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University celebrates Women’s History Month

March 13, 2008

Susan B. Anthony, Hillary Clinton, Sally Ride, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman are a just a few of the prominent women in U.S. history.

The month of March is a time when the work those women did along with the work of hundreds of other women, is recognized.

Women’s History Month started as a week-long celebration before transforming into the month that it is now.

“In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the national celebration to the entire month of March. Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Each year programs and activities in schools, workplaces, and communities have become more extensive as information and program ideas have been developed and shared,” the National Women’s History Project Web site said.

History professor Betty Bergland said prior to Women’s History Week, Women’s History Day was celebrated.

Here at UW-River Falls, members of the history and women’s studies departments are working to put together events throughout the month to promote awareness of the celebration.

“We celebrate by bringing speakers to campus and opening their talks to the public to increase public and campus awareness of gender issues,” English professor Michelle Parkinson said. “Just last week we had the president of the National Association of School Psychologists, Rhonda Armistead, speaking about women and girls and psychological resilience. Many people turned out for this event. We also have two artists whose works will be available to view in the Harriet Barry Gallery in the library starting March 11. Both artists, Patrice Avon Marvin and Lynn Jermal, will be speaking about their works.”

Jermal and Marvin’s presentation will be at 2 p.m. March 31 in the Gallery.

While Parkinson is currently helping plan the month’s festivities, she will be taking over as the coordinator for the women’s studies program in the fall. She will be replacing Barbra Warner.

Faculty members like the English department’s Kathleen Hunzer, believe that Women’s History Month is something that needs to be celebrated.

“Women’s history has long been overlooked or under-represented in many venues; Women’s History Month gives us the chance to hear stories that were previously silenced and to consider the contributions made by important women in the world,” she said.

Students also agree.

“It is important to celebrate women’s history because it celebrates a part of history that is often overlooked,” senior Heidi Vanderloop said. “These women have changed the shape of history not only for women, but society as well.”

Although Women’s History Month is a positive event, some perceive it to be an event with negative connotation.

“I do think a lot of people mistakenly think that feminism and feminists are hostile and angry toward men, and that Women’s History Month must be motivated by that kind of attitude; but this is a positive celebration of the contributions of people who do, after all, make up about half the population,” Parkinson said. “We have all been influenced, in one way or another, by women. For many of us, our first human attachment was to a woman. For others, women are lovers, friends, sisters, aunts and grandmothers. When we look around, we also see that women are gaining influence in the public sphere, despite continued pay inequity and discrimination. So, Women’s History Month just makes explicit what most of us already know: that women matter.”

The celebration of Women’s History Month will wrap up April 7. Wang Ping, a writer, will be part of a discussion on “Women in Modern China.”

“Even today it’s important,” Bergland said. “It’s important to call attention to those women and to ensure progress in addressing ongoing gender issues.”