and Feminist Theory in the English department and, stemming from her research interests, won support for and directed five NEH summer seminars on American Women as Writers:  Wharton and Cather.  She won many teaching awards including the Outstanding Woman Teacher Award and Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award. 

In 1983-84, the University of Southern California invited Janet to direct a theme Year in Gender and Scholarship.  In 1995, Janet and Ann Schofield co -directed a Faculty Research Seminar on Gender as Concept and Method which developed into the now oldest continuing research seminar at the Hall Center, the Gender Seminar.

Late in her long and distinguished career, Janet said that of all she accomplished, what she was most proud of was founding the Women’s Studies program.  We can say that we are equally proud of her.

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