Women at the centre of research – Opening of the IFF

On July 7, 1982, the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Women’s Studies (IFF) is established, making it the first official women’s research institution at a German university. In previous years, Bielefeld University members had already been striving to institutionalise women’s studies at the university. The resulting Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (IZG) is now nationally and internationally known and emulated.

Rektor Professor Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer (first from right) announces the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Women’s Studies at a press conference of the Working Group for Women Researchers in NRW, 1984.

Photo: Manfred Kettner
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld

The origins of the IFF can be traced back to an initiative in 1975 when female academics held seminars for women at Bielefeld University. At the suggestion of the Rektor Professor Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer, a ZiF colloquium was held in May 1980 to establish a university research focus on women’s studies. Professor Dr. Reimut Jochimsen, the then Minister of Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, also participated in the colloquium. This contact resulted in funding for an office for women’s studies to establish a university focus on this subject.

NRW Science minister Reimut Jochimsen on the podium at the ZiF-Kolloquium to establish a USP Women’s Research, May 1980. On the far left Prof. Dr. Christiane Schmerl, right Rektor Prof. Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer.

Photo: Manfred Kettner
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld

New name for a new centre

In 1987, the Senate of Bielefeld University decided to establish a permanent research group. However, a new university law meant that women’s studies could no longer be continued in its former form. The University therefore a created new research institute, initially named the Interdisciplinary Women’s Research Centre. In 2004 the name was changed to the Interdisciplinary Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies and again in 2016 to the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (IZG).

The activities of the Centre focus on highlighting, promoting and implementing gender studies with an interdisciplinary perspective. Inequalities between the sexes are just as much a topic as differences within the gender groups.

Professor Dr. Christiane Schmerl on the early days of the IFF. Interview from 19 June 2018.

Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FS 233