The University of Delaware Women's Caucus has named Barbara Settles the 2015 Torch Award recipient.

2015 Torch Award

Barbara Settles recognized for women's equity and advocacy


10:02 a.m., May 14, 2015--Barbara Settles, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Delaware, planned the births of her children around the academic calendar so she would miss as few days of work as possible. 

“I had one child over the winter break, and the other at spring break,” said Settles, who also enlisted the help of her mother, a master’s degree holder, as a substitute for a couple classes during her absence. How times have changed.

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Settles was a forerunner in establishing policies specifically around women’s equity and has spent over four decades advocating for the rights of faculty, staff and students who identify as women, which is why the Women’s Caucus at UD selected her as the 2015 Torch Award recipient.

Bahira Trask, professor of human development and family studies, nominated Settles for the award, calling her “a pioneer.”

“It is time that Dr. Settles be recognized for her energetic, imaginative and future-oriented achievements on behalf of all women at UD,” said Trask. “She was at the forefront of the women’s movement and brought it home to Delaware. She has never ceased in her efforts to ensure that women and other unheard voices not be discriminated against, and in fact, be celebrated. It is now time for us to celebrate her and her groundbreaking accomplishments.”

Those accomplishments began when Settles joined UD as an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) in 1968. When she arrived at UD, benefits like maternity leave, equal pay for equal work and provisions for work-family balance were not common practice. But through her efforts, Settles helped lay the groundwork for a more equitable environment for women.

In 1964, Settles became a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and soon after coming to campus became founding member of the AAUP UD chapter. She worked simultaneously with a team to organize the first Collective Bargaining Team at UD, which organized as a union in 1972. Settles was the first woman at UD invited to participate in the initiative.

She also played a key role in the pursuit of women’s pay equity as the chairperson of the Salary Committee in 1976. Settles arranged for an external AAUP expert to visit and analyze the budget, which led to the conclusion that “low pay for women was a choice not a necessity.”

Settles worked with the union over the next 25 years, holding various roles as a committee chair and on the executive board; she also often served as a grievance officer in major cases involving departments and female faculty issues.

Trask pointed out that Settles’ service commitments also extended beyond formal policy work.

“Dr. Settles played an integral part in expanding the departmental offerings of HDFS,” said Trask. “She introduced courses on women in international development, emerging lifestyles, aging and the family, special problems in human sexuality and more. She was also part of the first women’s studies team whose efforts ultimately led to the founding of that department at UD.”

Settles is also a respected scholar with numerous articles, chapters, edited books and presentations on family life. In 2005, she received the international Jan Trost Award for Outstanding Contributions to Comparative Family Studies from the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). 

She has also been a member of major professional organizations in her field, including the NCFR since 1962 and the Groves Conference on Marriage and the Family since 1965, having standing as a life member of both.

About the Torch Award

The Torch Award is presented annually in recognition of an individual who has “carried the torch for women’s equality” at the University of Delaware. The torch recalls the lighting of a torch for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, symbolically charting a course between the first Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 and the modern movement for women’s liberation. 

It was selected by the Women’s Caucus to represent the past and present efforts to achieve equality and improve the quality of employment for women at UD.

“The Women’s Caucus strives to advocate for positive change on issues of concern to women here at UD,” said Christine Scheirer Mangat, staff co-chair of the caucus. “Although the caucus has only been active since 2011, Barbara Settles has been advocating for issues of concern to women at UD for decades. It was an honor to award the Torch Award to Barbara this year, and she is among many women at UD who have made a difference in policy, hiring and more.”

Settles received the award at a luncheon in her honor on Friday, May 8.

Article by Kathryn Meier

Photos courtesy of Loren Flores

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