Women’s History Month at UAA: Past, present and future
Alice Paul — Wonder Woman and Lara Croft have nothing on her, yet very few people recognize her name.
“This is a woman, along with other women, who went on hunger strikes. They were thrown in jail. They were force-fed. It gives you an idea of what these women went through,” Kimberly Pace, Women’s Studies Department director, said. “She dedicated her life to giving women rights to vote.”
In honor of Alice Paul and countless other heroines who have broken down unjust barriers, UAA will take part in Women’s History Month.
The Women’s Studies Department has successfully hosted events consistently on campus since 2005.
Pace said Women’s History Month traces its roots back to Europe, where International Women’s Day started in 1911. Through the years, people have tried in various states and schools to celebrate women’s accomplishments.
“The actual celebration of Women’s History Month did not occur until 1987 in the U.S.,” Pace said. “That’s when President Reagan declared a proclamation that it would be celebrated in March.”
Tara Lampert, Women’s Studies adjunct professor, named several unsung heroines who have shed blood, sweat and tears for women’s rights.
“Angela Davis was part of the Black Panther movement. She was on the FBI’s most wanted list in the 1960s, and she’s a prominent feminist activist. She’s one of my heroes for sure,” Lampert said.
PBS recently aired “Makers: Women who Make America,” an in-depth documentary on women’s history.
Lampert said the documentary is long overdue.
Pace said that before she joined the department in 2005, various departments handled women’s history celebrations.
“Ever since I’ve been the director, it’s been pretty static,” Pace said.
Through the years there have been a variety of events. This year, comedian Erin Jackson will visit the campus. There will also be music, movies, food and much more. Pace also established “Legacy Lectures,” where women professionals share stories of struggles and triumphs.
Both Pace and Lampert expressed gratitude for their students who have volunteered much of their time to make things happen.
“The university doesn’t provide a whole lot of support for us, so we do what we can with a limited budget,” Lampert said.
Pace said that she wishes there would be more interest and attendance with events they host on campus.
Room for progression
It’s 2013, and though there are annual events on campus celebrating women’s history, there is still a widespread lack of knowledge.
“The first question I ask my students during the semester is to list 20 women in U.S. history and very rarely does someone hit 20,” Lampert said.
Students are quick to name Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc, but seldom do they recall learning about American heroines in textbooks.
“We don’t have a women’s center, which a lot of universities have, where people can come and check out books and videos related to women and women’s history,” Lampert said. “So it’s a lot of making sure the university knows that this is really important to our students.”
Pace said the Women’s Studies Department only offers a minor’s program. Only a handful of people are department faculty.
“It would be awesome to ultimately have a Women’s and Gender studies major at UAA,” Pace said, “but that’s a ways down the road.”
Though the department may be small in numbers, they gladly accept the role of continually educating the campus about the importance of women’s history.
“In order to know where we’re going,” Lampert said, “we need to know where we’ve been.”