This Date in UCSF History: Past Women of UCSF

Monday, March 7, 2022

Originally published on March 6, 2008. Today’s UCSF community is more diverse than ever before with many ethnicities and minority groups represented in our schools, staff and hospitals.

Women at UCSF also enjoy strong representation today, even making up the majority in some schools (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing).

How the community has come to change may be a sign of the times, but it may also be a reflection of what our predecessors believed in.

Just looking at the cover page of Synapse issues from the ‘70s and ‘80s, one can see a difference in tone. The 1980 issue’s cover stories read “Women doctors’ career difficulties,” “Women at end of pay ladder,” and “Women faculty low in medical schools.”

The stance of the writers was that women in the health sciences faced obstacles that needed to be changed. In addition to difficulties faced by women at UCSF, general health issues and rights for all women were addressed including sterilization, weight loss, rape prevention and abortion.

However, women’s issues did more than cry for the disparities to be erased.

Poetry, graphics and articles were presented to “portray the different ways women express themselves and the diverse areas in which [they work].”

There were profiles of Shirley Chafer, vice chancellor of UCSF, and Leola Carter, a worker at Moffitt Cafeteria, an article chronicling the first American women to climb the Himalayas, and “A Salute to Women of Color.”

When asked, “What do women have to celebrate about this Women’s International Day,” a medical student responded, “I’m glad I’m here in the 70s and not 20 years ago. There are infinitely more opportunities for women today.”

Thirty years later, her response is still a likely response from medical students today and that’s a good sign.

From looking at these women’s issues of the past, the passion for diversity and women’s rights on the UCSF campus is striking.

In a time when the school was mostly white and male, it is impressive how much energy and thought was given to these important issues.

The tone of progressivism was sustained over a span of ten years and speaks to the population and work environment we have today.

Perhaps it should inspire us that the issues we are passionate about today can leave a lasting legacy.