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Monday, October 2, 2023


Prof advocates women’s rights

Elizabeth Gregory, director of the Women’s Studies Program and one of Houston Woman Magazine’s most influential women of the year, has an extensive radius of influence in the women’s study community.

Gregory, who is also an English professor, started as director of the Women’s Studies Program in 1995, and has authored two books and numerous articles focusing on women in addition to creating a collection of records dealing with women’s issues.

As the director of the Women’s Studies Program, Gregory also hosts the annual Table Talk Luncheon, which brings 50 women from different fields together to celebrate the impact of women’s work on the community.

"I’ve met with women politicians, astronauts, film directors and a Nobel Peace Prize winner," Gregory said.

"The importance of women’s work is hidden – they nationally have lower wages, but even the work of mothers raising workers and impacting the economy isn’t very much recognized."

Gregory began delving into women’s studies when analyzing gender roles in poetry for her first book Quotations and Modern American Poetry: "Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads," published in 1996.

"In the early part of the 20th century it became popular to put direct quotes in lyrics," Gregory said. "The book explores the works of modernist poets such as T.S. Elliott, Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams."

Gregory has since worked to create an interactive dialogue over women’s issues with the Women’s Studies program at UH.

"The Women’s Studies Program has an active arm called Friends of Women’s Studies," Gregory said. "It’s a really great group of people who stay in dialogue about women’s issues, and it speaks to a wide audience."

Friends of Women’s Studies extends off-campus as well, and the work its members do on women’s issues contributes to the Women’s Studies Program. One of the panels they held discussed the trend of women waiting longer to have children, which helped inspire Gregory’s second book, Ready: Why Women are Embracing the New Later Motherhood.

"Both my assistant and I started our families later than our mothers had, so we planned a panel to explore why this is happening," Gregory said. "I started doing research, and it was absorbing because it was mainly in disciplines other than English. It was more like a sociology project."

The research she conducted revealed a number of women’s issues, including how new mothers balance work and motherhood. One of the concerns raised, the failure of most businesses to adequately accommodate the needs of new mothers, led Gregory to work toward bringing public attention to that.

"We held a conference called ‘Drive Family Friendly,’" she said. "Texas isn’t a particularly family-friendly state, and only the state can change the rules in the workplace. We want to raise awareness – this will only change if people talk about it."

To further the studies of women’s issues, Gregory developed the Women’s Archive and Research Center, a collection that compiles the records and personal papers of women from 40 different organizations.

"One of the organizations that have records in our library is the Houston Area Women’s Center," Gregory said. "It’s a shelter for domestic violence. It not only provides women with a place to go, but also works in preventing abuse in the home."

Created in 1996, the archive is located in M.D. Anderson Memorial Library and is open to the public.

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