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Audre Geraldine Lorde was the third child of Linda Belmar and Frederic Lorde born on February 18, 1943. Born Audrey, she dropped the "y" from her name while still a child, explaining in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, that she was attracted to the symmetry of the "e" at the end of each name.  Influenced by her mother's love for words and storytelling, Lorde was drawn to poetry and language from a young age. Her schooling began at a Catholic grammar school where she experienced racism and hostility. It was during this time that Lorde first began to develop her literary voice; as a teen she was an active contributor to her school arts magazine and published her first poem in Seventeen magazine. Lorde attended Hunter College (1954-1959) studying Library Science and went on to earn a Master's degree in that subject from Columbia University in 1961. There she met Edwin Ashley Rollins, an attorney, whom she married in 1962. Lorde and Rollins wedding reception took place at Roosevelt House. The couple had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan; they divorced in 1970. In 1968, Lorde was a writer in residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi where she met Frances Clayton, a professor of psychology, who was her partner until 1989.

Mina Shaughnessy, former director of City College's SEEK Program (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) offered Lorde her first position at CUNY. From there, she went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1970 where she fought to build a significant Black Studies program. In 1981, she accepted the Distinguished Thomas Hunter Chair offered by Donna Shalala, then Hunter College's president, where she taught until 1986. Lorde also taught in the Department of English; today an annual prize for undergraduate excellence in poetry and prose is named in her honor. Lorde was a mentor at the Audre Lorde Women's Poetry Center, housed at Roosevelt House in the 1980s-90s prior to its renovation.

In 1980, together with Barbara Smith and Cherrie Moraga, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in order to call attention and make available work by women of color. As a prolific poet, talented teacher and artist, and well known activist, Lorde has been acclaimed as a central figure in the feminist movement. In 1991-92, Lorde was the State Poet of New York.

In the late 1970s, Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy; she died on November 17, 1992 ofliver cancer in St. Croix where she was living with Gloria Joseph. In her own words, she was a "black, lesbian, feminist, mother, warrior, poet"; Lorde's life and career was characterized by her hopeful efforts to establish a better humanity through her teaching, activism, poetry and prose.

This biography is compiled from a number of sources, from entries found at "e-notes",, and from Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching and Learning as well as Clare Coss and Blanch Wiesen Cook's entry in Notable American Women. Special thanks to Thorn in the Department of English for providing some details about Lorde's time teaching at Hunter.



Daniel G. Simmonds, III


Women and Gender Studies Department



About Us

Women and Gender Studies is a relatively new field of study, having been introduced in the 1970s in response to the women's movement of the sixties, which asked that higher education integrate the study of women and gender into the curriculum. Women and Gender Studies at Hunter College is an interdisciplinary academic department that seeks to preserve, expand, and share knowledge about women and gender. The department's mission is to re-examine the historical record to make visible women's contributions to the world's knowledge and cultures. It aims, through a focus on women's experiences, to open fresh perspectives throughout the curriculum. The Women and Gender Studies Department seeks to create an understanding of the ways in which gender intersects with race, religion, class, ethnicity, ability,and sexual orientation to shape all human experience, including the pursuit of learning. As an ever-evolving and dynamic field of study, Women and Gender Studies offers a wide variety of courses. This is possible because of the large number of cross-listed courses that the department shares with many departments throughout the college.


Mission Statement

The department of Women and Gender Studies focuses on the critical examination of gender; class; race; dis/ability; sexuality; and nationality as intersecting dynamics of social and identity formation.

Our mission is to:

  • Educate students about the principles, theories, and concrete applications of these critical analyses.
  • Encourage students to examine the complex ways in which the social formations of sexuality, gender, race, class, national origin, dis/ability, and sexual orientation shape human experience and produce structures of power and inequality.
  • Re-examine the historical record to make visible the experiences and contributions of disenfranchised groups in a vast range of historical and social locations.
  • Connect academic work with social and political realities outside the university, enhance students' understanding of and resistance to structures of inequalities, and link research, teaching/learning, and activism.

Through its broad interdisciplinary research and curriculum, the department of Women and Gender Studies promotes transformative practices in research, creative work, pedagogies, and local/global partnerships.


Our faculty is an interdisciplinary group of scholars whose research, teaching and advocacy work focuses on the relationships between these forces, drawing from women, gender, and feminist studies; ethnic and critical race studies; LGBT and queer studies; disabilities studies; as well as the study of nationalism and class.

Student Learning Outcomes

After completing of a major in Women and Gender Studies, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the contributions of disenfranchised groups across historical and social locations.
  2. Use gender, class, race, dis/ability, sexuality, and nationality as central and intersecting categories of analysis.
  3. Develop interdisciplinary research skills and familiarity with critical Gender, Class, Race, and Sexuality theories and intersectional modes of inquiry.
  4. Demonstrate skills in oral communication, writing, information technology, media literacy, and critical thinking.
  5. Connect academic work with social and political realities outside the university.
  6. Apply social justice principles and ethics to their own lives and their engagement with surrounding communities.


Resource Room

Women and Gender Studies Resource room and library (HW 1736) is open to all women and gender studies students to use. Students are welcome to use the space for meetings, group discussions, or to chill out between classes. There is a computer and printer available for limited use. Please do not take books out of the WGS library. Please respect the space and keep it clean.


As of Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Women and Gender Studies is officially a department.  Thirty-five (35) years after its creation, the Women and Gender Studies Program at Hunter, former women's college, and one of the largest degree-granting entities of its kind in the country was unanimously voted by the Hunter College Senate to become a department. Wednesday, October 23, 2013, was a historic day! We want to express our deepest gratitude to so many of you who have struggled with us for so many years to achieve the stability and recognition we deserve at Hunter.





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