Will Women’s History Month Spark New Program?

Zoe Laporte, Wed Editor

Following the events of Women’s History Month, students and faculty are wondering about the creation of a women’s or gender studies program in the future.

The month of March has been dubbed Women’s History Month and Misericordia has held several events on campus – a women’s issues forum, a movie showing and discussion about women’s suffrage, a women’s poetry reading and a presentation regarding gynecological health for nineteenth-century women.

Dr. Jennifer Black, Associate Professor of History and an event organizer, said the events were well-attended with many of the same students.

“We’re talking hundreds of people in a campus of two thousand students, but a lot of students really only attend events for extra credit, so we’re trying to get students to come out as much as we can, “ said Dr. Black.

There are already classes that focus on these topics, said Dr. Black.

Sophomore English major Melissa Milbut brought up the course on Women’s Writers offered by the English Department.

“I think this is a good example of how Women’s Studies courses could be integrated into the curriculum,” said Milbut. “We should have more classes like this one in more departments that focus on women in specific fields of study.”

Black said she raises questions about gender, and sexual double standards in women’s rights in her U.S. History class, and while sometimes the discussion is effective, they are sometimes dispersed.

“Sometimes I think it might be more effective to have those conversations in the general population, instead of those who are already interested in those ideas.”

Daniella Amendola, a sophomore English major, said  more courses related to women in history could gain attention from students.

“Women are never at the forefront of history despite obviously being a vital participant in it,” said Amendola. “And I think we could stand to see more classes dedicated to women in general.”

Women play a large part in history – especially in Misericordia’s history.

The University was established in 1924 by the Sisters of Mercy, a religious group of who focused on helping the impoverished, sick and uneducated.

When the Sisters came to the Wyoming Valley in 1875, they primarily focused on praying, teaching and caring for the sick.

In August of 1924, they created the first four-year institution of higher learning in Luzerne County.

It was met with significant opposition from many organizations in the Back Mountain including the Ku Klux Klan, whose members burned items on the front lawn of the university, said Black.

Between the 1940s and 1960s, the faculty had transitioned from nuns to all men.

Until the 1970s, Misericordia was an institution whose purpose was the education of women.

As the university blossomed to over 3,000 students, gender studies has lost momentum. Other neighboring institutions for higher education has some sort of women’s studies program.

King’s College and Wilkes University both offer minors related to women and gender studies. Scranton University and Penn State offer women’s studies as a major in addition to a minor.

As a school deeply rooted in the perseverance and power of women, the addition of a women or gender studies program could help showcase the school’s goals and charisms, some students say.

Dr. Black said the faculty who would propose the program are busy with several other things.

 “Just because there weren’t a contingent of women activists at this institution who would have established such a department doesn’t mean that people aren’t willing to do it now,” said Black. “We keep trying to fight the good fight. The important thing is to have dialogue about it.”

For students studying English, history, psychology, or even health sciences – a women or gender studies course could be very helpful in the theoretical understanding of women and gender, Black said.

To honor the women who created this institution, there is hope that such a program will find its way into the curriculum..

“Women’s achievements should be recognized and celebrated, and I think that Misericordia’s history as a school for women reflects that,” said Amendola. “Women are largely part of the school’s whole legacy.”