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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


Major After August 1, 2011

The Women and Gender Studies Program offers a 27-credit major. The 27 required credits are distributed as follows:

CORE - 12 credits

WGS 100 Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies, 3 credits
WGS 201 Classics in Feminist Thought, 3 credits
WGS 244 Transnational Feminisms, 3 credits
WGS 310 Research Seminar: Feminist Theory and Methodology; 3 credit


Students will choose from among the 6 Areas of Concentration listed as follows:

I. Feminist Thought and Theory
II. Sexualities
III. Gender and Public Policy
IV. Labor, Migration, and Globalization
V. Women and Gender Across Cultures
VI. Gender, Literature, and the Arts

ELECTIVES - 6 credits

Majors will be required to take two elective classes (6 credits).  One (3 credits) of the 
two elective classes MUST be in an alternate Area of Concentration than your primary one.

At least one of the classes in your Area of Concentration or an elective must be at the 300
level or above.


We encourage WGS majors to come in for regular advising to plan your 
course of study and find out about new classes and opportunities. 
Advising is required in order to register for the senior seminar just 
before your final semester of study in order to prevent any surprises on
your degree audit that could delay graduation.  Please download our
New Major Requirements Form to assist with keeping track of your courses.


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