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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


Hear from WGS Alumni


I was a Women and Gender Studies and Biochemistry double major and part of the CUNY Honors College. The majors were an unusual, and yet appropriate, pairing. Following my graduation from Hunter in 2007, I became a medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College. I hope to enter the field of Obstetrics & Gynecology. I will always be indebted to the WGS Program at Hunter for helping to make me a stronger and more aware person that is able to tackle any challenge.

Marina Stasenko
Weill Cornell Medical College Class 2011



I began college as a Chemistry major, primarily because the pre-requisites for medical school fulfilled the requirements. By the end of my sophomore year, however, I realized my inspiration to become a physician was more closely related to the courses I had taken in the Women and Gender Studies Department, and changed majors.

A year later, I was accepted early to the University of Rochester School of Medicine on the basis of my interdisciplinary interests, and was encouraged to take a semester abroad to develop my Spanish language skills.

Contrary to the advice I received as an incoming student, majoring in Women and Gender Studies is not exclusively an option for those who intend to pursue a PhD. I am grateful for the connections between the humanities and the practice of medicine my classes in WGS have revealed, and feel confident I will be a better physician someday because of my exposure to feminist scholarship as an undergraduate.

Emilie Wasserman
Women and Gender Studies Major, Chemistry Minor
Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Matriculating Fall 2009



I came to Hunter thinking I wanted to be a doctor, but within a few weeks I withdrew from Biology and decided on pursuing Women's and Gender Studies. It was so much more applicable to my life personally and the lives of people I care about. The program also opened my mind to the possibility of going to Law School to have the legal backing to create the change I want to see in the world. Law School is extremely rewarding and challenging and I am constantly drawing on my background in Women's and Gender Studies in applying the law.

Aubrie Dillon
Berkeley Law School



While I thoroughly enjoyed what I learned as a Women and Gender Studies major at Hunter, I often wondered (before and even after graduation) what the heck I would do with my degree in the real world. Now I see that I wasn't shaping myself to fit this world, but was instead preparing myself to fit this world around me. All the strength and momentum I needed to do just that was gained during my years at Hunter in that program. Now a self-proclaimed Spiritual Midwife, I live everyday as a healer with my goal being to help people heal their bodies (from physical to emotional to spiritual to sexual) so that they may ultimately reconnect with their innate, yet forgotten, divinity and power. In other words, I help people give birth to themselves, who they were meant to be.

Kristina Cooper



"I graduated in January 2010 not knowing exactly how I wanted to use my Women and Gender Studies degree, but I knew I wanted to help women directly. I was called to become a birth doula not long after graduating. However, I soon realized how often inaccessible doula services are to many women due to cost and access to information. Now it is my mission to support all laboring women, regardless of identity, ability and socio-economic status. Aiding laboring women to have a joyous birth is both inspiring and fulfilling. I feel that all laboring women should have a doula if they choose, thus ensuring a more satisfactory birth experience that respects women's bodies and autonomy."

Stacey Lewis



My time spent in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Hunter College has been transformative. The WGS program offered me the intellectual space—as well as challenge— for exploring the intersections of culture, language, race, class, sexuality and gender through a critical lens. I realized that the discipline’s teachings reached far beyond the constraints of the classroom and was crucial to the person I was becoming; gender studies provided me with the theoretical articulation of what I was simultaneously experiencing in my personal life. What I have learned in my gender studies courses has provided me with the conceptual tools to effectively alter my worldview and engage in life on an analytical level. My experience as an undergraduate in the gender studies program has had an overwhelming impact on the way in which I perceive others, as well as myself, and how I situate myself into the framework of our society. I have refined my writing skills and research methodologies, and, inspired by the program’s tight-knit community, made up of a diverse and supportive group of radical thinkers, activists, and organizers. And I’ve used my capacity for critical thought and writing in my post-graduate pursuits. The dedication of the gender studies faculty and their persistent and comprehensive involvement in my college experience fueled my work as an undergraduate. It is because of my participation in the program that I want to continue on to graduate school and engage in research that aims to serve those beyond the ivory tower. I have come to embody the feminist theories and methods taught in the Women’s and Gender Studies program—ideologies that preclude unidimensional and positivist claims to the creation of intellectual work—and look forward to carrying these skills on with me in my professional life.

Catherine Detrow



After graduating with a double major in Women and Gender Studies and Political Science at Hunter College, I received a Fulbright-Hays Grant Scholarship to work in the Republic of Cyprus for one year where I worked on a variety of projects related to gender, conflict, and migration.   I am currently in an MA program for Social Work, and I hope to use my degree to work with survivors of sexual violence.  I am indebted to the incredible community of both faculty and students in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Hunter College – their dedication, capacity for critical thinking, thoughtfulness, and passion for social justice have deeply transformed both my professional and personal life.

Maria Arettines



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