EMW is an outgrowth of the Folger Colloquium on “Women in the Renaissance” (1985-89). Early members of the Folger group who wanted to extend discussions of recent scholarship on early modern women founded colloquia in New York (at CUNY in 1987), in New England (at the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University in 1987), and Washington (at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in 1989).In Autumn 1992, Georgianna Ziegler, Elizabeth Hageman, and Margaret Hannay began discussing the possibility of a wider organization that would include those who were not able to participate in one of the three groups, that would encourage younger scholars in the field, and that would disseminate information on conferences, publications, and work in progress. They decided that the best way to organize would be to initiate a series of expanding concentric circles, rapidly enlarging the leadership group, with the goal of open membership within eighteen months. At the conference on “Women and the Arts in the Renaissance: Women and Power” at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in March 1993, Georgianna Ziegler hosted a dinner for people who might be interested in starting such an organization. At that meeting it was decided to set up an Organizational Committee, comprised of approximately thirty scholars from a variety of disciplines and geographical locations. (See list at bottom of page.)

That Committee had two functions: to ratify the Constitution and By-laws, and to nominate the first slate of Officers and Executive Committee members. Elizabeth Hageman and Margaret Hannay were asked to draft the Constitution and By-Laws, based loosely on the form used by the Milton and Spenser Societies, which were then submitted to the Organizing Committee twice: first for suggested revisions and then for a formal ballot. The Constitution and By-laws were unanimously passed by written ballot in the summer of 1993. Josephine Roberts chaired the Nominating Committee. She accepted suggestions from the Organizing Committee and worked with her committee (Georgianna Ziegler, Carole Levin, and Margaret Hannay) to prepare a slate of nominations to be presented to those who became Charter Members at the Inaugural Celebration on April 23, 1994. (In the Catch-22 legal requirements for obtaining tax-exempt status, an organization must have a constitution, by-laws, and a slate of officers before it comes into existence.)

The Inaugural Celebration was held on April 23, 1994, at the close of the “Attending to Women” conference at the University of Maryland. Many people worked to make it a festive occasion. Susan Schafer played ragtime music by women as people entered the ballroom, and music by 18th-century women composers later in the program. Jane Donawerth, Interim Vice-President, arranged for a piano, contributed balloons, handled other local arrangements, and supervised the graduate students who accepted memberships. Susanne Woods and Anne Shaver prepared a commemorative book for members to sign; Ilya Perlingieri later added the occasion and date in calligraphy. Georgianna Ziegler designed and contributed buttons reading ‘EMW’ in Gothic script. Adele Seeff and the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies generously contributed space and publicity to the fledgling organization, which as yet had no money, no elected officers, and no legal existence.

Natalie Zemon Davis presided at the Inaugural Celebration, which was set up to explain the purpose of the organization, to give credit to those who had originated the discussion groups, to open membership, and to elect the first Officers and Executive Committee. The program began with brief histories of the three East Coast discussion groups: Elizabeth Welles reported on Washington, Margaret Mikesell on New York, and Elizabeth Hageman on Boston. Georgianna Ziegler, Interim Treasurer, summarized the history of EWM and presented the Statement of Purpose. Margaret Hannay, Interim Secretary, explained the organizational structure and invited all those present to become Charter Members.

Josephine Roberts chaired the Nominating Committee, presented the slate of Officers, members of the Executive Committee, and the Awards Committee. The elections were conducted by Natalie Zemon Davis, with the full slate elected by acclamation. The program concluded with a few remarks by the incoming president, Barbara Lewalski.

After the celebration was over, the hard work continued. Jane Donawerth and Georgianna Ziegler negotiated the tangle of IRS regulations to obtain and open a bank account. Margaret Mikesell and her editorial board in New York (Patrick Cullen, Joan Hartman, and Betty Travitsky) agreed to make Women in the Renaissance Newsletter, the publication of the New York Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance, serve, at least temporarily, as the newsletter for the national organization. The Newsletter published the Statement of Purpose and the list of the Organizing Committee in the March 1994 issue.

J. Leeds Barroll, Department of English, University of Maryland
Elaine Brennan, Women Writers Project, Brown University
Jean R. Brink, Director, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Patrick Cullen, Department of English, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Natalie Zemon Davis, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Princeton University
Jane Donawerth, Department of English, University of Maryland [Interim Vice-President]
Jane Dempsey Douglass, Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Historical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary
Sheila ffolliott, Art and Art History Department, George Mason University
Mary D. Garrard, Art Department, American University
Elizabeth Hageman, Department of English, University of New Hampshire
Merry Wiesner Hanks, History Department, University of Wisconsin
Margaret P. Hannay, Department of English, Siena College [Interim Secretary]
Joan E. Hartman, Department of English, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Paula Higgins, Department of Music, University of Notre Dame
Suzanne W. Hull, Director of Administrative and Public Services, Huntington Library
Margaret King, Department of History, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Noel J. Kinnamon, Department of English, Mars Hill College
Carole Levin, Department of History, SUNY New Paltz
Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Kenan Professor of English, Harvard University
Margaret Mikesell, Department of English, John Jay College, CUNY
Anne Lake Prescott, Department of English, Barnard College
Josephine Roberts, Department of English, Louisiana State University
Mary Beth Rose, Director, Center for Renaissance Studies, Newberry Library
Tilde Sankovitch, Chair, Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University
Adele Seeff, Executive Director, Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies, University of Maryland
Sara Jayne Steen, Department of English, Montana State University
Betty Travitsky, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Alison Parks Weber, Department of Spanish, University of Virginia
Elizabeth Welles, Director of Foreign Language Programs, Modern Language Association
Linda Woodbridge, Chair, Department of English, University of Alberta
Susanne Woods, Dean and Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Franklin and Marshall College
Georgianna Ziegler, Louis B. Thalheimer Reference Librarian, Folger Shakespeare Library [Interim Treasurer]