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Ruth Helm Osborn Research Fellowship (2020-2021)

Ruth Helm Osborn sitting at a table

The Ruth Helm Osborn Research Fellowship, created and funded by the Washington Forum, in memory of Ruth Osborn, ran from 2019-2021. Funds were designated to support multiple research and/or creative fellowships in the Special Collections Research Center of the GW Libraries with the goal of fostering academic inquiry that draws (fully or in part) from the Ruth Helm Osborn papers.

2020-2021 Ruth Helm Osborn Fellows 

Breya Johnson (MA, Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies from GW)

Breya’s project examines the Ruth Helm Osborn papers to understand the inner and outer conceptions made about women and how Dr. Osborn used education to combat those conceptions. This project seeks to explore the potential limitations of Osborn’s work and locate Black women who were ignored in educational (and other) spaces during this historical period.

Michelle Nguyen (MA Candidate, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at GW)

Michelle’s project is an examination of the advancements that women have accomplished in higher education and professional development since Ruth Helm Osborn began the Developing New Horizons program. This research explores questions such as: What successes have forwarded women’s participation in higher education, and what are some remaining challenges?

2019-2020 Ruth Helm Osborn Fellow 

Sarah-Anne Gresham (Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies MA student at GW) was selected as the 2019-2020 Ruth Helm Osborn Fellow. Her research is focused on how early women's studies programs, and their proto-types attended to the intersection of race, gender, and class. 

Sarah-Anne Gresham, presents her research on archival photographs of Black women in a digital exhibition, titled Currents of History. This exhibition is the final product of her Fellowship and of a Museum Studies course, Exhibiting History, taught by Professor Laura Schiavo at the George Washington University. For her research, Sarah maintains that archival photographs, provided by the Special Collections Research Center, disrupt a homogeneous origin story of early women's studies programs and their prototypes in the United States. Sarah argues that the photographs depicting Black women's ostensible inclusion within precursors to women's studies programs do not necessarily reflect a transformative feminist moment. The marginalization of Black women in the civil rights and women's liberation movements is an invitation to question what the archival photographs can tell us about Black women's experiences in a period divided by race, gender, and class. 

About Ruth Helm Osborn

Ruth Helm Osborn standing in front of a class of women with her arm around another woman

In 1964, Dr. Ruth Helm Osborn created "Developing New Horizons for Women," a program that became the prototype for women's education programs in the 1960s and 1970s. Osborn directed the GW Continuing Education Center for Women from 1964-1979 and focused her career on making education accessible for married women. The GW College of General Studies began the program in 1964 with a noncredit orientation class of twenty women; this would eventually becoming the first M.A. degree program in Women's Studies in the United States. Dr. Osborn was an active member of the Columbian Women organization. She received her B.S. from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. and Ed.D from GW. She retired in 1979. In 1998, GW honored Dr. Osborn with a distinguished alumni award. Dr. Ruth Osborn passed away in 2009.


All images from MS2278: Ruth Helm Osborn papers, series 1, box 7, folder 4