Women were first admitted as University of California students in 1870. Linguistics has been taught at Cal since 1901: in a Department of Linguistics (1901-06), in the anthropology and language departments, and in a Graduate Group in Linguistics (1947-53) and a revived Department of Linguistics (1953-). In all 120 years of Berkeley linguistics, women have been active participants in our research and teaching communities. The mosaic below shows some of their stories and voices, including a range of experiences across decades in which colonialism, racism, and sexism all play a role. By acknowledging our history — the positive and the negative — we hope we can help foster a healthy community here at Berkeley and in the field at large.
Biographies: These are a few of the many women who have made distinctive contributions to the linguistics community and language research at Berkeley, not only in the linguistics department. Especially in its earliest years, Berkeley linguistic work has often focused on the Indigenous languages of California, with work that was all too often extractive; the goals and experiences of Indigenous collaborators remain an important part of our history.
Reflections: We invited current and former students and faculty to write about their time at Berkeley. Responses, some of which are shown below, included a variety of perspectives. We are honored by the generosity and trust of those who shared their experiences of scholarship and science, community and creativity, and persistence and resilience.
California women's suffrage (Wikipedia photo from the Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College), Susan Ervin-Tripp (photo by Dan Slobin), L. S. Freeland (memoir & photo in the Lucy Shepard Freeland papers, MS 83, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, UC Santa Cruz), Quirina Geary (photo by Scott Braley), Leanne Hinton (photo by Scott Braley), Martha Horne (photo by Pliny Earle Goddard, 15-3179, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley), Gladys Reichard (photo via the Guggenheim Foundation; letter to Boas in the Franz Boas Papers, Mss.B.B61, American Philosophical Society), Laura Fish Somersal (photo by Jesse Sawyer in the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages), Lily Wong Fillmore (photo by Liz Mangelsdorf), Mary Yee (photo by Madison Beeler, 91-31333, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution). Other photos courtesy of those depicted or in the public domain to the best of our knowledge. Illustrations by Emily Remirez.