WSGA as a Legislative Body

For the majority of its existence, the Women’s Self Government Association of Ohio State served an important legislative function on campus: they set and enforced rules for women students, in some ways acting as an extension of the University’s administration. In the 1940s and 50s, for example, WSGA published multiple rule books, including “Dorm Daze” (a freshman’s guide to the women’s dorms on campus), “Things We Live By” (a general guide to life at Ohio State, including everything from clothing recommendations to the opportunities available through WSGA), and “ABC: About Buckeye Co-eds,” or the Women’s Handbook, which contained “information pertaining to all women students, women’s organizations, and the rules by which coeds live.” By the 1960s, WSGA was Ohio State’s oldest and largest student organization, having been founded in 1908 and automatically including every enrolled woman student as a member. As such, the organization's role on campus was well-defined, thanks in part to WSGA publications. 

However, by the late 1960s, the need for WSGA as a legislative/judiciary body had lessened—the burgeoning women’s liberation movement both on campus and nationwide put pressure on the WSGA to eliminate rules for women, such as curfew hours and limitations of extracurricular involvement. A document published by WSGA stated that “the Ohio State University delegates to the 1968 Intercollegiate Association of Women Students National Convention realized that there is a trend at many major universities toward abolition of the campus women’s governing group.” As such, a committee was formed by WSGA to “decide what direction WSGA should take if a change in direction is needed.” (“Creation of the Committee” pg. 1). The committee, headed by the president of WSGA, reported that “WSGA as a rule-making body is doing very little to fulfill the role of a women’s organization as defined by IAWS.” The committee sought to answer questions such as “What is the traditional role of WSGA?” and “What recommendations, including structural changes, are needed to make WSGA more effective?” The WSGA committee met with multiple other student leaders on campus (all male) and decided that WSGA “drains leadership from the undergraduate student government, and therefore weakens the potential of both organizations.” As such, the committee announced in its report that WSGA could “function effectively as part of the Student Government” as long as the Undergraduate Student Government amended its constitution to include mandatory women’s representation on its policy-making boards. Ultimately, the committee concluded that the Student Government should be the primary legislative body of the students at Ohio State, and that WSGA would disband as a rule-making group and re-form as a programming board for women students.

By 1975, the WSGA had dissolved itself and became a new women’s organization, known as the Association of Women Students. From 1960-1975, the Women’s Self Government Association at Ohio State shifted from a legislative body to a programming body and from a neutral stance on the feminist movement to a clear alignment with women’s liberation. These changes were driven by both external and internal motivation (see “Criticism of WSGA” in exhibit menu).

"Things We Live By" booklet published by WSGA, outlining rules and suggestions for everything from dress codes to curfew, distributed to all freshmen women.

WSGA Student Handbook Table of Contents, featuring sections on "The Woman and her Community," "...her Career," and "...her Education."