Roundtable discussion to showcase, reflect on women’s voices in history

The roundtable will cover a multitude of topics concerning women's history and will be facilitated by Baylor graduate students and professors. Graphic courtesy of Baylor University

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

The Women’s History Month Roundtable: Reflections in History will display Baylor graduate students’ and professors’ research surrounding women and celebrate their contribution to history.

Dr. Marilia Corrêa, assistant professor of history, is organizing the Women’s History Month Roundtable and chairing the speakers committee. The event is open to everyone and will be at 3:30 p.m. March 20 in the Lewis-Birkhead Lecture Hall of Armstrong Browning Library.

“Instead of bringing someone in from outside, I thought it was a good opportunity to showcase the research that my colleagues have been doing in the history department, specifically concerning women’s history,” Corrêa said.

Corrêa said it is thought that history has been told from the perspective of men, but there are a number of female historians telling the stories of female historical figures.

“A lot of historians have been doing amazing work when it comes to thinking about reflecting about voices of underrepresented minorities that have not been very well portrayed in history, including women,” Corrêa said. “So we have a variety of topics among the six panelists that will speak about women’s issues and women’s history.”

Corrêa said the six panelists will present very different topics.

“All of them are using specific examples or specific study cases to think about broader trends in history — for example, how women have had agency throughout history and how they have contributed to politics and religion,” Corrêa said.

Despite the variation in topics, Corrêa said each panelist will confront a historical figure or instance to confront a bigger question.

“Each one of them looks into a specific local place to understand a broader question about women in history,” Corrêa said.

The panel will last about an hour and a half. Corrêa said each panelist will speak for eight to 10 minutes, leaving about half an hour for questions. She said the intent is to get students engaged and involved and to leave them with additional questions for the panelists.

Fishers, Ind., graduate student Emma Fenske will be a panelist at the roundtable. Her presentation will focus on theology in Christian romance novels.

“By looking at the voices of women, particularly through a media source that’s written by women and for women, that gives you more access to those voices that you don’t always get to hear, unlike typical political narratives,” Fenske said.

Fenske said her project looks at women’s leadership roles and how Christian romance novels give female authors religious and political authority.

“The project I’m doing focuses on … how women in conservative evangelical spaces are negotiating social situations of political authority or public authority through Christian romance novels,” Fenske said.

Fenkse said when historians neglect to tell the stories about women in history, they lose half of what happens.

“Purposely emphasizing areas where women’s voices are hidden or covered and bringing those to light helps fill stories more completely and helps our present context to better understand why things are happening,” Fenske said.

Fenske said the diversity of topics at the roundtable shows that women’s history isn’t a “monolith.” It is susceptible to variation, and there are endless facets of it to uncover and share.

“I think it’s helpful with the multiple panelists in particular to show how diverse this history is,” Fenske said. “All of us have different projects, and there’s different perspectives.”

Dr. Elesha Coffman, an associate professor of history, will be a panelist at the roundtable as well. Her presentation will focus on anthropologist Margaret Mead, specifically her and her mother’s research on a 1939 parade in New York City.

Corrêa, Fenske and Coffman all commented on the inclusion of different levels of scholarship within the panel. It will consist of three graduate students and three professors. According to Corrêa, this will provide different points of view.

Fenske also said that because all the panelists are Baylor students and faculty, it is a chance to showcase what research is taking place specifically at Baylor.

“The whole time I’ve been in this program, they’ve been very intentional about making sure that all levels of scholars are taking part in these events to have a deeper conversation and make sure we’re prepared for what we’re going to be doing in the next stages of our career,” Fenske said.

According to Coffman, it is easy for people to think about women’s history as variations of “female” themes and experiences, like “the first woman ‘something’” or housekeeping and child rearing. Coffman said there is so much more variety to the accomplishments of women, and the roundtable will uncover just a few of them.

“Those are important themes in women’s history, but you also have women who were trying to direct public policy and cultural studies in wartime,” Coffman said. “There’s just a lot more to women’s history. Women have done such a variety of things.”

Corrêa said there is a common perception that women, people of color and underrepresented minorities have been “erased” from history, which is untrue.

“There are so many historians writing work that is so important when it comes to thinking about the contributions of different people to history,” Corrêa said. “I think it’s important for us to reflect about this. When we’re talking about Women’s History Month, it’s important for us to do this.”