The mission of the Center for Research on Women (CROW) at the University of Memphis
is to conduct, promote, and disseminate scholarship on women and social inequality.
Established in 1982, CROW's approach to research, theory, and programming emphasizes
the structural relationships among race, class, gender, and sexuality, particularly
in the U.S. South and among women of color. An interdisciplinary unit within the College
of Arts and Sciences, the Center has become a national leader in promoting an integrative
approach to social inequality.
The Center for Research on Women has investigated issues of gender, race, class and
social inequality for 30 years. An interdisciplinary unit within the College of Arts
& Sciences, this thriving academic center is home to collaborative researchers committed
to scholarly excellence and deep community involvement.
The Center is regarded as a national leader in promoting an integrative approach to
understanding and addressing inequities in our society. The Center's approach to research,
theory and programming emphasizes the structural relationships among race, class,
gender, and sexuality, particularly in the U.S. South and among women of color.
This kind of action-oriented, community-based research strengthens the public's understanding
of women's experiences and informs local, regional and national public policy.
Locally, CROW has long-running relationships with the Women's Foundation for a Greater
Memphis, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, The Urban Child Institute, Choices.
(formerly Memphis Center for Reproductive Health), and various governmental agencies.
On campus, CROW collaborates with many other departments and centers, including the
School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, the Department of Anthropology, African
and African American Studies, the Department of History and the Benjamin L. Hooks
Institute for Social Change. CROW continues to host visiting scholars, women's research
forums and academic networking events, as well as community issue forums.
CROW History & Directors
Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill 1982 – 1988
Dr. Lynn Weber 1988 –1994
Dr. Elizabeth Higganbotham (acting director) 1994 – 1996
The founding members of CROW, Bonnie Thornton Dill, Lynn Weber, and Elizabeth Higganbotham,
provided leadership for the Center for the first 14 years. As a professor of sociology
at Memphis State University, Dill caught the attention of the Ford Foundation who ultimately awarded Dill, Higganbotham, and Weber a $211,547
grant to form the Center for Research on Women. These three women drew from their
personal and professional experiences (and frustrations) to establish one of the first
academic spaces dedicated to the intersection of race and gender. The early years
of CROW saw the creation of a research clearinghouse, numerous workshops and conferences,
visiting scholars, a newsletter with a local and national audience, and a role in
the development of the National Council for Research on Women. In a 2002 CROW newsletter,
Weber explains that during this time, "the Center became a magnet for people all over
the country who came to do work on race and gender," including Patricia Hill Collins
who wrote the groundbreaking piece Toward a New Vision: Race, Class and Gender as
Categories of Analysis and Connection during her time as a visiting scholar at CROW.
Dill, Weber, and Higganbotham also brought in tremendous funding for the Center; during
the 1990s, CROW was able to expand to additional spaces on South Campus and throughout
Memphis. Under the leadership of its founding members, CROW connected faculty and
students and contributed to the canon of women's research through curriculum integration
series, on-campus research institutes during the summer, and a plethora of publications.
Dr. Barbara Ellen Smith 1996 – 2005
and Dr. Phyllis Betts (acting director) 2001-2002
As Director of the Center, Barbara Ellen Smith expanded CROW's focus to the global
South, including immigration and labor issues as major foci of the Center. During
the almost 10 years with Dr. Smith at the helm, CROW integrated sexuality into its mission of social
justice, hosted the Rockefeller Program for visiting scholars, moved out of the Department
of Sociology to become an interdisciplinary unit of the College of Arts and Sciences, helped develop a graduate program in Women's Studies at the University, and
held its first event entirely in Spanish.
When Smith took a year-long research sabbatical, long-time Associate Director Dr. Phyllis Betts stepped in as Acting Director for the
Center. Dr. Betts' research on crime in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods around
Memphis placed the Center at the forefront of the University's growing engaged scholarship
movement. Dr. Betts continues to be involved with the Center as the Associate Director.
Dr. Lynda Sagrestano 2006 – present
A social psychologist by training, Dr. Sagrestano has shifted the focus of CROW towards
eliminating health disparities in the Mid-South. Dr. Sagrestano has continued the
tradition of action-based participatory research as the Center has joined the City's
initiatives to reduce teen pregnancy and infant mortality and has produced research
on child care, poverty, sexual harassment in schools and the needs of single mothers
as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. Over the past six years, the Center has also
hosted several special events, including an original production entitled In Her Own
Words: Inspirational Speeches from the Women's Rights Movement, a lecture from Dr.
Judith Butler, and the photo exhibit SnapShots: Memphis Women at Work. Dr. Sagrestano
continues to connect the Center to local and national communities as she serves on
the board for several organizations, including the Memphis Area Women's Council, the
Governor's Infant Mortality Committee, and the National Council for Research on Women.
Since that Ford Foundation grant 30 years ago, CROW has brought in funding from many
sources including the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, and the National
Council for Research on Women. Locally, CROW has long-running relationships the Women's
Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, the Benjamin
L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, the Assisi Foundation, the Urban Child Institute,
Choices: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, and various governmental agencies.
On campus, CROW collaborates with the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, the
Department of Anthropology, African and African American Studies, and the Department
of History. CROW continues to host visiting scholars, women's research forums and
academic networking events, as well as community issue forums. The Center remains
committed to action-oriented, interdisciplinary research with an emphasis on gender
and race-based social justice.