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Writing Women Back Into History

8 Mar

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the 14th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference on the Auraria campus in Denver with two of my good friends. Before attending this conference, I had no idea that March is National Women’s History Month or that the Auraria campus has hosted these Women’s Leadership Conferences for the past 13 years.

Where have I been?

In the mothering trenches I guess…

I was particulary intrigued with the 2010 theme for National Women’s History Month–“Writing Women Back into History”–since I am a writer (artist, poet, musician, leader, etc….) In one of my workshops, this lovely empowering quote was shared with us:

Women have always innovated our own strategies for being part of history. We have taken it into our own hands to be an agent in our own story. Not simply as subject or object, but as writer, artist or creator. Women are writing ourselves back into history.

This particular workshop addressed women’s self-agency and the opportunities to make our voices heard through social media. The point was made that in this DIY generation, women don’t have to wait for permission, for somone to say we’ll include your voice. We can use social media to get our voices out there and to be heard. This quote from a study by Stavrositu and Sundar was also cited:

The constant activity of blogging itself serves to further boost one’s competence as a creator and as a distinct voice, most likely imbuing users with a deep sense of agency. Blogs therefore become a powerful vehicle for developing and mastering one’s voice. In addition, they also enable users to relate their voice to the voices of others.

At the end of the conference, the keynote speaker, Molly Murphy MacGregor, President and Co-Founder of the National Women’s History Project, challenged us to pick one woman from history and discover who she really was. She also encouraged us to use Women’s History Month as a springboard for our own explorations, to draw information and inspiration from the past, and to continue to expand on the women’s movement.

In response to Molly’s challenge, I have several ideas fluttering around in my head of how I can do these things. I’m always hesitant to voice my ideas since I am more of a visionary than a follow-it-through-to-the-end kind of gal, but here goes nothing…

1. Blog more often to get my voice “out there.”

2. See what it would take to start a Women’s Club on my community college campus.

3. Create an art journal that incorporates the accomplishments of the women that inspire me most.

Hmmm…we’ll see how far I get with those ideas, but even if none of them come to fruition anytime soon, I DO know that I had a fantastic experience at the Women’s Leadership Conference and I will go back next year, for sure!

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Ellis Island–Fear and Freedom

5 Nov

Fear gripped me stepping off the boat…

Fear and freedom at that moment were the same.

 

Several weeks ago, I was culling through some old National Geographic magazines looking for pictures that might spur a story idea for my fiction writing class. I found one in the September 2007 issue when I came across some compelling photos of the ruins of Ellis Island taken over a five year period by Stephen Wilkes.

My favorite photo is one of two sinks in a hospital room. Above one of the sinks, a mirror reflects the image of the Statue of Liberty. The article explains: “As he stood up from studying dead leaves on the floor of this hospital room, Wilkes remembers that his head reached a point about five feet, two inches off the floor–and he saw the Statue of LIberty reflected in the mirror over the sink. ‘I suddenly imagined a petite eastern European woman rising out of her bed every morning,’ the photographer says. ‘That reflection would have been the closest she would ever come to freedom.'” Sounds like the beginning of an interesting story to me…

I wanted to know more about Wilkes’ photographs and learned that they have been published in a gorgeous coffee-table-sized book entitled Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom (published by W.W. Norton) and can also be viewed on his website

Although I am not aware of any of my direct line immigrant ancestors passing through Ellis Island, I found The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation website fascinating, too. Anyone can register for free and search original ship manifest documents and passenger lists.