Under the name "Center for Women's Studies and the Study of Gender Relations," the Cornelia Goethe Centrum was founded in the summer of 1997 on the initiative of Ute Gerhard (Sociology), the first holder of a chair for women's and gender studies in the Federal Republic. Other founding members were Susanne Opfermann (American Studies), Brita Rang (Educational Sciences) and Heide Schlüpmann (Film Studies). It was the first center of its kind at a Hessian university. On June 11, 1997, it began its work with the two staff members Ulla Wischermann (Sociology) and Christine Huth-Hildebrand (Educational Sciences).

Since then, the Cornelia Goethe Centrum has offered students, doctoral candidates, research assistants and professors a space for research and academic exchange as well as for gender policy debates. Fifteen years after its founding, in the summer of 2012, nearly 50 professors and research assistants from eight different departments at Goethe University are associated with the CGC. Approximately 200 students are enrolled in the Gender Studies teaching program developed by the Center to earn an additional certificate in this field. Within the framework of the Center's Research Training Group (Graduiertenkolleg), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), a total of 50 young scholars* were supported for nine years. During the 15 years, a large number of research projects and conferences were carried out by members of the Center.

The "Center for Women's Studies and the Study of Gender Relations" received its name Cornelia Goethe Centrum on December 7, 2000, on the occasion of the 250th birthday of Cornelia Schlosser, née Goethe. With this naming, the younger sister of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who because of her gender could not develop her literary talent in the same way as her brother and therefore remained largely unknown, finally received due recognition. On this day, since the naming, the Cornelia Goethe Award has been awarded annually by the Friends of the CGC as part of the Cornelia Goethe Salon.