Will Women’s History Month Events Grow?

Kailene Nye, Reporter

Faculty from multiple departments are celebrating after wrapping up events marking Women’s History Month at the end of March, and they are planning for next year’s celebration of women.

Professors in departments such as English and History collaborated to put on events, including a poetry reading, a “Women’s Issues” forum,  “Eight Women Who Changed the World,” a panel discussion and a film presentation.

Dr. Amanda Caleb, Associate Professor of English and Director of Medical and Health Humanities, played an active role in coordinating some events and said she was very pleased with the results.

“I think the turnout has been great. I would argue it’s been one of our highest turnouts,” she said. “I would say there have been some repeat customers, some same faces, but overall, I’ve seen a lot of variety of people in the room. It hasn’t been that many of the same people, so I think we’re reaching a pretty broad audience.”

Caleb said  the poetry reading, the forum, and the showing of the film “RGB”, which highlights the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, were a few events that had particularly good turnouts.

“I know with the poetry reading, we were overflowing and then some in the Founder’s Room, so we’ve seen people come out in big numbers.”

Caleb said she has seen a lot progress in the annual celebration.

She said events like the poetry reading have been happening for decades, but the celebration as a whole wasn’t formalized until the early 1980s with the help of Dr. David Wright, Professor of History.

Since taking over the program in 2011 with Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English, and former history professor, Dr. Amanda Van Lanen, Caleb said she has seen turnout increase each year.

Rachel Urbanowicz, Assistant Professor of Mass Communications and Design, helped create a new poster design, and said she was pleased with how the events turned out even though she wasn’t able to attend all of them.

“We all learned a lot from doing this and from each other and through the things we got to hear about and witness, and so I thought it was an extremely productive Women’s History Month,” she said.

One pitfall for her, she said, was the decrease in t-shirt and sticker sales,  proceeds of which benefit the Catherine McAuley House. However, she said since funds contribute to a great cause, she will continue selling them through April.

Urbanowicz also presented at the “Eight Women Who Changed History” panel March 25.

“I had a really good time,” she said. “I teamed up with a student performer for my piece, and we got a really good reception. We had a really nice time.”

Her presentation was on Mary Edmonia Lewis, an internationally-renowned African American and Native American sculptor.

She said the panel was her favorite along with the poetry reading and the discussion forums.

“I had such a good time working…and coming up with the idea for a script. That was the highlight for me. It’s a little self-absorbed, but we had a good time.”

Caleb said the panel was favorite event too. She played a lead role in the organization of the event.

“I love the idea of showcasing women from different fields,” she said. “Some names we might recognize, some we may have never heard of, but I think it’s important that whether we’ve heard of them or not, there’s an important story to tell and how much women have shaped history and how often we kind of gloss over that. It’s sort of like ‘Well, she did well for a woman.’ Tonight was about she did well, no modification whatsoever, and these are women who really disrupted systems or shaped medicine in really positive ways.”

Zoe Laporte, senior English and Mass Communications and Design major, said events like these are important because they showcase the fundamental role women play in society.

“I just think it’s important to remind the students that we’re all here because of women, we’re all going to this wonderful school because of women, some of the most important people in our lives are women, and we need to respect them and remember that they have struggles and problems. I think it’s just a good thing to be aware of,” she said.

Caleb, said the programs brought women’s issues into a more prominent light.

“We should be talking about women all year long, but I think it really consolidates it in a way that makes it at the forefront so we don’t forget these important or these important issues that are going on and it has to be a part of the national discourse,” she said.

Urbanowicz said the programs open people’s eyes to the “bigger world around us.”

“It’s just so easy, no matter how much education you have or how much traveling you’ve done, you sort of get into your own little silo and just live your little day-to-day life. When you start thinking about bigger things or even things that happened a hundred years ago or more and that are happening right now, it helps you understand why things like voting are important and understanding what’s going on in society.”

She also said the programs play a crucial role in educating the younger generation.

“So many experiences are so new for you guys that I think it’s important to expose college students and everyone else to as many different things as possible just so you kind of know what’s going on, what your options might be, what could inspire you.”

Urbanowicz said organizers have new events in the works for next year, but she is mum on details.However, she hopes adding new events will bring out more students who “come because they want to and not just because they have to.”

Caleb said she hopes to see the “Eight Women Who Changed the World” panel  continued and she would like more students involved in panel discussions.

“I think this is the opportunity to bring a student perspective in because there is a generational gap between the female faculty and the students,” she said. “Not to say we can’t have similarities, but I think there are things facing a 19-year-old woman that we’re missing even though we’re teaching 19-year-old women and interacting with them. So, I’d like to see that.”

She said, however, one of her biggest dreams is to have a monthly podcast leading up to the official celebration.

“I think that says this isn’t just a one-off. This is something we really need to be talking about, and I think it would be great to have a podcast. I think that is doable and I would love to see us do something like that and just keep building and reminding the universe about the importance of women in its own history.”

She believes a podcast and even filming events will allow the next generations to look into the past.

“I would love for someone to come to Misericordia in 30 years and look back. Imagine looking back, imagine if we could listen to a radio broadcast from the 1980s and think wow, what were the issues then, how have they changed, how have they not changed. I think we have kind of a responsibility to the women who come after us and that’s why I would love to do something where we could collect these events.”

Laporte said she hopes to see more men involved in next year’s celebrations.

“I feel like anything that brings in more than just the usual group of people that usually comes to this event, which is like other women. Things that would get men and more male administrators and stuff involved I think would be really helpful and good,” she said.

Caleb said she would consider this year’s event a success.

“There was some good dialogue about invisible labor and emotional labor, which I think is a big issue for women. So, yeah, all of the events have been great. I think they’ve all been really, really great.”