An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.
Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed "to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown." Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.
Conducted in 2014 as part of the Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview captures the memories of Elizabeth Weed who entered Brown as director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center while the case was in court. Weed explains that she was unaware of the case when she joined the university but was excited about the recent merger of Pembroke College with Brown, and the new curriculum. Weed recalls her work at the center, the atmosphere on campus towards feminist scholarship, and a general “contempt” for women.
Click here for a timeline of the case