The Division on Women and Crime developed out of the growing interest in the study of gender and women as offenders, victims, and professional employees of the criminal systems.
In the early years of the ASC, individual papers on gender, women and crime were presented from time to time at the annual meetings. But the first panel session devoted solely to the subject was not formed until 1975. In that year, Freda Adler’s Sisters in Crime and Rita Simon’s Women in Crime had just been published and there was a burst of new interest in the subject. Some 150 persons came to hear papers at that first panel chaired by Freda Adler.
Despite this encouraging beginning, few criminologists seemed to believe that the study of women and crime was central to criminology. Some even questioned how much researchable material there was on the topic. Those who were interested in these issues and who saw gender as a major, though largely ignored, factor in the study of crime began to band together. First gathering on an informal basis, then as a special caucus, and finally as a prospective division within the ASC, members met and worked to ensure a place at all subsequent ASC meetings for papers on gender, women and crime.
By 1981 there were 48 such papers in the program; by 1983 the number of papers on women and crime had almost doubled to 92. The Division on Women and Crime was given divisional status at the ASC Executive Board meeting in November of 1981. The constitution and by-laws of the division were finished and accepted by the ASC by 1983.
The Division on Women and Crime was the first division ever created within the ASC. Formal DWC elections were held in 1984 and Dr. P.J. Baunach became the new Division’s first elected Chairperson.
Since that time, other divisions on International Criminology, Critical Criminology, and People of Color have also been developed. However, the Division on Women and Crime remains the largest and most active division within the ASC. Dozens of panel sessions on gender, women and crime are now routinely interspersed throughout the ASC Annual Meeting Program. In the 1990s the Division worked to support the election of the ASC’s first women Presidents, and to sponsor policy proposals on decarceration of imprisoned women.
A Timeline of Significant Events in the History of the Division on Women and Crime
- 1975- ASC devotes its first panel to the topic of women and crime at the meetings held in Toronto.
- 1977- A group of women meet informally in a hotel room at the Atlanta conference to discuss common concerns and interests of women in the ASC. The group refers to itself as the “Women’s Caucus.” ASC also holds a panel on women as professionals in criminal justice.
- 1978- Another informal meeting is held at the ASC conference in Dallas. ASC holds another panel on women as professionals in criminal justice. Signs advertising the panel are repeatedly ripped down.
- 1979- The first “formal” meeting (the start of the breakfast meeting tradition!) of the Women’s Caucus happens at the ASC meeting in Philadelphia.
- 1980- A formal luncheon meeting and cocktail party is held by the Women’s Caucus at the ASC meeting in San Francisco. A record twelve panels on women and crime are held at this meeting. Towards the end of 1980, the group changes its name to “Women in ASC.”
- 1981- In September, P.J. Baunach sends a letter to the ASC membership soliciting support for the formation of a division 1981. Nanci Koser Wilson and P.J. Baunach are elected co-chairs of the newly-renamed “Caucus for Women’s Issues” (this is still pre-divisional status). The “Division on Women and Crime” is given initial formal divisional status by the ASC Executive Board on 11/14/81. The ASC asks for revisions to the constitution that the division put forward and also asks for by-laws to be written.
- 1982- The revised DWC constitution is submitted to the ASC and approved in Toronto and the DWC holds its first meeting as a formally-recognized division of the ASC on 11/4/82. An “Interim Executive Board” is appointed by the DWC, to serve for two years (1982 – 1984) until the revised constitution and by-laws are approved by the ASC. The interim board consisted of P.J. Baunach as Chair, Nanci Koser Wilson as Vice-Chair, Anna Kuhl as Secretary, and interim Executive Counselors Cathy Spatz-Widom, Christine Rasche, and Ira Silverman. Chris Rasche was directed to pursue the creation of by-laws for the Division.
- 1984- The first official elections for DWC officers are held. P.J. Baunach becomes the first elected chair of the DWC, but had already been serving as the appointed chair since 1982.
- 1994- The DWC celebrates its 10th anniversary.
- 2004- The DWC celebrates its 20th anniversary.
- 2014- The DWC will celebrate its 30th anniversary.