Student Voice


June 12, 2024

Dr. May celebrates Women's History Month

March 29, 2007

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Elaine Tyler May spoke to the UW-River Falls campus and River Falls community on Tuesday about the topic, “Mating, Dating and Procreating: A Hundred Years of Marriage in America.”

The UWRF women’s studies program hosted the free event at the Kinnickinnic River Theater in the University Center.

During May’s first visit to UWRF, she spoke about the changing institution of marriage over time.

“I hope the audience learned that marriage changes,” May said. “It is always evolving. It’s not an unchanging institution.”

She also said she doesn’t notice a fundamental difference between speaking to a college campus and a typical audience.

“It was a great visit,” she said. “The University has a nice responsive audience with good questions and comments.”

May is a historian of the United States in the 20th century whose work centers on the intersections of gender, sexuality, domestic culture and politics.

Davida Alperin, co-chair of the Women’s History Month planning committee and associate professor of political science, said in past years, the women’s studies program has had four to five events spread throughout March for Women’s History Month.

Alperin said this year they wanted to focus their attention and energy on one single event.

“We wanted to find a topic that would be of interest to many people and have a strong connection to women’s history,” she said.

Alperin said the vote in Wisconsin on the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions raised a lot of discussion and debate about marriage in the fall.

“From the discussions, it became obvious that many people have a lot of assumptions about marriage as an institution without knowing much about its history and evolution,” she said.

Alperin said they concluded to start looking for scholars who have studied the history of marriage.

She said fortunately for the committee, they didn’t have to look too far.

Alperin said she and the committee found May and knew they had the right expert.

“We were lucky that she still had an open day on her March calendar to come and talk at UWRF,” Alperin said.

Alperin said in addition to being a well-respected scholar and writer, May holds many qualities the committee was interested in.

“She is a dynamic speaker, very personable and can explain her points in a way that everyone who attends will be able to understand,” Alperin said.

May is a professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota (U of M). She received a Ph.D. in U.S. history at the University of California at Los Angeles and has won multiple awards for her work.

May was awarded the U of M Distinguished Women Scholars Award in 2006, as well as the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Medal for excellence in scholarship and creativity in 2001.

May has written over 10 books and articles since 1980 and still has work in progress.

Her books and articles examine changing expectations for marriage in the early 20th century, family and sexuality in the Cold War era, the history of women and the history of childlessness and reproduction in America.