Alums Talk Feminist Historiography – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alums Talk Feminist Historiography

Two William Smith alumnae turned their honors theses into conference presentations for an international conference on the history of the human sciences. Eleanor Eckerson ’11 and Emma Luton ’11 presented papers in a two-part symposium on Gender and Feminism at the joint meeting of Cheiron and the European Society for the History of the Human Sciences. The symposium was held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, July 18 through 22, 2012. Each presentation was based on an honors research project completed in the spring of 2011 with Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer as honors adviser. While each chose distinct topics, both Eckerson and Luton used their research to raise larger questions about feminist historiography.

Luton presented “‘Something for the Girls’: Girl Scouts’ Subversive Role in Female-centered Activist Communities.” Addressing an apparent gap in histories of the women’s movements, Luton draws attention to girls’ clubs and relations between generations of girls and women to chart possible implications for women’s history by reimagining the place and role of girls who have been excluded largely from tellings of “women’s history,” “the women’s movement,” and “women’s rights.”

Eckerson presented “Feminist at the Founding: Re-examining Feminist Histories and the Emergence of Women’s Shelters in 1970s America.” To her, the largely missing history of women’s shelters from published histories of the women’s movement is instructive on the need for feminist history to be engaged anew as feminist activist history, arguing for feminist history “that is at once both informed by past accomplishments and failures, and critical of both the present and possible futures.”

They were joined on the panels by graduate students and faculty, as well as by feminist historian Elizabeth Scarborough (Indiana, South Bend) as discussant for the symposium. The symposium was chaired by Alexandra Rutherford (York University).

Funding for conference travel was secured by the Office of Advancement and the Division of Student Affairs.