Lane Hall opened on March 2, 1917, named in honor University of Michigan Fletcher Professor of Law and First Judicial Circuit of Michigan judge Victor Hugo Lane (C.E. 1874, L.L.B. 1878). Originally built and owned by the Student Christian Association (SCA), the University of Michigan acquired Lane Hall in 1936 when the SCA could no longer maintain the property. Broadening the scope of activities to reflect the diversity of religious associations on campus, the university created the Student Religious Association (SRA), which included interfaith study meetings, meditation groups, and the Ann Arbor Society of Friends. For twenty years, Lane Hall was a central meeting place for activist students and faculty. What was then called “The Lane Hall Program” included opportunities for political debate, discussion groups about democracy and current social issues, and a series of outreach programs both in the United States and abroad, as well as lectures and dances.
In 1956, as part of larger changes in the university, the SRA was folded into the new Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) and the Lane Hall Program was slowly phased out. In the early 1960s, the space was made available to various student service programs, such as the Counseling Division and Reading Improvement Services. The School of Music used Lane Hall as rehearsal space while waiting for completion of its new building, which opened in 1964.
At this time, Cold War politics heightened national awareness of the need for research on foreign countries and cultures. In 1958, the federal government passed the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding for area centers and promoted language study through Title VI. Lane Hall soon became the hub of international studies. For over 30 years, the Title VI Area Studies Centers—Japanese Studies, Chinese Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, Russian and East European Studies, and South and Southeast Asian Studies—turned “Lane Hall” into a nationally recognized keyword for Area Studies.
Today, with space wholly dedicated to the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Lane Hall is the University’s center of research and teaching about gender. Jointly sponsored art exhibits, a succession of intellectual events throughout the year, and everyday social interactions among researchers, faculty, students, and staff have made Lane Hall into an intellectually vibrant feminist community.