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CSP Celebrates Women’s History Month


General News, University News

As we approach the end of March, CSP is reflecting on Women’s History Month. To celebrate, Concordia faculty members Dr. Debra Beilke and Dr. Rhoda Schuler shared what Women’s History Month means to them and the women in history – and why it should be recognized.

Q: What does Women’s History Month mean for you?

Dr. Schuler: It’s a way to acknowledge the reality that until very recently in recorded human history, history was passed down and written by men and for men. March is an intentional time to focus on recovering what we can of women’s voices throughout history who were silenced.

Q: How do you celebrate Women’s History Month?

Dr. Schuler: By giving thanks for the tremendous changes in the United States in matters of gender equality. We still have a very long way to go, but I have had opportunities that my mother and grandmother could never have dreamed of for their daughters and granddaughters. I still remember my mother’s tears at the commencement ceremony when I was awarded my doctor of theology degree.

Dr. Beilke: I read a lot and think a lot about women’s history all the time, especially women’s literary history. It’s a big part of what I do as a scholar of American literature and women’s literature. To say that I should only dedicate one month to half of the world’s population seems a little silly, to be honest. I suppose it is helpful, though, to draw attention to the broader population that, umm, women have always been part of history.

Q: How has Women’s History Month changed over your lifetime?

Dr. Schuler: For the first half of my life, there was NO Women’s History Month—a fact that emphasizes how recent it is that women’s voices have been heard.

Q: Are there any historical figures that you feel do not get mentioned enough during Women’s History Month?

Dr. Schuler: As a church historian, one of my favorites is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th-century Mexican nun whose love of learning was the dominant desire of her life. Because females had little to no access to formal education, she was self-taught. As a nun, she had to justify to male church leaders her love of learning through her writings.

Dr. Beilke: As a literary scholar, I tend to think first of women writers (as opposed to political figures). There is a long tradition of women authors in the U.S. There are even more from England and Europe. Many of them were quite famous in their times. It seems, though, that inevitably, women get erased from history. It is frustrating, to say the least.

Here are a few interesting women from American history:
  • Anne Hutchinson
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Hannah Webster Foster
  • Abigail Adams
  • Sacagawea
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Harriet Jacobs
  • Catherine Sedgwick
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Kate Chopin
  • Mary Wilkins Freeman

Q: Why is it necessary to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Dr. Schuler: Because women are still seeking to be recognized as human beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), with the right to have a voice at tables of power, to receive equal pay for equal work, to have equal access to health care, and to be able to walk the streets where they live in safety and security.

Q: Are there any women in your life that have helped shape you into the person you are today?

Dr. Schuler: As a Baby Boomer, I had very few women role models with any power or authority as I grew up. Although I didn’t fully appreciate at the time what a pioneer she was, I am grateful for Miss Alice Kain, my high school Latin teacher, born in 1911. She was a tough teacher who expected hard work from her students and in retrospect, I realize she must have defied the conventions and expectations for women of her generation, living a life independent of men at a time when women’s lives were very restricted. She was a world traveler who would occasionally reward our hard work conjugating Latin verbs and translating ablative absolute phrases by showing us slides of the exotic places that she had visited—like communist China in the 1970s!

Dr. Beilke: Many women have helped shape me into the person I am today. Apart from family and friends, I have had many female professors who served as mentors and as inspiration.